“Should I attend group sessions, or should I invest in private training?”
I get this question frequently – and with good reason! The two are vastly different, both in content and in price. Many trainers will attempt to sell group sessions to someone who doesn’t want to invest the money in private sessions, vouching that helping socialize your dog and get them out there will help them with really ANY issue they have to overcome.
While group classes DO help socialize your dog, and they DO help tire them out mentally therefore lessening issues naturally, they DO NOT teach you the skills to overcome issues specific to your dog. Instead, think of group classes like extra credit on your dogs homework. They are a fabulous place to work with your dog on the things covered in your private session. They also have some other neat functions, and I even recommend them to dogs whose owners are perfectly happy with their behavior.
Here is a short list of why we love group classes!
1) Group class is like going to Disneyland for your dog. Given your dog doesn’t have any fear issues, a well run group class will be positive, fun, and mentally stimulating for both you and Fido! Behave’s group classes offer lots of praise, and in the beginning, cookies too! What is better than learning new games while getting love and treats? Not much.
2) Your dog will be POOPED after class. This is a plus for both of you. Dogs love being comfortably tired. It puts them in a better mood, and helps all around with their attitude in life. When Fido feels good, you feel good.
3) The price is right! As a responsible dog owner, you should be getting your dog out for mentally stimulating activities in addition to their normal walks at least once or twice a week. Group classes are a super cheap way to do this. Behave’s classes are $10/session or $8/session if you buy four. This is even cheaper than doggy daycare, and they get an education in the meantime.
4) SOCIALIZATION. Socializing your dog is the number one most important thing any owner can do. If you get nothing out of group classes but this, it would still be worth it.
5) Your friends will wish their dog was as smart as yours. Ongoing group classes like we do (not the six week don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out run arounds) will literally grow your dogs brain. Even my sweetest, not too bright Dobe/Dane mix Buster learned hundreds of tricks just from going to one group class a week. If he could do it, I guarantee your dog can too. Tricks build on each other – it’s not as arduous to teach your dog all those fancy tricks as it may appear.
6) Lastly, group classes improve self control. If you have a puppy, or a dog whose self control could use some work (yes, Dante the Husky, Mom is looking at you!), these classes are vital. There are so many interesting things going on for dogs in a group setting, learning how to keep focus is key. And any dog can do it!
That being said, sometimes dogs really need private one-on-one training before attending group sessions. Here are a few examples –
1) Aggression towards dogs or people. This issue needs to be addressed before coming to group sessions for a few reasons. One, a good trainer will assess what triggers your dog and show you how to manage it and lessen it. Though these dogs have to be integrated somehow, when they are in “fight or flight” mode, you’re not teaching them anything. Your dog has to be in a calm enough state of mind to learn, or they are not only going to be a danger to others but a danger to themselves as well.
2) Neurotic issues, such as canine OCD or other complex behaviors. These issues need to be addressed in full before attempting group classes, as a dog with a neurotic issue is not going to be static in their behavior – especially in such a stimulating environment. Group classes are great after these dogs come past their issues, however, to keep them in a good state of mind.
3) Severe nervousness in groups, or overly stimulating environments. Dogs may express this in many ways, but no matter how they express it it’s not helpful to throw your dog in an environment where it’s “sink or swim”. Better to work one on one with a trainer and slowly get there in a healthy way.
4) Behaviors that occur only in the house, like counter surfing or bolting through doorways. Though group classes are great at tiring your dog out, issues that wouldn’t occur outside the home really won’t be helped with solely group classes unless you work with them first in private sessions. You probably don’t even need much work in the home, but it is important to start there first.
When in doubt, ask a trainer! If you are debating between private or group sessions, contact us!