I have been offering group classes for may years and if you asked me this before the last year I would have said that a small well run and modern scientifically based classes are good and still are.
But since March 2020 due Covid19 when all classes had to stop and many people got puppies because the family was at home more.
Because of this myself, my friends & colleagues had to think of new ways to give the support needed to the puppies and their families.
Personally the time I had when I was unable to teach I started thinking of what was currently on offer to new puppy families and if I was giving my clients the best service.
Before I go through the options that are currently available you need to ask "Why do you want to "train" your puppy and why you have chosen a group class?"
Some of the reasons may be:
- Because you want a trained and well behaved puppy.
- You want your puppy to be "socialised"
- Classes are the only option available as far as you know.
- You have always gone to classes.
- They are relatively cheap compared to other training options
Here are my thoughts and conclusions on the options available.
Group Puppy Classes
Historically puppy classes were held in a village hall or similar and were the only way you could access training for your puppy. Therefore that is what you did if you wanted basic or obedience training and this has was your only option for many years.
Are group puppy classes the best option for you and your puppy?
To answer this you would need to visit and assess for yourself, questions you may consider are:
- Is the location safe and conducive to learning?
- Does the instructor appear to have a wide knowledge of the subject and use support and rewarding methods to the puppy and handlers?
- Are the classes small with a low puppy to instructor/assistant ratio?
- Do the puppies have enough space to feel safe and comfortable and not have free access to the other puppies?
- Are the puppies kept occupied when the instructor is working with another dog or addressing the group?
- Do the puppies have a good proportion of the time doing practical exercises?
- Does the instructor answer individual questions or cover concerns that may be brought up during the class?
- Are the puppies and handlers treated as individuals or a group?
- If any play is allowed between the puppies is it controlled and managed by the instructor?
- Do the handlers appear to be engaged with the & enjoying class?
- Is support offered to the handlers for between classes?
- Where you able to talk to the instructor and the other handlers?
If the answer to any of these is no this is a "Traditional" puppy class may not be the best for you and your puppy.
If the answer to most of these is yes this is a great "modern" class and go for it.
Why choose "modern" puppy training class?
- The instructors are usually a member of an official training organisation such as the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT), the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) or the Dog Training College (DTC) so are up to date with their training knowledge, scientific developments and learning practices. Often these instructors are full time dog trainers
- The classes are held following strict ethics and guidelines. They do not use correction or force, a minimum amount of of space required or each dog and a low ratio of dogs per instructor/assistant. Therefore the classes will probably be much smaller than "traditional" classes.
- Each dog and handler is treated as an individual team and any questions asked are dealt with at he time as a group or individually after the class.
- All the training is reward based with no harsh handling or punishment.
- Ongoing support is offered between classes.
- No or only very highly controlled "socialisation" or interaction between the dogs is allowed during the class.
- The classes are often held in outdoor spaces (secure field ), indoor riding schools or purpose build facilities.
These are the best type of class but the down side as with most classes they cannot start until the puppy has completed their vaccinations so the puppy may miss out on a key confidence building and learning phase of their short life .The cost of this will be approximately double that of a "traditional" class. As with traditional classes they are held at the same time each week and usually in the same location with the same distractions.
Since Covid19 I and many of my friends and colleagues have been unable to hold puppy classes due to "lockdowns" and other restrictions, so have offered different options these include:
Individual Puppy Programmes
- As with "modern" training classes the instructors are usually a members of an official training organisation as listed above..
- The training can start as soon as your puppy has settled in with you and their new family so the key confidence and learning phase is not missed.
- The initial session is carried out in your home where your puppy is happy and will mainly focus on confidence and relationship building which will make learning easier in the future.
- The programme is bespoke so will take into account your knowledge and experience and the puppies current ability and confidence.
- Your puppy is the focus of the sessions and any questions will be answered then and there with out fear of encroaching on class time or having to wait until the end or forgetting to ask.
- The training can be taken out and about to different locations once the vaccinations have been completed so the distractions are different and can be tailored to your puppy.
- Your puppy will learn much more in an individual training than in a class, therefore may work out more cost effective over all.
- Progress can be measured as the focus is on your puppy and not a group.
- The programme can fit with your schedule (subject to availability) and not just the same time every week.
- Individual support is often included in the programme.
I now feel for me that this is the best way forward for training puppies for all of the reasons above and in the long run a programme may appear very expensive compared to traditional classes. But as all programmes are bespoke we are not covering things you may already know or have taught your puppy and you can ask the instructor anything you wish to know. Therefore they may not work out as expensive as they look as you have all the time for you and your puppy covering what is important to you and you will have much more support.
Online or email training courses
- These are self learning and may be good for people who work shifts or non conventional hours as they can do fit the sessions around their life.
- These are suitable for people who don't need support from an instructor at the time.
- The amount of extra support if any offered varies by the provider
Live video group training classes or sessions
- These held live with an instructor over a a video connection such as Zoom, Teams or other providers
- Classes will be held on the same day and time like a face to face class and there will be the same opportunities to ask questions and practice with your puppy
The advantages of these compared to a face to face classes are:
- The puppy can start at any age as they are not leaving the house.
- There are no distractions with other dogs.
The disadvantages are:
- They can be impersonal and don't usually allow social interaction with other classes attendees.
- You require the equipment to watch the video or attend the class.
- They rely on the instructor being comfortable with the format.
If you have a puppy and are not sure what is best for you or your are currently in a Covid "Tier" that classes are not allowed please contact me to discuss your requirements.
Bespoke Coaching for Canine Partnerships