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I don't have to take my puppy to class? Alternative training options for clients.

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

I never thought I would have a puppy. I mean, they’re cute and all, but they were always a bit like babies to me: I held them until they cried or wet themselves, then gave them back to their people and went home to my chaos free sanctuary. My husband and I always adopted senior dogs. Working for animal shelters for 16 years gave me an appreciation for the “underdogs” of that world. Senior dogs are definitely one of them.

Two years ago that all changed. We adopted a potato-shaped, smushy-faced little guy named Brik. He was 8 weeks old on the dot and cute as a button. He was also a never ending fountain of urine and feces (or so it seemed like to me). So much so that his nickname became Poopy (which really was a weird way of saying puppy, but I digress).

I had been in the behavior field for almost 15 years at that point and had NEVER owned a puppy as an adult. I thought that I had a leg up over all of my clients though, because I had been helping people with their puppy problems successfully for a long time. I had this puppy raising thing nailed…..right?

Wrong…..sort of. Potty training went at a snail’s pace and keeping him entertained felt like a part-time job. Also, making sure that he was properly socialized felt like a massive project in and of itself! I quickly began to empathize much more with what my puppy clients went through year after year. It wasn’t as easy as I thought. Being “in the trenches” of puppy rearing was an eye opening experience that I took a lot of valuable lessons from.

I must not have learned my lesson well enough because around one year after adopting Brik, we adopted a second puppy (this time around 12 weeks old) named Binx as a friend for him. Without intending to, three months later we adopted ANOTHER young dog (this time 7 months old) named Kayley. How did I go from the geriatric ward to the nursery so quickly?

We are now one year into having all three dogs, who have since left puppyhood and have entered adolescence (that’s a WHOLE different blog post). What I can say is that we conquered puppyhood times three, but it didn’t come with some road bumps along the way.

Now when I work with clients that have puppies, I’m able to bring personal experiences to the table when talking to them about their behavior concerns. It helps me see puppy rearing in a whole new light and I’m so, so glad that we took the plunge and went on this crazy journey.

This time of year is a very popular time for families to welcome new puppies into their home. It’s also the time of year where we get a lot of calls from people wanting training for those puppies. One aspect of raising a puppy that can be a bit overwhelming is making sure that he or she receives the training necessary in order to become an upstanding member of society. That’s a lot of pressure on a dog guardian who may not have a ton of training experience!

There’s group training classes, private training, day training, board & train…..the list goes on and on. Which one is the right fit for you? Let’s break down the differences:

Group training classes: This is a pretty popular option that a lot of dog guardians are used to utilizing because not only do they get training out of it, but also some level of socialization. Classes are held in a novel space with other people and dogs generally once a week for a number of weeks. The bulk of the training falls to the dog guardian with this type of training and the role of the trainer is more of a guide. The trainer shows the dog guardians what to do during class and provides assistance with guided practice, but then the rest of the progress continues outside of the classroom as long as the dog guardian is consistent.

Private training: These are one-on-one lessons with a trainer that can be conducted either remotely or in-person. Sessions are generally 1-2 times per week. Similar to group training classes, the bulk of the training falls to the dog guardian in order to make progress.

Day training: This is where the trainer themselves take on the bulk of the work while the dog still lives at home. Generally the trainer comes to the house a certain number of times per week to work with the dog, then the trainer and the dog guardian(s) meet at the end of the week for something called a “transfer session.” This is where everything that the dog has learned for the week is “uploaded” to the dog guardians in order to keep things consistent. Day training can be very convenient for dog guardians because it provides a big jumping off point to training and has a lot of the groundwork already covered by the time the trainer “hands the reins” off to the dog guardians at the conclusion. Socialization is generally included with puppy day training packages. Day training typically lasts a certain number of weeks.

Board & train: This option involves the dog going to live at a facility or at a trainer’s house in order to be trained. There is a lot of variation in how board & train is conducted depending on how the trainer operates. If the dog is living in a kennel during their time at board & train, they may get taken out at certain times throughout the day to be worked with. If they are living in the trainer’s home with them, the training is much more intensive and can happen during daily life activities. Socialization is generally included with puppy board & train. This type of training can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to over a month.

Which option you choose for your dog depends entirely on what is the best fit for your family. The best part about getting a puppy nowadays is the myriad of options that are available in order to provide training and socialization!

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