Group dog training has been around for decades and has now become an acceptable norm when people seek to train their dog but for many people and their dog’s one-on-one training proves to be a better option, particularly in the beginning of your training.
One-on-one dog training can be wonderful for anyone, people with an older dog, people with a puppy, families, individuals, novice handlers and even experienced handlers. The beauty of one-on-one lessons is that if done properly sessions can be tailor-made, specific to you and your dog and the goals you both wish to achieve. Quite often different people need their dogs to learn different skills, what is relevant to one person may not be to another. One-on-one lessons allow you to receive information that is only relevant to you and your dogs’ situation. If you want to compete in obedience trials with your dog you will need different skills from someone who simply wants a pet dog.
One-on-one lessons mean your instructor can devote all of their attention to you and your dog. This means more subtle behaviours of both you and your dog can be picked up and addressed, your instructor will get to know you and your dog very well allowing for more efficient and appropriate teaching and learning to take place. If you have lots and lots of questions, which is particularly true when you first adopt a dog or puppy, your instructor can answer these without becoming distracted by other class members.
If your one-on-one lessons are conducted in an environment such as a public park you will be given specific instruction on how to manage your dog through real-life distractions. This is where one-on-one lessons shine, being able to have the support of a professional in an environment you normally exercise your dog will move your training along very quickly. Working around distractions such as other dogs, people, cyclists, joggers and children can be worked up to at a rate that you and your dog can cope with to achieve success.
One-on-one training allows you to develop a bond with your dog trainer, you will want this as your dog matures so you can ask for support when needed. Sometimes training a dog can be taxing, and having a professional who knows you and your dog to speak with during difficult times will be important. Likewise being able to celebrate achievements along the way is so much better shared with someone who has been on the journey with you.
One-on-one training can be very convenient, you can pick and choose the meeting times based on your working hours, children’s schedules and at times relevant to any issues you are having with your dog. You also may get to choose the location you have your lessons in, this is ideal if you are wanting to work on a specific issue at home or at your local park. Dogs do not generalise learned behaviours quickly, what your dog learns at dog school he may not be able to apply at your local park or at home unless it is practised and reinforced in these areas.
Many people want group training so they can continue socialising their dog and this is wonderful to hear but it’s unlikely you will be able to socialise your dog enough if you rely on a group lesson per week, where mostly the dogs are on lead in a strictly controlled environment, it’s just not what we usually encounter in real life with our dogs. A good one-on-one lesson should incorporate socialisation into the session, with whatever experiences life throws at you during the lesson. If you can learn to help your dog with these experiences at your local park you will have more confidence to practice in this space during the week.
The cost can be a real issue with one-on-one training but even investing in a couple of lessons may not be as expensive as you think. One hour of undivided attention from an instructor may equate to three or four group lessons. It’s worth some research, call a few clubs, find out their ratio of instructors to students, their group training costs, and number of sessions and you may be surprised to find a couple of one-on-one lessons can give you the same outcome. Some of my clients have one ‘maintenance lesson’ a few times a year, it’s often cheaper than paying for a yearly group training fee.
So where does group training fit in then? Group training can be an excellent way to train your dog but only once your dog is a) comfortable around people and other dogs b) able to work with you around distractions and c) you have become confident with working your dog with basic obedience skills. Develop a, b and c with one-on-one lessons and after you have achieved these milestones you will get so much more out of your group training and so will your dog.