Group or Private Dog Training?
As a currently active trainer, it’s a common daily occurrence to see my phone constantly blinking at certain points of the afternoon with incoming calls, messages, and emails asking a pretty common question…”What type of class is best for my dog?” It’s a good question! Training can quickly become unreasonably expensive, and while “you get what you pay for” is a reality when you’re dealing with finding an educated (hey, we have to pay back student loans too!), and experienced trainer for your four-legged friend, there are some things to keep in mind when your shopping for classes. It may seem like a dream come true when your presented with the idea of a group class, that lists a good amount of basic obedience in the curriculum, so you’ll want to jump at it, but is it what your dog needs?
What Exactly is a Group Class?
A group session is a predetermined curriculum that outlines, on average, the most basic of obedience needs in order to stabilize your dog’s understanding of what is expected of them. So a basic beginner group class will usually run from 6-8 weeks depending on trainer and location, and has a variety of other dogs in class. They often cover commands such as;
- Eye Contact
- Come When Called
- Take It
- Leave It
- Drop It
- Sit Nicely for Petting
- Leash Walking
- Lure Walking
- Basic Behavior Information (Potty, Barking, Digging, Jumping, Crate Training)
So think of it this way, the above listed are essentially the building blocks to training, and with the help of a trainer you can really gain control of those to begin with, and stack them to progress towards more advanced obedience! It’s common practice to offer other levels of class so your dog has the opportunity to progress in a classroom atmosphere. For example, I offer 3 levels of group classes that prepare my obedience clients for their CGC from the American Kennel Club. It’s also common for trainers to have a variety of other classes to follow obedience, like nosework, agility, herding, public access classes, and social just to name a few.
Private classes are built around the specific needs of the family and the dog. On average a private class is the best bet if your dog doesn’t fall into the “group” category, and needs something more than the outlined curriculum of a group class. It’s usually a little more intensive on average than what you get in group, but can be as simple as a recall session to build more reliable recalls after they have learned the basics in a group class. I offer my private sessions in almost any location that will allow a dog on the premises, giving my clients the ability to work on whatever issue they may have in the environment they most struggle with.
Like I said above, training can be expensive, and while one-on-one private sessions can be really handy, and super beneficial to anyone really, the cost can pile up quickly. I charge $130 an hour for my private sessions, they are held in whatever location necessary to the dog and family, and built and scheduled according to the families needs and requests. Nice, right? Well, if your dog can function in a group, and your willing to put in some good work at home, a group class is $130 for 6 sessions (generally 1 day a week, for an hour) and usually covers the items that I outlined above. So, if your dog doesn’t have any serious behavioral challenges, it’s a more cost-effective way to gain knowledge, and work hands on with a trainer, in a social environment that helps your dog build the beginning of a reliable connection with you.
So What’s Best For Me?
Shop for the trainer first! When you find the person you are most comfortable with, either give them very detailed info on what you’re hoping to do, and where your dog is currently at, OR set up a consultation. A lot of trainers charge for consultations, so if that’s not something you can do at the time, make sure your really honest, and you’re not over analyzing, or rationalizing what your dogs current “issues” are. That way you can really find the right first step for you and your dog. Every dog is different, and their needs always vary, so sending every dog in the same direction isn’t reasonable! When I talk to my clients about what they are looking for, I usually ask what their intentions are, and what they are hoping to accomplish with training in general to get an idea of where they need to go. So make sure your on the same page as your trainer, that way you and your dog can benefit from whatever the game plan you set up, be it group or private classes!