Online Dog Training

I loved being in dog classes with Silas. They were, alas, just too hard for him. He was frightened by normal training exercises like politely greeting strangers, and he found it very hard to work around other dogs. I could probably have fixed this by moving to a better trainer across town, but it would have meant taking Obedience I for the third time. Which would have been okay, if Silas hadn’t known everything in Obedience I before we started it the first time. Plus at his school, Obedience II was outside, near a road, so I wasn’t sure we could progress anyway.

Around that time, a friend of mine suggested that I look into Susan Garrett’s classes. This coincided with the reopening of her premiere class, “The Five Minute Formula For a Brilliant Recall.” (Internet shorthand, “Recallers”). Recallers was an amazing experience, and so much more than just getting your dog to come when you call. If you have a dog who loves to play, I can’t say enough good things about this class. We still play some of the games from Recallers almost every day. The down side of Susan Garrett’s classes is that they are expensive. Absolutely worth it, but you can’t produce money out of thin air. I paid close to $400 for a mid-tier membership last year, although there was a cheaper level. If you’re interested, start saving your dollars and sign up to be notified when the next session opens here. I would expect it to be opening in the next few months, since the last one opened in early March of 2013, but it’s hard to predict.

Online training seems to be a really burgeoning field, though, so I thought I would throw out a few other things that have crossed my radar.

First, the well-respected Fenzi Dog Sports Academy is currently running registrations for their April 1 session. Unlike Recallers, the Fenzi classes are more specifically focused, with a college course catalog set up. You can take classes focusing on nose work, obedience, tracking, rally obedience, general dog behavior, and a few other things. Each area of focus has at least a few levels that you can progress through. Classes operate on a tiered price system, ranging from $65 to $260 dollars depending on how much personal interaction you want with the instructor. I just signed up for their first Obedience Skills class with Silas, because I’ve been feeling like he needs some new things to learn. (Some days I fantasize about how easy life would be with a dumb dog. Boring, but easy.)

Also, I haven’t spent a lot of time with Absolute Dogs yet, but the few things I’ve seen are great. They also do a lot of play-rewards, which I love to see. Learning to use play effectively as a training reward was a real breakthrough for us. I think you could get a lot of value out of their free videos without spending a penny, which is the main reason I’m linking here. They’re also offering a brand-new online class. Interestingly, they’re doing a monthly format that turns out to be fairly inexpensive–about $30 a month. My one unanswered question about them is exactly what they’re teaching, aside from relationship building, but I’m afraid if I do too much research I’ll get sucked in.

A few cautions about online training classes, though: First, you’ll run into a fairly extreme group of people. The internet brings out the worst in us. You’ll see a small but vocal minority of people who are REALLY into competition and have a kind of blind perfectionism. I’ve had to step back from more than one conversation that is, in essence, “How can I get my dog to behave more like a robot 100% of the time?” More importantly, just like with real training classes, do your research. It seems like I hear about more of these online classes every day–there are three or four more that immediately spring to my mind but that I didn’t know enough about to list here–but just because someone puts out a pretty video doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. It’s a great alternative for people who love dog training but don’t have local resources, but I’m not sure how much top-quality material the market can really produce.

Have you ever taken an online class with your dog?

7 thoughts on “Online Dog Training

  1. I bought the Dognition games a while ago and have yet to actually do them…not training, exactly, but an online format. Recently I’ve been looking in to the Barn Hunting sport, after Ruby’s encounter with the mouse. I think if she was able to meet the other dogs in each setting she could do something like that. Maybe.


    1. We’re *really* limited as to local classes for some reason. This is such a weirdly dog-unfriendly city, for a city where everyone has a dog. I’ll bet you have lots of options.

      I think Ruby would LOVE Recallers, if you can swing it. I hate recommending it to people because it’s pricey, but it’s perfect for “our” kind of dog. Although, you have more dog experience than I do–you may find it to be less of a revelation than I did.


  2. Some friends have also suggested lure-coursing, and they hold some just-for-fun events locally. Of course, that’s less training and more just letting dogs blow off some predatory steam! I went and signed up for the Recallers update – not sure I could swing it as I’ve got some car repairs on the horizon, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind as it sounds really great.


  3. I haven’t taken an online class with Elka! It does sound interesting, especially since Elka doesn’t know any other dogs and I wouldn’t want a class to turn into “how not to be a freakface” when it’s really supposed to be something else. Trés embarrassing.

    I know what you mean when it comes to some of those online discussions. On the Doberman board I contribute to most often, people tend to have training philosophies I agree with, with regards to conditioning, motivation, etc. On a writing message board I belong to, MANY of the dog owners are in love with Milan. Go figure, right? I’m getting good lessons on how to keep my mouth shut.


    1. I don’t actually see many Milan fans online or in real life, although sometimes I bump into a mild version of his philosophies. I suspect this is because I filter my internet dog communities very carefully.

      What I run into most often online is extremely competitive agility people, who tend to take training that I like and push it into something that I don’t. “My dog sniffed the ground at a competition! He doesn’t have enough value for me! I must implement complicated training regimen XYZ!” It isn’t everyone, but it’s not uncommon.


  4. Interesting. I’ve never taken online dog classes and haven’t heard any recommendations – until now – of any that would be worth it. I think it’s something I’d be very wary of, and definitely need a referral or two… or five before jumping in. But it does sound like a good option for people without good local resources!

    I was also going to say it sounds good for people whose dogs don’t do well in a class setting, but I think I’d still recommend in-person private training as a first step – there’s just something about having a trainer there to watch what’s going on that provides a valuable extra set of eyes, as well as some objectivity.


    1. Absolutely agree on doing some kind of in-person class before, especially if you’re new to dogs. Although, interestingly, at the highest price point the Fenzi classes have students submit video homework for the instructor to review. If someone were in such a rural dump that they *really* couldn’t find a positive class or trainer for private lessons, that’s what I’d recommend.


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