Choose the best learning environment and style to ensure your dog learns for the long term. You both will be successful.
By Laura Pakis, certified professional trainer and blogger
How often have you heard dog owners say, “my dog flunked obedience class.” With so many different methods, settings, and styles of dog training, obedience problems can inevitably result — depending on what you choose, the temperament, and your dog’s personality. Similar to humans, dogs learn in a variety of ways. And just like humans, some dogs take longer to grasp a concept than others.
- 24 hours: If not repeated; the memory is absent
- 1 to 5 Days: repeated daily; the task is in short term memory
- 1 to 30 Days: repeated daily; the task in long term memory
Improvement in a dog’s performance continues when training is effective. Of course, environmental factors (trainer effectiveness, task complexity, lesson style, etc.) influence the time frame and the dog’s genetic factors.
Typical Obedience Training Timetable
Another statement of the expected learning curve is more profound. An average student with an average dog needs about 3 months for a task to be 85% reliable. A good student with a good dog decreases the number of weeks to 10 weeks for 85% reliability. And a poor student with an average dog increases the amount of time for 85% reliability to about 4 months (most likely due to inconsistencies and poor timing).
So what type of setting is best to train a dog?
The Benefits of Group Obedience Classes for Dogs
When considering obedience training for their dog, most dog owners think of group classes. The benefit of a group obedience class is economical. It is more affordable. Many opt for the group environment because of this. Still, once they enter the group, they find that the other benefits are the camaraderie, the friendships they gain, or the commiserating of their dog’s problems to one another.
Pairing the Right Learning Environment with the Right Pup
Classes can also offer a competitive edge that pushes members to improve and “keep up,” and great energy is created with a group of people working hard and feeding off that energy. Human nature is such that we enjoy doing things in a group; however, group classes are not effective for dog owners or puppies. They work best with a confident well-socialized dog or puppy.
Group classes can be set up to be more successful by reducing the number of participants to around 6 or less or arranging it. Hence, the dogs are of similar personalities and temperaments. Offering aggressive dog classes or dog classes for fearful or submissive dogs can be beneficial since many dog owners already have the stigma that they have a “problem” dog. Working with other owners of similar dogs in small groups can also provide the catalyst to build confidence in the owners.
So what alternatives does a dog owner have if group class isn’t the right setting for their dog or puppy?
The Benefits of Private Lessons for Dogs
If someone is looking for dog training that will be safe, relationship-based and 100% focused on them, then private one-on-one obedience training is the best bet. Some argue that private training yields the best results because the trainer will gear every session towards their client’s goals using training methods appropriate for their dog’s personality and temperament. Private lessons provide much more detail to training. This is a disadvantage of group classes where the trainer’s focus is divided among several individuals and various dog personalities.
Combining Private Lessons & Group Classes for Your Dog
Some dog owners opt to use both environments to their advantage. Start off training your dog using private lessons. Then once your dog has a solid foundation of obedience, continue training using group classes to improve command reliability or develop a specialty, such as Therapy Dog or Agility.
It is difficult to say that one environment is better than the other. Both types of training environments have their advantages and disadvantages. They have in common that they help dog owners stay focused on their goals for a well-mannered dog. The benefits of either type of training are accountability and scheduling. For many people, making an appointment with a trainer helps them stay true to their commitment to training their dog.
The Truest Lesson Taught in Any Professional Dog Training Course
No matter which training environment you chose, it is important to remember that training never ends. Just like any good relationship, you have to keep working at it. A six- or eight-week course is not a lifetime guarantee of good behavior, nor is a series of private lessons. Training is an investment in gaining the tools to maintain your dog’s good behavior. Obedience is a way of life and one every dog owner should participate in.
Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs. Set aside some time to receive Spike’s dog blogs by Acme Canine.