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Online Classes = Dog’s Best Friend

Coronavirus pandemic necessitates an alternative to group classes
By Karen B. London PhD, March 2020, Updated June 2021
dog at desk

Billions of people across the globe are giving up their normal activities in a massive community effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, and dog training classes are no exception. So many in-person classes are on hiatus or cancelled, but that does not mean that you can’t keep training your dog under the guidance of professional dog trainers. Though online classes are not new, they are suddenly more popular than ever before.

I was excited to learn that Dog’s Best Friend Training in Madison, Wisconsin just launched online classes in response to the pandemic. They are now offering Puppy Kindergarten, Beginning Family Dog Training, and Get Focused and In Control, with plans to add additional classes and workshops soon. I recently spoke to Owner & Trainer Aimee Jarosz as well as Behavior Consultant & Trainer Chelse Wagner about the new program*.

Good news—you don’t have to be a client of Dog’s Best Friend Training to sign up! The classes are available for anyone, and once you buy a class, you have access to the videos and instructional materials forever. Check out the classes so you can spend this unplanned time together having fun with your dog as you both learn new skills. Here’s what you need to know.

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  • Puppy Kindergarten is for puppies who are 5 months old or younger. Emphasis is on basic skills like sit, wait, stay, come, heel, down and common puppy issues such as mouthing, house training and chewing.
  • Beginning Family Dog Training is for adolescent or adult dogs who you have had for at least a month or so and who are not reactive. Emphasis is on basic skills and building a relationship with your dog.
  • Get Focused and In Control is for dogs who are brand new to you or who are reactive to various stimuli such as other dogs, people or new objects. Emphasis is on basic skills, attention and impulse control as well as distractions

There are plenty of advantages to online training classes

  • You can go at your own pace, so that you and your dog work at the speed that is best for you both.
  • It’s easier to pay attention to the demonstration videos than it is to watch an instructor demonstrate skills while you are distracted by your own dog, who is likely distracted herself.
  • You can watch the videos over and over so that you are able to take in all the nuances of training that can be missed in a class. Since you have permanent access to the videos, you can always go back and refer to them as needed.
  • There is an alternative to in-person dog training classes, so you can continue your dog’s progress despite the cancellations. If your class in on hiatus, online classes are a great way to keep up your skills and continue to enjoy training your dog.

Some tips that will allow you to get the very most out of your online classes

  • Read the content and watch the related videos before training your dog.
  • Have a family member watch you work with the dog (or videotape yourself to watch later) and have them offer you suggestions for doing it just as demonstrated on the video.
  • Use really great treats that your dog loves as well as toys she likes.
  • Practice training both on leash and off leash so your dog understands she should pay attention in both situations.
  • Make it a family activity so everyone learns how to train the dog.
  • Keep sessions of training short—5 to 7 minutes is a good guideline for working on a skill.
  • In addition to planned training sessions, incorporate training into daily life. For example, ask your dog to wait at the door before going out on walks; have her sit before feeding her; have her lie down before you initiate a tug game.
  • Stay on a lesson for multiple days or weeks if your dog is still catching on, or go ahead if your dog has already mastered the curriculum for a particular week.
  • Make sure that your dog is engaged and interested in the training. Train at times during the day that your dog is eager to focus and is interested in the treats and toys you have.

Ways You Can Support Small Dog Businesses and Dogs

Small businesses are struggling and that includes those that offer services for dogs. Dog training classes, grooming, dog walking and behavior consultations are all services that most businesses have completely stopped offering in recent weeks. The financial effects are devastating, with many small businesses going from good situations to no money at all coming in. Many people want to help their local small businesses survive, and any way that you can support dog businesses will make a difference. Here are some options.

  • Buy gift certificates that you can use on products or services later on.
  • Consider paying your dog groomer, dog walker or other dog professional during this unwanted break in service.
  • Purchase books, videos, webinars and other educational offerings of canine professionals.
  • Make an appointment for a phone or videoconference consultations or training session.
  • Purchase online classes.
  • Foster a dog from your local shelter or humane society.

How have the changes from the pandemic affected your life with your dogs and do you have ideas about how to support dogs and the businesses that serve them?

*Fun fact: I began my dog training career at Dog’s Best Friend Training back in 1997, and I learned a ton from both Aimee and Chelse.

Photo: Lumn / Pexels

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life