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Cat Topham from Clan Dog shares her opinion on the pros and cons of online dog training.
It’s no surprise that during 2020 there has been a rise in the number of online dog training courses and memberships on offer. So the question is do they actually work? Will you get the same level of benefit from an online course that you would have from seeing a trainer face to face?
There are two answers to this question, both yes and no. The truth is using an online dog training course is neither better nor worse it’s just different. The first thing that you need to consider is are you looking for someone else to ‘train’ your dog or are you willing to accept that actually it’s you, the human who needs the training. Because ultimately what you are actually needing to achieve if you are having behavioural problems with your dog is to try to understand them, why they are acting that way and what you can do as the human to overcome those problems.
So now the question you have to ask yourself is, can I learn online or do I want to do this face to face with another human? What are the benefits of both approaches?
Having a face to face meeting with a dog trainer is likely to find the root of the dog’s problem pretty quickly. If you have chosen the trainer based on experience, qualifications and the methods they use they will almost certainly be able to tell you WHY your dog is behaving the way they are. Are they afraid, aggressive or just over-friendly with other dogs? All these things for example can look very similar to the inexperienced eye but require very different types of help going forward.
The disadvantage with a face to face trainer is that after this initial consultation you are often on your own. Once their experienced eye and guiding hands are no longer with you it can be hard to continue the success you saw during that consultation, am I still getting it right? I’ve attended lots of dog training consultations now with a highly experienced trainer and it’s not always as simple as do what they say and it will all be fine!
Now let’s think about a purely online approach – if you get the right course and you study it well there’s a lot to love about the fact you can keep going back to it again and again. Unless you are a member of Mensa it’s unlikely you are going to take all the information you need on a complex subject like dog behaviour in one go so the fact you can go back and forth, check your learning and correct yourself as you go is great. But it also relies on you interpreting the information correctly and getting it right for your dog – it comes back to the point of can you tell if your dog is misbehaving out of fear or just simply a desire to play for example. Dog’s are subtle communicators and we as humans, especially new to living with dogs don’t always read the signals properly.
“It comes down to finding the best way that you can give yourself the skills to understand and communicate with your dog better.”
The best way then would seem to be to get yourself the knowledge you need and then some support and help from the experienced eyes of those in the know to make sure you stay on track. If you are communicating a new skill to a Puppy or a dog without behaviour issues then you might well find an online course is the best way to go – the knowledge is delivered to you in a manageable way and you can keep going back to make sure you understand. If you are in a right pickle and at your breaking point with a behaviour issue in your dog then some hands on help is likely what you need. But in all cases make sure you get support after the fact!
So sorry there is no right or wrong answer to this question, yes online dog training works. Really really well for some people, especially when it’s blended with some ongoing support through social media groups or video calls for example and the right help from a face to face trainer is also crucial for some. Of course online training has the advantage of being for the most part more accessible financially and that can only be a good thing for those needing ongoing help.
So it comes down to finding the best way that you can give yourself the skills to understand and communicate with your dog better. What suits you as an
individual because fundamentally it’s you not the dog that needs to learn. You chose to bring them into your life so it’s up to you to do the best you can to get it right – because trust me they are doing the best they can to tell you how they are feeling. If you learn to speak dog a bit better you might just find you can teach them enough about our world to get yourselves along just fine.
Cat is one half of Clan Dog a membership for humans to help them learn how to communicate with their dog’s better. As well as providing online courses they have a monthly membership which gives access to all their online learning material AND provides ongoing support. Monthly group Zoom calls and the ability to send in videos of your issues, allow the gap to be bridged between face to face and online help with support on tap as long as you need it.