Training during lockdown
Current restrictions mean that we can’t get together for dog training, so our usual classes have been suspended. But we still have our dogs and puppies, and still lots to learn, so what are the options?
There are a lot of resources online, some are free, some you have to pay for – just be careful when you select training advice online that it matches your philosophy when it comes to educating your pet (and you!). There’s lots of free advice from trainers who may use different techniques to us (we use toys and food rewards, positive reinforcement of behaviour), and they may have a different set of values to you.
The other option is online training with your dog trainer, for example with us. Now this has its advantages and disadvantages. There is no doubt that face to face training in groups is best, but this is not currently allowed, so we have to do the best we can, making sure things are still enjoyable for dog and handler, and getting the results we want.
We are currently running several courses, both puppy and beginners, using the online platform Zoom (or sometimes Messenger). Class sizes are limited to four so that I can see dogs and handlers, without it being too small on the screen for me to see what is going on. An unexpected advantage of this is that I see the dogs in their own homes – in their normal environment, and without other dogs distracting them. I learn a lot about the dog (and the handler) and can offer more specific advice. Another benefit is that I can chat and answer questions online, without it interrupting the lesson for others.
I have notes for classes so they can do their homework, and I have game and training resources to help handlers in transferring what they learn in 45 minutes online into ongoing teaching for their dogs. I’ve also started a group for current clients called ‘Follow your nose’, and we are doing some scent training just for fun (and the dogs enjoy it hugely).
Although online training is not my preferred method, whilst we are in lockdown I am so grateful that we can use technology to keep working with dogs and puppies.