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Dog Obedience Training at Home or Doggy School: Which is best?


Training a dog is one of the most important things you are going to do. In order for your dog to enjoy life with you, and vice versa, dog owners have to have control. If a dangerous situation arises, you want your dog to listen to you immediately so that no one gets hurt. The big question many dog owners have is “Should I take my dog to group classes or have private lessons?” There are advantages to each, but overall private lessons are probably the most effective in the long run. Here are some reasons why:

  • Few to no distractions:  When you and your dog take private obedience training at home, you are able to control the environment to ensure your dog can focus. Unlike a group class where there will be 8-10 other dogs and their handlers, private home lessons are not too much of a variance from your dog’s daily experience. Your dog will be able to learn more easily and enjoy him or herself when there are no strangers to stimulate his curiosity.
  • Dog owner learns too: The idea that you can drop off your dog at a class or a trainer without your own involvement is a bit of a fantasy. Dogs do not learn in a vacuum and they need you there to learn too. Since you will be at home with your dog 90% of the time you give him or her commands, it makes sense that the dog owner needs to learn how to interact with the dog at home. Your dog will learn to respond to the people who teach them. A trainer who is around for a few weeks, and then out of the dog’s life, will not be nearly as effective as if you are present at the trainings. You knowing how to get your dog to respond is just as important as your puppy knows what to do.
  • Behavioral issues targeted:  While puppies can be very successful in a group class, dogs older than 14 weeks are generally not. They are more mature, and the way they learn has changed from these early weeks of life. Also, if you have adopted your dog from a shelter or rescue organization, it is possible he or she will have specific behavioral problems. Food aggression, digging, jumping, and nipping are just a few common ones. In a private setting, the trainer can devote all of their time and energy to correct your form as well as the dog’s behavior. Priorities that a dog owner wants to focus on can be accommodated.
  • Consistency of lessons: Many of us have enrolled our dogs in classes. We go once or twice and then our busy lives take over. Our dog training hopes take a backseat to other things. In order for dog training to work, it has to be practiced and reinforced consistently. When a trainer comes to your home, there is often more flexibility about times and days for lessons to occur. Plus, you save time not having to pack up the dog, the treats, the water bowl etc. to go to obedience school.
  • Familiarity with place: When private lessons happen at home (or where the dog is going to be most of the time), it will be much easier for them to make connections between learning in and out of sessions with the trainer. The visual cues of their environment will be associated with commands, and this is very useful until a dog is very well trained.

Private obedience training for most adult dogs is optimal. This is especially true for dogs that have been adopted and may come with “baggage”. Behavioral issues are easier to fix in a one-to- one setting with a trainer. Remember, obedience for your dog is the one thing you can give them that will provide safety and happiness for them as well as for you. If you live in the Cincinnati area, I recommend Assertive K9 Training. We used Dennis and he was great. He came to our house and trained us all, including our two young sons.

Image: www.surviving6to6.com

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  1. V says:

    I had a dobe who was pretty good with recall, the sweetest dog in the world, and we lived on a quiet street. When we were in the woods I would just roll my eyes when he would chase a bunny or something trying to make friends. He was great with small animals (loved my rats) and it was just a cute behavior as far as I was concerned. He was hit by a car and killed bolting after some unknown animal one night. It was the worst experience of my life. I got another dobe a few months later. (She was a nightmare dog! She was chained to a dog house for the first three years of her life and encouraged to be a guard dog. She was very alpha, stubborn, defiant, aggressive, insensitive to any corrections or reinforcers. I actually had to get her tail redone because somebody had docked it with a rubber band at some point before I got her and it kept re-opening.) I thought I would never be able to have this dog off-leash. The two or three times she got loose, she would RUN away. After months with the recall command in fenced in areas, I ended up getting a training collar (a nicer model of the second one you have listed, more levels, more features, longer range) and now I’m happy to say I can stop my dog on a dime. She will look at another dog or squirrel and go to bolt, but a simple “no” is all it takes to stop her. I’ve shocked her very few times (only used the real shock once, otherwise just the 2 tenths of a second warning zap is fine) and don’t remember the last time I used more than the warning tone. We’re talking about a dog who would never have been able to utilize the dog park, never be able to run around at the dog beach, never been able to be a dog. After years of being chained up, coming within an hour of being euthanized, and FINALLY getting the opportunity to have a mom who was committed to her, she still would have had a frustrated life on a short leash without this collar. I’m happy to say that after almost 4 years together and a LOT of work, this monster of a dog (she used to try to bite 98% of new people) is finally a normal dog. I wish more than anything her predecessor, Ivan, wouldn’t have had to give his life for me to learn this valuable lesson, but I think of him as Dog Jesus. He lived an amazing life for four years, had two very loving families (first owner got very sick), and though his incredibly happy existence was cut tragically short, without that death, Ilsa, my current dog would be dead. I wouldn’t have been looking for a dog that day, wouldn’t have overheard a phone call about her impending demise, wouldn’t have spoken up and swooped in to rescue her, and wouldn’t have been in the position psychologically to be willing and able to take on that kind of scary challenge. She would have had 3 years of misery and just died. She would have never known the kind of reciprocity of her unconditional love, appreciation of her goofy intelligence, and relationship with a human who was just as committed to learning how to communicate with her as she was with them that we now share. The training collar is what really turned the page in our struggle.

    • Vince says:

      I think your comment was for my article on training collars but I get what you are saying.

      I’m happy everything worked out. Thank you for sharing your story! It is very touching.


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