Remote online dog training existed before the world ended in 2020, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it didn’t. Most of the online offerings were for the dog training geeks (like me), but there were some targeted at pet parents.
But the world changed, and we were all stuck in doors. Then everyone got a dog and, well, with limited options, online dog training services become more common. But now everything has opened up again, we should go straight back to in-person training, right? Right?!
You might be sceptical about online dog training and believe it couldn’t possibly be as effective as in-person training. I get regular enquiries from people who want help but want it in person, and in their own home. Depending on location, I do offer in-person training, but I still use online training as part of my packages regardless of if we do some in person or not. And I don’t visit clients at home.
For those people that don’t want to work with me remotely, and aren’t close enough to travel to my training location, I know unless they can find someone else to work with them, they’ll probably be back in touch, and the problem behaviour will have got worse and more difficult to change. You don’t need to put off getting much needed help until you find someone who can see you in person. Here’s why remote online training isn’t as problematic as you might think.
Common Concerns About Remote or Online Dog Training
But don’t you need to see the behaviour happening?
The biggest misconception clients have is that I need to see the problem behaviour in action in order to help. Even when I see clients in person, I don’t need to see the behaviour.
If someone understands behaviour and how to change it, they don’t have to see it in order to modify it. In fact, I don’t want your dog rehearsing it. Especially if it’s an aggressive behaviour, even to show me what happens. I believe you.
Behaviourists know what questions to ask to understand your dog’s behaviour. Even if it’s unpredictable to you, it’s normally not for us. If something sounds a bit odd, or I need more information than I can get with questions I may ask for video – if it’s safe to get it.
This is the same for in-person sessions or remote. I don’t want to stress your dog, and I especially don’t want to stress your dog just so I can see something happen that I could probably predict anyway. If your dog is stressed, they are less able to learn. Not just in that moment, but later too, when we might try to do some hands on training. Trying to show me the problem behaviour often comes back to bite people in the butt – sometimes literally.
While I don’t need to see the problem, I do need to see you working with your dog. I don’t need to be with you in person to do that. I can watch and coach you live in our online session, and you can send me videos in between sessions.
Videos are the best way for me to help you. It’s even better than if I’m watching you live. I can watch it multiple times, slow it down and use it to teach you to see what I do. Videos have been a significant change for my client’s success, which is why I encourage all my clients to send it in, including those that I see in person.
How can I get practise in an online session?
The same way as in an in-person session, to be honest.
I can demo exercise with videos, live with my own dogs, with props etc. Then watch you in real time and give feedback as you practise.
The only difference is I can’t demo with your dog, but I rarely do that with in-person sessions, anyway. My job is to give simple instructions and split things down well enough so that you can work with your dog successfully. If I can do that in person without working with your dog myself, I can do it remotely. In fact, it’s easier because I have more tools online than I do in person.
I want a professional to do the training with my dog
I know you aren’t a professional trainer (probably). If you knew what to do and how, you wouldn’t be coming to me for help. The good news is that you don’t have to be a professional trainer in order to see results with a good behaviour modification programme. A lot about a good behaviour modification programme is not actually about training.
Behaviour modification techniques are often fairly simple and I purposefully choose the simplest exercises I can for clients. If you can toss some treats on the floor, you can already do a lot of the exercises.
The tricky part is knowing what to do in different situations, and that’s where my advice and coaching is important. But the actual training mechanics are often much simpler than what you’d see in something like a trick-training class.
My job is to teach you enough so that you don’t need me anymore. That’s always my goal.
Let’s imagine I do the foundation training for you. You won’t know how to change things for your dog’s level of learning when in tricky situations. If I coach you through all the stages, you have all that foundation to fall back on if you need it.
Ultimately, you are the one that needs to work with your dog, not me. Working through the learning stages builds trust between you and your dog. This is vital for behaviour modification. Just because I could teach your dog to swap a coveted item with me doesn’t mean they’ll do it for you. Not without going through all the stages I did with them. We might as well have started with you.
