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?