Group training classes are one of the most common training options out there for pet dog owners. They provide dog owners with guidance on dog training, an opportunity to make new friends, and to practice training their dogs with lots of distractions around. These are all wonderful things for dog owners to practice and be involved in. Unfortunately many owners are looking for something else when they enquire about group training.
Whether due to a lack of early socialisation, a negative experience, genetic predisposition, or a host of other possibilities, many owners find that their pet dog is not as sociable with other dogs as they expect he should be. Most people envision that dogs should happily greet other dogs, romping around with them at the park and playing joyfully. Many dogs lack the social skills to be able to meet those expectations, and their owners find they either have a timid, shy, or aggressive dog in the presence of other dogs, or a rambunctious and over-excitable canine who is forever chasing and jumping on innocent bystanders.
Owners of these dogs phone and enquire about group training classes, hoping that their dog will be socialised with other dogs during the course and their problem will be solved. This is not something the average training class is set up for, and attending with your nervous or excitable dog could actually make their problem much worse.
For a nervous, timid, or shy dog, being put in a situation where they are in close proximity to a number of other dogs for prolonged durations is likely to make them more nervous. Stress inhibits learning, so they are unlikely to be able to focus on the training exercises. If they begin to feel increasingly uncomfortable, they may display behaviours such as cowering, growling, or even snapping. They are not learning that other dogs are no threat.
For the over-excited dog, imagine trying to study or concentrate at a theme park! Not going to happen! Unfortunately, many owners react instinctively to feeling embarrassed by the bouncing fool at the end of their leash, and may use leash corrections or other harsh methods to try to settle their dogs. This can increase their frustration. Not only this, but it can result in these dogs associating being around other dogs with unpleasant experiences – this is a recipe for disaster if your goal is a settled and social dogs.
Treat. Play. Love. strongly recommends commencing one-on-one training with these types of dogs prior to signing up for group training classes. There are a range of fun exercises you can do at home and on walks with your dog to help them relax and look forward to good things happening in the presence of other dogs. It should always be our top priority to set our pets up for success. Don’t throw your dog in the deep end! Take on board what they are telling you with their body language, and work to help them overcome their limitations.