The Benefits of Online Training

While it might seem that in-person training for your dog is the only way to go, online training offers a surprising number of advantages.


In-person training has its pluses, for sure. Very social dogs might really enjoy it and therefore are apt to learn better around other people and perhaps other people’s pets. Puppies in particular need exposure to
a variety of people and dogs to learn how to socialize appropriately.

Then, too, a trainer is going to be better able to read body language in person — both the dog’s and the human’s. And up close, it can be easier to get the hang of clicker training. “Sometimes people do better with learning clicker training if they have direct eye contact with the trainer rather than contact through a screen,” says Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, head of the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic.

In-person interactions are especially important if a dog is acting particularly fearful or anxious or aggressive. In such a case, the pet should be brought in person to see a veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Borns-Weil says. That’s because when the problems go beyond basic training and cross over into difficult psychological challenges, direct interaction with the animal and its human family member is necessary for a veterinarian who is board-certified in animal behavior to fully get a handle on the issue and find workable solutions.

But for many situations, online training works just fine and in fact can even be an improvement over in-person training. Let’s say you’re trying to teach your dog not to overreact when a visitor comes over. The aim is to train your pet to go to a “safe” spot when the doorbell rings. “A trainer is going to push the dog over the threshold just by being in the room, which can make it more difficult for the training to get started,” Dr. Borns-Weil says. “You have to teach a location-specific skill with the dynamics of the location being what they would be in real life. Having a trainer observe the situation online and make suggestions in real time allows the dog to practice the skill in the environmental conditions in which it will be used.”

It’s the same with teaching a dog how to pass another dog on the street without feeling unnerved. Especially if you have someone with you to hold the phone as you are walking with your pet, a trainer can help you work through the problem in real time via FaceTime or some other modality that allows for visual communication.

“People have even been doing online agility,” Dr. Borns-Weil says. “Stuff like that really blossomed during the pandemic. And the tools we have for virtual communication are so much better than they used to be — and now everyone knows how to use them.

“We use online communication from our office all the time,” she comments. “It’s especially effective for rechecks. People don’t want to drive a long way to discuss medication adjustments or small changes in technique, but they’re happy to do it virtually.”

Online dynamics also serve dogs who don’t like going on drives in the car. It’s all okay with Dr. Borns-Weil. “I’m less concerned about the modality used to interact than I am about the qualities and methods used by the trainer,” she says. “Evidence-based, positive reinforcement training can often be just as effective online as in person.”

Many trainers will train on their own, but some companies have sprouted up that also do an excellent job, often with offerings of one-on-one training combined with courses/videos/webinars that are less expensive. Here’s a look at three of them.

Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Fenzi offers private lessons for $130 an hour, but for much less money you can sign on for instruction in the form of webinars and workshops that cover everything from basic training to “Helping Reactive and Fearful Dogs,” “Controlling Your Dog Without a Leash,” and “Desensitization and Counter Conditioning” to help your pet have more positive emotional reactions to “things he’s not too keen about.” There are also a number of courses centering on sports — agility, herding, scent activities, and more. Clicker training, using food to help teach a dog to play appropriately, and just about anything else you could possibly think of are covered, too. One trainer on the site even has a specialty in rehabilitating fearful dogs.

In many cases, video lessons are sent at least once a week to be viewed at your convenience. Tuition ranges from $65 to $260 for a 6-week class, and webinars run as low as $19.95. It pays to spend a little time looking through the offerings. With videos like “Preparing For New Puppy,” “How to Prepare Your Dog for Visits to the Vet & Groomer,” “Stop Leash Pulling,” “Get Your Dog to Stop Jumping on People,” “How to Train Your Dog to Come,” and “Dog Separation Anxiety Solutions,” chances are you’re going to find exactly what you’re after.

Brain Training for Dogs. This seven-module course will take your dog and you from “preschool” and “elementary school” through “high school,” “college,” “university,” and then all the way to “Einstein.” Starting with teaching your pet to keep his attention on you, the modules move on to helping you show your pet how to play all kinds of games to relieve boredom, engage his active mind, and, in the process, make him a better-behaved animal. Much of the material available addresses behavior problems head on. A huge archive tackles getting past such issues as lunging, whining, lack of impulse control, and, most likely, whatever else is going on with your dog that is not appropriate. There are also video demonstrations and a private forum where you can discuss behavior and training issues with other dog parents. Access to the course modules and all other materials costs $67.

Peach On A Leash Dog Training and Behavior Services. If you live in the Atlanta area, you can hire one of this company’s trainers to come and work with you and your dog at home, but anywhere in the country, pet parents and their dogs can get individualized instruction via FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype for in-the-moment troubleshooting. Everything is covered, from getting your dog to come to you when called to managing aggression and separation anxiety (for prices that start at $379). There’s also direct access to your trainer both during and after your program by e-mail or phone. Lifetime training support is available via e-mail.

Additionally, you can access a partner training app with step-by-step videos and how-to’s that make learning easier. And a blog on the website covers such topics as “Surviving the Holidays with Your Dog,” “How to Teach Your Dog to Drop Items,” and “Why Your Dog Stares At You.”


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