I can remember the very first dog training class I ever attended. I was a young girl just starting in 4H. My mom and dad agreed to take me and one of our family dogs to a 4H sponsored training class. I shudder to think about that class today. One trainer and a circle of young children with their family pets learning to use, or should I say abuse, choke chains in training. Please, no judgment! It was the 80s and there weren’t many other training options available. In any event, I am happy to report that I only attended a couple of those classes and I have never used a choke chain when training at home ever again. Hard to believe that 4H class was the last formal dog training class I attended until 2014.
In the spring of 2014, Chase joined our family as a 4-month-old puppy. We started our search for a local positive reinforcement dog trainer. Since the 80’s, the world has embraced an advanced understanding of canine learning and behavior. Thank gosh, because now positive reinforcement trainers are plentiful. No yanking, no choking, nothing to cause the dog any pain. Just clear communication to the dog of what is the desired behavior by rewarding them with the things that they want. Food is often used because it is easy. However, toys and actually permissions, called the Premack Principle, work just as well to provide that reinforcement. Sounds pretty great right!
Today the options are endless for training resources. Let’s chat about a few and I’ll share some of my personal favorites.
Local in-person training
Locally we found a wonderful trainer, Laura Yurchak. She owns and operates Loving Paws LLC. We started with puppy classes, then adolescent and adult manners classes……we attended them all. It was and still is so nice to attend a class face to face.
By physically going to a location outside of the home there is accountability for making time to train. Other benefits include real-time feedback of your training technique and learning from other students. Let’s be honest, the training classes are for human learning. The real training for your dog should happen outside of class in your everyday activities. Don’t forget the social aspect for both you and your dog in a face to face class. Even if you are not a social butterfly, it is nice to meet others who want to spend more time with their dogs. Who knows, you might make some new human and doggy friends.
Books and DVDs
There are endless titles of both books and DVDs that are great training resources. Just do a search on Amazon and I’ll bet your head will spin with all the titles. Dogwise.com is another great online resources that offer lots of great titles. Don’t forget your local library too; they are often an untapped resource. Here is a short list of some favorite authors:
- Ian Dunbar
- Patricia McConnell
- Karen Pryor
- Silvia Sundance
If watching DVDs is more your learning style, check out Bowwowflix.com. It is a rental service for dog training and behavior DVDs. This service is just like old school Netflix except it is for dog-centric titles only. In fact, I think this is such a great idea that I wish I had come up with it myself! You choose your monthly subscription level of how many DVDs you want to be able to rent at one time. You keep them for as long you need and then return them in the pre-paid mailing envelope. Easy peasy lemons squeezy.
Online Classrooms and Webinars
One of my favorite sources of dog training information is the internet. In my opinion, this is the best use of cyberspace.
Some trainers, like Susan Garrett, have their own online programs or internet classrooms. I have been a member of Susan Garrett’s Recallers program for the past couple of years and love it. She continues to offer new content and bigger challenges for alumni students and holds 4 live coaching calls a year. These are just a few of the features of this program. Membership is for one year and then it must be renewed if you wish to continue your access. During your membership period, you can also submit questions and post videos for feedback from the trainers and the member community. Recallers is only one of the programs that Susan Garrett offers. Check out the Say Yes Dog Training website if you are interested in learning more.
Another amazing online training resource is the Fenzi Dog Sport Academy. You won’t find just one instructor here or just a handful of classes to choose from. Instead, every 8 weeks registration opens for oftentimes more than 20 classes in many different categories including obedience, fitness, agility, scent work, and many more topics. Did I mention there are over 30 different instructors providing content to the academy? Wow! But wait, there is more! For example, there are three levels of membership to choose from when you register, allowing for the more budget conscious students to participate. Additionally, FDSA instructors now offer affordable, short (one hour), webinars as well. All classes and webinars that you have registered for will appear in your “library”. As long as you register for at least 1 class per year, your entire library remains accessible.
Facebook Groups and Classes
The newest dog training resource that I’ve been utilizing is Facebook. Just do a keyword search for dog training and you will probably find a lot of groups that you can join. The structure and rules of each group will vary depending on the Administrators so please make sure you understand them before you join. Other trainers are hosting Private Facebook Groups for students that enroll in their classes. This is a fantastic way to work with trainers remotely. Keep in mind however that you “get what you give” in these online or Facebook classes. This is no time to be shy! You’ll get a lot of value from the class if you submit short videos of your training sessions for feedback from the instructor and your fellow classmates.
Training options are endless and I’m sure there are a lot of good ones that I have yet to discover. I hope you have been inspired to attend a new local class or workshop. Host a book or DVD swap with friends. Enroll in your first class online or on Facebook.