When people call a dog or cat trainer, they have ideas of what they need: “Help me potty train my puppy!” “Please make my dog stop nipping at my kids!” “My cat needs to stop peeing outside the litter box!” “My dog can’t keep barking at every other dog on walks!” I’ve learned that clients also may have ideas about what “training” looks like for them.
A trainer used to get in her car (the majority are female), drive to the dog’s home, take a history and other intake info, teach some skills, make an appointment for another visit, and drive to the next client. Sometimes she works inside the home or in the yard or in the neighborhood on a walk. COVID changed all that, and some clients may have to change their ideas of what training now looks like.
My first session will always be online now. Even after the pandemic ends (it will someday, right?). And many trainers agree with me: please believe us when we tell you that we don’t need to be with the dog physically to train. We spend a good portion of our training time talking, playing detective, figuring out the real problems, creating the perfect action plan, and yes, training the humans more than the dogs anyhow. A session goes very quickly. We are likely to give you some skills to practice with your dog at home first–even for dogs barking at dogs on the street.
Dogs focus so well online! Okay, they’re not usually looking at the trainer on the laptop, but they’re with the people they trust most and they are in the place where they can focus best and there are rewards in the room and no stranger is distracting them. Humans often focus well online. I’ve even had some really young people training their dogs through Zoom; you should see how well a six-year-old can listen to instruction and teach new behaviors to the puppy–including how to jump and down when you succeed!
You are able to work with any trainer anywhere. The sessions following the initial appointment also work well virtually. Even if your dog has issues around external stimuli–other dogs, trucks, men, children–the trainer can give you skills to practice before she even meets with you in person: so safe! I have had many clients now I’ve never even met in person, and their problems have been solved. Please believe when the trainer tells you that we don’t need/want to see how your dog acts in order to help you. We’ve seen pretty much everything–and if your trainer hasn’t, perhaps someone with more experience is needed. Oh, and you can video if you want to show us more than what we see in the moment. Dogs are often like cars anyhow: they stop making the funny sound when the mechanic is around.
Both remote one-one-one lessons and group classes can be fun and certainly will be useful. I miss seeing more dogs in person–that’s why we do this job, after all–but remote learning is certainly productive and worth the time and money. And here’s my deal: try online. If you don’t think you’ve gotten your money’s worth, you don’t have to pay me. Woof!