At our Dog Training Center in Northern Virginia, we get asked about group classes on a daily basis.
Being around almost every style of training program, I have yet to be impressed with group classes or group training sessions. As I say on a daily basis at our private dog training sessions in Northern Virginia, “I have never seen a dog that impressed me in obedience, that did it through group classes.”
The attractiveness that usually allures people to group classes is that fact that they are much cheaper than private lessons with your dog. It’s very simple, the trainer is charging 10 people per hour verse 1 person; therefore, the classes are much cheaper. However, saving money on the classes is also effecting the effectiveness of the dog training program, as well.
The first problem with group classes is that one or two trainers are trying to use a “cookie-cutter” approach to training everyone’s dogs. They are saying, “All of you do this with your dog in order to achieve this goal.” However, dogs are much like people, they all learn slightly differently, need adaptive training methodology, will have different issues while learning something new, etc.
The second problem with group classes is that you will generally find the most “problematic” dog in the group will get the most attention, leaving the majority of the dogs lacking on full attention because the trainers are devoting the majority of their attention to the dog who needs it the most.
The third problem with group classes is you are trying to teach the dogs while they are highly distracted by other dogs, people, noises (barking), etc. In my opinion, this is very unfair to the dogs and is not a conducive learning environment whatsoever. Imagine if you have never played the guitar before, you show up to learn to play for the first time, and there are 8 other people surrounding you: talking, trying to play their guitars, adjusting their volumes, and messing with you while ONE instructor was trying to walk you through the chords. Sounds impossible, right? Welcome to the world of group classes for dog training.
The dogs are trying to learn, while they are highly distracted. We at our dog training obedience program in Northern Virginia, we do the opposite! We get your dog flawless outside, off-leash, on his/her own, then we slowly phase in distractions. This is much more effective than trying to “teach” your dog while they are distracted. Get them to master the commands, then add in the distractions. This can be read about in our blog on Working Your Dog with Distractions.