If you have a dog or you are getting a dog, you have probably thought about training at some point. What options do you have? What are the best options for you and your dog? There are some situations that require starting with private lessons. Most of these are extreme cases of shyness or any level of aggression that need specialized one-on-one attention. Private lessons can be great for the specific attention you and your dog get, usually at home. But overall, group classes are a great benefit to you and your dog, whether you start with privates and move into group or just go straight to group classes.
One of the biggest benefits of the group setting is that your dog will have a structured time and place to socialize. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your dog will show up to class and the dogs will run around and play together. Socialization starts way before play time. It takes time and discipline to prepare a dog for appropriate play.
It’s very important for dogs to learn appropriate manners and self-discipline. Many dogs become over stimulated in the presence of other dogs, especially when you have a variety of dogs at different energy levels. Group classes serve to help excitable and high energy dogs calm and focus, as well as build the confidence of mildly shy or timid dogs.
Excitable dogs start to understand the difference between the time to learn and the time to play. Building focus through exercises and games teaches them to ignore distractions, even other dogs. In turn, keeping the focus of excitable dogs helps the shy or timid dogs feel more comfortable. They don’t feel like they are being watched or pressured by a dog approaching them with lots of energy. So, they too learn to focus on the tasks and build confidence as they are able to perform basic obedience skills around others.
Group classes can sometimes be intimidating for owners. I have felt this personally. We tend to be our own worst critics, and we become self-conscious of our dog’s behavior. Everyone seems to be thinking that they brought the worst dog of the group, but we don’t realize that everyone is probably feeling the same way.
Group classes offer you a chance to ask questions of your trainer so you can prepare for issues that may arise in the future. They are also great to connect with other dog owners and relate on similar issues you both may be experiencing with your dog. Another class member may have already been through the same situation with his dog and could offer unique insight to help you.
Often this helps as motivation in the class, making the time together more fun as you cheer each other on for overcoming struggles. And you may just make some new friends - you and your dog. Maybe you will end up meeting outside of class for a puppy play date or just going for coffee!
Bringing your dog to group classes will also help make your everyday life with a dog more manageable. So that coffee date may not be as intimidating. By working together with your dog on new skills and commands you build a stronger bond, which translates into an overall more enjoyable relationship. It takes a real commitment of time and intentional focus to teach a dog to be responsive and reliable in behaviors, but the benefits of this far outweigh the inconveniences. When you invest that time and effort in to building an obedient dog, your life becomes so much more enjoyable. I truly believe that dogs just make life better. Who wouldn’t want to take their dog out with them as many places as possible? People love dogs! And who knows what kind of connections you might make.