How can online dog training be effective?
My actual job is a human coach who knows a lot about dog behaviour. Much of the behaviour modification process is educating dog guardians in things like body language, management and enrichment. If I can communicate effectively, I can coach effectively. That doesn’t have to be in person.
I’ve worked with clients I’ve never met in person who have successfully worked through their behaviour modification plan with really challenging problem behaviours. I’ve worked with dog to human aggression, dog to dog aggression, husbandry and medical care, resource guarding, fear and anxiety in different circumstances and more. Working remotely together has not limited the effectiveness of the programme, nor does it affect the type of case I see.
Things That Make a Remote Online Consult More Effective
It’s easier for your dog.
A large portion of the dogs I work with are worried by people or changes in routine. That means my presence is going to change their behaviour and often make it more difficult for them to learn.
Since I’m a professional, I know how to set things up and move for the best success with your dog. It’s not unusual for clients to tell me “well he normally barks at people when they come in but he’s not doing it to you”. Or that “he must know that you’re a trainer so he’s on his best behaviour”.
It’s easier for you
It is difficult to learn when your attention is split, and your attention will be split in an in-person session. You’ll be worried about how your dog is going to act while I’m present. You’ll have had to contend with a journey to the facility. You might be concerned about what you’re going to find once you’re there, whether they’ll be too many people or other dogs and how your dog might react. You won’t know the place, so some of your focus will wane because you aren’t familiar with the space. All of that means it’s harder for you to absorb the information that you’re paying for.
In my experience, remote clients have a much easier time absorbing the necessary information they need to know to keep their dog and others safe. It also means we don’t have to go over information multiple times, so progress can often be quicker.
You’re both learning the skills in the place you need them
Admittedly, this came up more in the pet classes I used to run. Very often it was harder for clients to take the skills they learned in the class setting back home, because they just didn’t learn them there. When I put my classes online, this all changed and people could generalise their skills much easier. They could apply them to real-life situations quicker because they had learned them in the very environment they were going to use them in.
It encourages taking video of your training
Video is a great tool for learning. While my clients on hybrid packages can also send me video, it happens far more often with those on fully remote packages.
How Remote Online Dog Training Can be Less Effective Than In-Person
There are some drawbacks to remote sessions, but they aren’t as big a deal as you might think.
I can’t troubleshoot by trying something out for myself with your dog
Occasionally, when a client is working on something, I sometimes wish I could try a few things with their dog for myself so I can help get them over the bump. Honestly though, this is poor coaching, because as I keep saying, you need to be able to do this for yourself. Me taking over isn’t really that helpful for your learning experience.
Most times, it’s possible to troubleshoot remotely, and we can work through it, although it might take longer than if I took over.
Working through scenarios of dog-human aggression with me as the first stooge
It’s absolutely possible to work through these cases remotely, but you might be hesitant about using friends or family as the “scary stranger” for those first couple of setups. There are lots of things that we put in place to keep people safe. Including practising with known people first so we can check that the setup will work for you. But some people still feel more comfortable going through a meeting protocol the first time with a professional, and we can’t do that remotely.
Videos of walks can be tricky
I’ve worked with a lot of lead reactivity without ever seeing the dog on a walk myself. Including those that I have in-person sessions with, because I hold them in a private field. Many clients send me footage of their dog on their walk and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on out of frame. If I accompany a client on a walk, I can watch their dog and the environment at the same time.
While I might not see exactly what is out of frame and how far away it is, you can give me extra details with a voiceover or when you send the video in. I don’t actually need to see the person or dog going past to see your dog’s reaction and how you help them through it, and that’s the most important part.
If you’ve been put off getting help for your dog because you didn’t want to try remote online sessions, has this helped? Have I addressed your concerns? Do you still have some concerns?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss what remote sessions can do for you.
Or if this has addressed all your concerns and you’re ready to take the next step, you can book a discovery call so we can start the process together.