Chris Shaughness

author, speaker, animal lover

Obedience,  All Articles

Obedience Training: Individual Lessons vs. Group Classes

You know how much I believe in obedience training. Training helps to forge a better bond between you and your dog and prevents behavior problems. When it’s time to begin training, you will have a decision to make. Do you take your new friend to a group class with other dogs or do you hire a professional to come to your home to work with you individually? There are benefits and disadvantages of either choice. The decision should be made based on your family structure, your budget, your time constraints and your ability to regularly expose your dog to other dogs and people. Of course, it also depends on your dog too! Do you have a new puppy or is the dog a grown rescue who may have had previous obedience training?

Group classes are a wonderful choice if your prime motive is to socialize your dog. A group class provides your dog with the opportunity to meet other dogs and people, which is so beneficial especially for a young pup. Puppies need early exposure to as many dogs, people and children as possible to ensure they do not become fearful of others as they grow up. Group classes are appropriate if you want inexpensive, basic training of commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘come’, and ‘heel’, or just a ‘brush up’ if your dog has already been trained. A 6 or 8-week class can cost anywhere from $110 – $150. If you wish to include your children in the training process, a group class probably is not the best choice. Most instructors allow children to attend classes, but usually no more than 1 or 2 well-behaved older children. Some instructors may allow your children to help with the training but will not have the time to work with your children individually. Also, it may be difficult for a young child to stay focused for an hour-long class.

Finally, group classes are terrific if you want your dog to learn to listen to you under distraction. Group classes are rarely quiet! People are talking to their dogs, the trainer is giving directions and dogs are usually barking at each other. What better place to teach your dog to focus on you.

If you require more in-depth behavior advice, a group class might not be the best choice.

Some trainers may not possess the experience to help you with difficult behavior issues. Group classes are generally large and you probably will not receive much individual attention. Because of the potentially large class size, the pace of the class may not suit you either. Generally, each class covers only 2 commands per week. Some dogs get bored with this slow pace (and you may too!).

Private training in your home is an excellent choice if you would like the whole family involved in the training and want a good head start in learning about dog behavior. A well-qualified trainer will talk to you during the training session about tips and techniques for raising a good dog, resolving problem issues, as well as training your dog to sit, stay, come, heel, etc. In addition, private lessons take much less time than group lessons. Generally, a dog can be trained in 2 one-hour sessions, versus 6 or 8 one-hour sessions of a group class. Private lessons can be more costly, however, averaging anywhere from $150 for 2 lessons, to $500 for 4 lessons. More experienced and effective trainers will be able to train your dog in two sessions.

If you do opt for private lessons, ensure you have a way to expose your dog to other dogs, people and children as much as possible. Take your dog out for regular walks around the neighborhood or to local dog parks for a fun romp with friends.