Can your dog really learn with the trainer on the other side of a screen?
Short answer: Yes!
In these times of social distancing, traditional dog training has been pretty much impossible. Luckily, technology has made virtual training not only easy, but just as effective, in most cases, as in-person training.
The advantages of online training include, but aren’t limited to:
-A wider ranges of times available – train in your pajamas if you want to! (I won’t judge.)
-The ability to customize the length of a lesson to a dog (or person)’s attention span – something that isn’t financially feasible when the trainer has to drive from house to house!
-Train from literally anywhere with a connection to the internet, with no travel fees even if you are out of your trainer’s normal service area.
-Access to the same trainer knowledge and skill you’d get in person, and the same real-time feedback as you work with your dog.
-Less distractions for you and your dog when learning new things.
-The whole family can still be included, even if they aren’t at home (they can join the call from another location!).
Here’s a breakdown of how an online lesson might work.
First, you and your trainer will agree to a time and lesson length and get it on the schedule.
Next, your trainer will send a Zoom link (if you are using Zoom) to access your lesson, or set up another way to get in touch at the appropriate time if you’re using a different platform, like FaceTime.
When you click the link or answer the phone call, the lesson starts!
If this is your first lesson, you and your trainer will spend some time talking about your dog, your goals, and your training plan. If this is not your first lesson, you will probably just do a check-in talk to see how your dog has been doing since the last meeting.
Your trainer will go over what they want you to try and might demo the behavior, describe what you are going to do, or send you a video to check out.
Once you’ve gotten your instructions, you’ll have have a chance to aim your camera at your dog and try it, with feedback from your trainer as you go to help you adjust and improve!
This may be repeated a few times, depending on the length of your session. For example, if you are doing a thirty minute session, you may only work on one or two exercises, but if you are doing an hour-long session, you might have time for three or four. Some of the exercises might be new cues and some might be building on or practicing cues you’ve already started.
Tips for success:
-Have everything ready to go when the time for the lesson comes. That may include your phone, tablet or computer (however you are connecting to the video chat); your dog; any needed equipment for your dog, such as a collar, harness or leash; treats for your dog; and, if you are using them, a treat bag and/or clicker.
-Have a way to prop up your phone to show you and your dog training, even if it is as simple as setting your cell phone in a cup with the camera over the top. Alternatively, you can have an extra person in the family hold the phone if available.
-If you are using headphones for sound, it can be helpful to have wireless headphones so you can move away from the phone as needed for video. An alternative option would be to unplug the headphones and switch to the audio on the device as needed.
-If we are going to be practicing a behavior like going for a walk or doing training outside, make sure your device will still be connected to the internet or data so we don’t lose our connection! You can check this in advance by walking around the area we might use and looking at the strength of your signal.
-As recommended for any lesson, make sure your dog has had a chance to meet their physical needs before the session, such as going for a walk or pottying. If your dog is not very food motivated, don’t feed them a big meal before training, but if they tend to be highly food motivated, it’s fine to feed them some before we train. And make sure that your treats are something they love and will be excited to work for, in small, bite-sized pieces.
Online lessons can be a lot of fun, and really effective. For most people, the most daunting part is learning the technology – but we’re all learning how to do lessons online together, so don’t be afraid to ask your trainer if something isn’t working for you or you don’t know how to set yourself up for an effective lesson. Ideally, ask them ahead of time so that you can and your dog can be set up for success when it’s time for your session.
If you’re ready to give online training a try, check out the options Bond Dog Training offers today no matter what your location!
Sarah is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge and Skills Assessed. She lives in the Texas Hill Country near Austin with her two dogs, Percy, a cattle dog mix, and Clara, a lab/German Shepherd.