The Benefits of Online Puppy Training
By Hannah Burton
With current COVID-19 restrictions many trainers are adapting and moving their classes and private training online. Though this can be frustrating for owners, with tighter restrictions coming into place, many trainers are being forced to adopt this style of training.
Though it may seem like a missed opportunity, there are many benefits to online training! We at Wanderdog focus on the eight key benefits of online training and how this links with your puppy’s socialisation and training.
1. Your puppy will find it easier to focus
Though puppy classes can be a great learning experiences for puppies, they can be incredibly overwhelming environments in which to teach puppies new cues!
When teaching a new behaviour, it is always best to start the foundations of the behaviour in a low distraction environment. Puppy class, with all its excitement and distractions, makes for very over aroused puppies! This is not an environment that is conducive to learning and many puppies struggle.
At home training facilitates a quieter, calmer space which can help your dog to focus on you and the training at hand.
2. Never be late for class again!
Having classes online removes the mad rush to get to class on time. Having classes in the comfort of your own home means you avoid the stress of getting to class online.
It also removes the stress of rushing to class, not only for you but for your puppy too! Rushing puppies to get to class in the evening can increase your pup’s stress levels and put them in a poor headspace for learning. Having classes in the comfort of your own home allows you and your puppy to relax and be in a better place for learning.
3. Guaranteed demonstrations
Due to current government regulations, trainers cannot get close enough to your puppy in class to provide demonstrations of the cue they are attempting to teach. One benefit of online training is that demonstrations can be pre-recorded or done with the trainer’s own dog at home.
Even in puppy classes, there’s potential that it may not be practical to demo on any of the dogs for various reasons. It can be quite over-whelming for some dogs to be chosen to demo on, where they are taken from their guardian by an unfamiliar person and placed in the middle of a hall with an audience.
This is especially true during a pandemic, where trainer-dog contact is against industry guidelines. Having puppy classes with demonstrations pre-recorded means that you get to see a perfect example, every time.
4. Clear view and sound, all the time
In a puppy class environment, it can be quite a manic way to learn. With varied hall layouts and the pandemonium that comes with overexcited puppies, an in-person training class can be a difficult way to learn.
In online classes, the lay out of the class means you and your puppy have a front row seat all the time. Not only this but being able to see others working with their puppies will help improve your training skills and help you to understand the exercise.
There is also the added benefit of being able to mute everyone other than the trainer, meaning you can hear the trainer’s instructions. The mute function also means you can keep your puppy calm, as there are no barking dogs to distract him or her.
5. Class Questions
During an in-person class, it can be hard to flag your instructor down to ask questions as they can be helping other clients. With online classes, your instructor is constantly available to answer any questions you may have. You can also listen to other questions that may end up being helpful for you too.
At the end of class, instructors do not have to worry about getting things set up for the next group as they would during an in-person class, and so will have more time to chat with you about one-to-one issues.
6. Practicing Polite Behaviours
At Wanderdog, we try to encourage as little puppy play at the end of sessions as possible. After an hour of training, puppies are usually quite tired and so play can become quite manic quite quickly! While we make every effort to structure our puppy classes in a way that puppies never feel as though they are missing out, some can still feel quite frustrated about their inability to play with other puppies!
Even within a class environment, some puppies may struggle to focus on their owners as they are so intent on playing with the other puppies!
An advantage of having training online is that puppies never fully comprehend that there are other puppies they are missing out on playing with! Instead, they can focus on having a nice time with their humans. This leads to a much less frustrated puppy at the end of class and a better opportunity for bonding with you.
7. Vaccines vs. Socialisation
At Wanderdog we allow puppies to come to class having received just their first set of vaccinations as this is best from a socialisation perspective. We therefore take every precaution to ensure puppy safety. However, there are still some guardians who worry about taking their puppy away from the home before the end of their vaccination schedule. One benefit of online classes is it removes this concern. However, we still stress that the benefits of taking your puppy out for social walks, being carried by you or in a bag, in different environments, before the end of their vaccine schedule will have long-lasting massive benefits for their socialisation and overall behaviour in the future. The positive payback of taking your puppy out in safe ways will certainly outweighs any small risk of disease. Please see here for a wonderful article on balancing socialisation and vaccines.
In terms of learning, bringing puppies to class sooner rather than later (so even as young as 8-9 weeks old) allows you to begin practical training as soon as you can. The more puppies practice behaviours, the better they get at them. Even within their first few weeks of life, puppies can get very good at behaviours you would prefer they did not! Equally, teaching your puppy the foundations of loose lead walking and dropping/swapping items can be crucial before you even get outside to make that first walk that much easier!
Online training allows you to create a safe environment at home where these behaviours can be effectively practiced. This will go a long way to setting your puppy up for success in the future.
8. Community Engagement
Having a puppy can be tough at the best of times and it can be hard to find others to sympathise. Adding isolating during a global pandemic into the mix can result in many owners ending up at their wits end.
At the end of class owners will often have to rush off for various events and it can be hard to connect with other guardians in your class.
At Wanderdog, we have been trying hard to promote community engagement during this difficult time. Facilitating discussions through social media groups can help puppy owners to connect and set up puppy play dates as well as chat through common puppy problems.
*A note on socialisation
When I speak with new puppy owners on the phone, one of the things they are most concerned about is socialising with other puppies. They often ask about how many dogs their puppies should be meeting and if group classes will help their puppy’s socialisation.
While group classes can help with puppy socialisation, it is important to remember this is just a fragment of your puppy’s time. While puppies are awake, they are learning, and so while puppy class is a great place to learn to just be around other dogs and that not every dog they see is a potential playmate, it is not your only opportunity to socialise them well with other dogs.
Old advice suggests that dogs need to meet 100 new people and dogs per week. While it is important to meet people of many different backgrounds and dogs of many breeds, it is crucial that you take this at your dog’s pace. Meeting other dogs and new people one-on-one will be much less intimidating for your pup. Equally, giving your puppy space to make choices and rewarding them for making positive choices will help to make them more confident in the long run!
Though in-person training has its benefits, in these challenging times it is important to adapt and look at the benefits of online training too. For many they have found that this suits their puppy and their daily schedule much better!
If you have a specific question about online training, please feel free to get in touch with Wanderdog for private help.