Many years ago, when I got my first dog Liana, we enrolled straight away into a group dog training class for adult dogs. She’s the fawn colored one in this photo (how great is she?!).
For many dogs, a group dog training class is a great way for the humans to get some introductory information. In a good class set up, it is also a perfect environment for the dog to learn and be calm around other dogs.
Liana needed specific support
If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have enrolled Liana for a group class straight away. Instead, I would have enrolled with her in a private one on one session with a qualified behaviorist.
I’m not suggesting that this is what every dog needs. However for Liana, she needed help. As her humans, we also needed a lot of help to be able to understand how to support her best. Teaching her to sit or go to her mat was exactly what we did not need. As newbie dog owners, we didn’t know that. We thought if we just worked harder on her loose lead walking skills she would stop trying to charge every dog she saw. Or if we just spent more time training she would be less anxious.
Unfortunately for Liana’s anxiety, she did not need her humans spending more time telling her what to do. In fact, she needed the opposite. From what we know of her history she was severely abused. Because of her past, a human standing front on to her and saying a cue was pretty intense and confrontational for her. So what she needed from us, and eventually got, was time, medication, and to feel safe just being herself.
What we needed as humans from the dog training school was for them to recognize that a group dog training class was not in her, or our best interest. If that had been the case then we would have been able to help her much earlier.
At Fur Get Me Not we will refer you to a one on one consult instead of group dog training class if we think this is in your dog’s best interest. Here are a few factors to consider.
Your dog’s welfare
If your dog is scared of other dogs or humans then we are compromising their welfare by putting them in a class environment. Some dogs feel safe in class, however if they have a behavioural issue which is compromising their welfare (like Liana) then this is best addressed first instead of being in a group dog training class.
Effective use of time and money
Time and money are in limited supply for most of us. If you only have so much of both then prioritize addressing the most important thing first. In many circumstances once you have addressed the main behavioural issue and the underlying emotions, the other problematic behaviours will lessen as well.
For example, as Liana became less scared of other dogs, she stopped trying to charge them on walks. As a result, the issue of her not walking nicely on a lead resolved.
Change the emotion and you will change the behaviour. This sentence should be tattooed on all our faces, written on our walls or whatever works to help remember it.
Our intake process for group dog training class
Our aim is give people and their dogs the support that they need. The intake process we have for group classes reflects this.
When people enroll in group dog training classes they answer a series of questions to help identify if a dog is not suited to a group situation. If this isn’t picked up via the enrollment questionnaire we will also discuss it at the orientation. Finally, if the owner is unaware that their dog may have behavioural concerns and we note this when we first see the dog; we then refer the owner and dog to convert their class enrollment to a private one on one session.
If you aren’t sure if your dog is suited to a group dog training class or is better suited to a one on one session, please get in touch with us to discuss.
Why can’t you help address my dog’s behavioural issues in a group dog training class?
Sometimes we are asked this question by owners. It makes sense because we all want a simply and easy fix (I know I’ve been there). For most behavioural issues such as separation anxiety or fear based aggression, the ‘fix’ is complex and multifaceted.
For example, imagine the care that a person with post traumatic stress disorder requires for rehabilitation. This care takes time; conditioning to see the stressful experience as safe or neutral; and careful management of the environment for the person to feel safe while they are working through these issues. In some cases medication is also required to assist the brain and body to make these changes.
Each dog and person is also an individual. The principals applied for each behavioural disorder may be the same. The application of these principals varies depending on the dog and the human’s capacity. Time is required to get to know the individual dog and human. We can’t provide this one on one support in a class environment without ignoring the rest of the group.