Just what is virtual dog training?
Whether you are just across town – or all the way across the country, virtual dog trainings sessions give you opportunity to train your dog in your own home and consult with our dog trainers via Zoom (an online conferencing system).
Is there any advantage to virtual dog training? Absolutely!
- No travel necessary. No training facility near you? Are you snowed in? No problem, we can still reach you via the internet.
- Classes are still interactive. Our trainers have their own dogs on hand to demonstrate cues and behaviors, then you get a chance to practice with your dog.
- Classes are a great deal.
- Low stress for fearful and reactive dogs.
Fearful dogs find meeting strange humans/dogs and entering strange environments to be very stressful. Instead, we can work with you on confidence building activities from the security of your dog’s safe place.
Reactive dogs often find the presence of other dogs stressful enough that they are unable to concentrate on cues. Virtual training allows us to meet with you and your dog in a relaxed environment. We can then give you some strategies to work on to prepare your dog to deal with the stress of entering our facility for face-to-face reactive dog classes.
- Virtual check-ins. Whether you are currently enrolled in face-to-face classes at our facility, or taking a break in your training, you can check in with us during a virtual session for some extra help or as a refresher.
Preparing for class
You can access virtual dog training sessions from any computer, tablet or phone that has internet access and a camera. If you are using your phone or a webcam, a tripod is very useful in stabilizing your camera while you are working with your dog.
We use Zoom, an online video conference call application for our virtual training sessions. Zoom is easy to use and is compatible with almost any device or operating system. Our trainers will review features such as chat and video/audio mute at the beginning of the training session.
While you do have the ability to attend our virtual training session from any location, there are some things to keep in mind.
- Choose a quiet space with few distractions and little background noise/activity. This will allow you and your dog to better concentrate on your training session.
- Choose a well-lit location so that we can see you and your dog. Try to avoid having a window or bright lighting in the background as it makes it harder to see you.
- Choose a location with enough floor space to allow you to practice cues with your dog during your session.
- Make sure that you have a good internet signal.
- Be sure that you have an outlet available to plug in your device – Zoom uses up battery life quickly.
- Try out your equipment ahead of time so that you can set up your camera to capture you and your dog so that our trainers are able to see you working together during your session.
How do you access your training session?
When you sign up for a virtual training session, you will receive an email that includes a link for joining your session. A few minutes before your session is scheduled to begin, simply click on the link and your device should automatically download and open Zoom. You may need to click ‘open’ in order to proceed. You will be placed in a virtual waiting room and the trainers will let you into the session as soon as class begins.
How to get the most out of your training session.
Set yourself up for success.
- Keep a training notebook. Use it to take notes, write down homework and to keep track of any questions that you have for the trainers.
- Write down questions ahead of time so that you don’t forget to ask them during your session.
- If you have a specific behavior that you are going to be asking for help with, you may want to capture it on video. You can email it to us ahead of time (firstname.lastname@example.org) or share it with us during class.
- We often use the Chat feature to provide specific links, etc. and will give you a lot of information. You can copy the chat before exiting your session.
- We will send you a follow up email with reading and videos on what we discussed in class.
- Keep distractions at a minimum. Find a quiet location to work. You may want to close windows and doors. Let anyone in your home who is not participating in the session know that you will be in class.
Set your dog up for success.
- Have a collar and leash on your dog so that you don’t need to leave the session to go and get these items.
- Be sure to take your dog out for a potty break before your session begins.
- You may want to have some sort of enrichment activity to keep your dog entertained when you are not working with him (e.g., a snuffle mat, frozen kong or lickimat).
- It can also be handy to have a crate or a way to tether your dog to allow you to take notes or watch your trainer demonstrate something during your session.
- If you have other animals that may be a distraction for the dog that you are going to be working with, it is a good idea to block them out of your training space or have them in a kennel during your session.
- If your dog is quite active, you may want to take him for a walk or give him an activity to do prior to class to reduce his energy level and help him concentrate. Don’t tire your dog out too much or he won’t be able to focus during class.
- Don’t feed your dog a full meal just prior to class. You want your dog to be hungry enough to want to work for treats during your training session.
- Treats! Make sure that you have LOTS of yummy treats handy. Some dogs will work for their kibble in a low distraction environment. Other dogs will need to have some higher value treats such as soft treats, cheese or hot dog.
After your training session.
- During your session, we will provide you with a list of things to work on outside of class.
- Keep track of any questions or concerns that you have so you can ask them during your next session.
- Practice … Practice … Practice. Behaviors do not just happen after one training session. It takes LOTS of practice to train or modify a behavior.
- Set aside time for several short training sessions each day. Keep your sessions short – 5-10 minutes – to keep your dog focused on and enjoying training.
- Be sure to end your session while your dog is still having fun so that she will want to come back for another training session.
- If you or your dog is getting frustrated, take a short break and regroup.
- Remember …. baby steps. Take small steps in advancing behaviors. If you take too big a step and your dog is unsuccessful, reel yourself back a bit.
- Dogs do not generalize well. Just because he knows that ‘sit’ means to sit down in the living room, it does not mean that he will immediately understand that ‘sit’ means to sit down in the kitchen or out in the yard. Be patient and help her to transfer these behaviors to new locations.
- Keep a training journal. It may feel like you are making little to no progress, but if you keep a daily training journal, you can look back and see just how far you have come.