You’ve been searching for months to find the perfect dog to fit your lifestyle; maybe a puppy caught your eye or you heard a shelter story you couldn’t shake.
The house is puppy-proofed.
You’ve thrown Fido a peanut butter Kong and while he's busy, you find a local trainer and sign up for an obedience class.
Understandably, the group class comes at a lower cost, and you’re already spending more than you expected at the vet’s office.
The first day of school is here!
You’re looking forward to Fido making new friends. Unfortunately, he isn’t feeling the same way when you get to class. He puts on the brakes. You’re frantically trying to get him through the door, “It’s okay!” you cry as you drag your dog into class. Fido frantically looks around the room and realizes he has no escape route.
Fido has never seen so many strangers in one place. There are dogs of all sizes, and now he’s stuck. Suddenly, he lashes out by lunging at other dogs or people.
“Why are you like this?! You’re so calm at home!” you shout, audibly upset over Fido’s reactions.
The instructors notice the commotion and help you to your seat. You follow their directions and try to lure Fido back to you, but he's no longer interested in the treats he loved at home. His eyes look like they’re bugging out of his skull, and he won’t stop barking and lunging at his neighbors. You try all class to keep yourself and Fido calm, but you feel defeated. To top it all off, the instructor sends you an email about how group class may not be the best option for your dog.
You feel singled out, frustrated, sad, angry all at once.
How did you end up with the "problem child"?
It’s disheartening to feel as if your dog isn't "normal." However, as a dog trainer, I want you to know that we understand. A lot of us know from similar personal experiences. In a lot of cases, our “problem” dogs are the reason we teach classes. And a good dog trainer wants to help you understand the emotional state of your dog.
All dogs feel some level of stress when going to unknown places or having new experiences. Our goal is to build their confidence in small doses through new situations. Obedience classes can create confidence while teaching your dog new things. However, depending on the dog, it can also be a way too much. So before you sign up for dog training classes, I want you to consider how your dog reacts in similarly hectic situations. Do they lunge, bark, snarl, shake, freeze? These actions are how they communicate. If you answered with any of the above examples, then Fido is stressed and we'll want to address that underlying emotion before focusing on obedience.
Unfortunately, COVID has contributed to many dogs feeling stressed in public. People are working from home. Many can’t take their new dogs to certain places due to quarantine. So a group class might be the first time Fido has seen other dogs or strangers, and that is a big pill to swallow.
Finding the balance
We want training sessions to be fun for you and your dog. There are things we can do to help to reduce your dog’s stress levels. We can incorporate a favorite chew or toy to make them more comfortable. You can audition special treats that are more motivating than what Fido loves at home. Real meat cut into tiny pieces is usually a winner. We can also break the exercises down into smaller increments that make it easier for Fido to focus amid the chaos. Most dogs will settle in and can practice obedience in class.
For dogs that aren't noticeably more comfortable by the end of the second class, we offer private consultations at in the Stow, OH area. While they are more expensive than group classes, you will get a lot out of the experience. Our certified dog trainers will spend one-on-one time with you and your dog. And together, you will build a plan custom-tailored for both of your needs, compared to group classes which only offer general obedience.
We also offer virtual training for dogs and their people around the globe. You can train your dog from the comfort of your home, improving your bond and practicing vital skills along the way.
Depending on your training goals, our Stow facility also offers reactive training classes where you will learn how to manage your dog’s behavior towards other dogs. While this is still a group course, the class size is smaller and it's a much more controlled environment. Dogs are ushered in one at a time and visual barriers are used to keep everyone calm. This structured course focuses on equipping you with techniques to manage when your dog reacts, like sudden barking and lunging at other dogs on walks.
We never want our clients to feel singled out or feel like there’s something wrong with their dog. Dog’s use reactions to communicate their needs, and we’re here to help them translate.