Education today is easier than ever, thanks to virtual learning. And that includes virtual dog training. No matter what you call it; virtual learning, remote training, online learning, remote learning, distance training, or distance learning, you can teleport yourself and be in front of a talented professional to gain knowledge, no matter where they live on this planet.
If there’s a skill I want to learn, I have the ability to choose the best instructor no matter where they’re located. No longer am I limited by local resources.
Recently I’ve taken multi-session private instruction from one of my dog training colleagues in the midwest to enhance my own cooperative veterinary care skills, engaged Sarah Fisher in the United Kingdom to deliver continuing education to our team of talented trainers here in the U.S. to learn more about her Animal Centered Education (ACE), an integrated approach to animal wellbeing and education, and I’m taking old-time banjo lessons twice a month from an instructor in Massachusetts while I sit here in North Carolina—all using Zoom.
Beyond a desire to learn a new skill, I have virtual wellness meetings with my healthcare provider saving me valuable time in my schedule—no driving and no gasoline expense. What’s not to love about that?
Yes, virtual learning is the norm today in nearly every industry. And effective virtual dog training or online dog training is no exception.
We’ve been working virtually with dog training clients for seven years. It’s convenient, it works, and there are benefits for both you and your dog.
Virtual Dog Training Benefits for the Dog
How can virtual dog training benefit your dog?
Aggression and Reactivity
Many dogs exhibit some form of aggression during their life—it could be aggressive displays to other people, to other dogs, or to children. Aggression can be growling, lunging, a lip curl, or biting in an attempt to make the “scary thing” go away.
If your dog is uncomfortable around other dogs, people, or children, the beginning work we do is without another dog, person, or child present. We don’t want the dog practicing the aggressive display. We can be “in the room” with you, and your dog would never know it. Less stress for you. Less stress for your dog.
We also need dedicated time with the client to help them learn how our scientifically sound, humane, and effective training techniques help change a dog’s opinion about something that makes him uncomfortable so that “a scary thing” becomes a “good thing.” This is easy to do with online training.
Virtual dog training allows us to meet a client face-to-face in an online meeting and gather the information we need to then demonstrate (either with our own dog or videos of our work with other dogs) how to apply the training and behavior modification techniques. If we are in your house, it’s not appropriate to bring another dog into your home.
Fear and Anxiety
The first goal of helping a dog with fear or anxiety is to keep the dog comfortable. If you have a dog who is shy or scared of people, an in-person trainer hinders your dog’s progress. No one can learn when they’re stressed—and that includes dogs.
Meeting virtually allows us to take a full case history while your dog is sleeping comfortably or enjoying himself in your home vs. hiding under a table or startling every time the trainer moves.
As in aggression cases, with fear and anxiety issues, we can easily demonstrate through live video the management, enrichment, and training techniques we want you to learn to help your dog, then you can apply them in the comfort and privacy of your own home—resulting in no stress for your dog (or you).
All our training is for both ends of the leash. You’re the one living with and caring for your dog day in and day out. While we love training dogs (any dog, all dogs!), it’s really ‘you’ who will be the person training your dog to overcome common behavior challenges, such as pulling on leash, counter surfing, and coming when called. We help you understand what to do and how to do it. We demonstrate how to do it, and we share the “whys” too. Knowing why we ask you to do something is as important as understanding what to do—and we don’t need to be in-person to do that.
Puppy Socialization and Training
The same is true for planning before your puppy comes home or trying to figure out how in the world you’re going to survive the puppy period with a four-legged newcomer to your home. Online training is easy and effective for puppies too.
I don’t know about you, but when we’ve added a new puppy to our home we’ve often thought, “What the heck were we thinking?” Our well-oiled household routine with cats and dogs was running smoothly until the addition of the little bundle of joy. Then it was turned upside down. That little bundle of joy comes with a myriad of needs—all the business of meeting those needs conveniently faded from memory as the puppy grew into a senior.
Virtual Dog Training for Separation Anxiety
Technology has opened up a whole new world in the dog training industry, just as it has in many other fields. There are corporate virtual meetings, telenurses, virtual tax preparers, and online teachers just to name a few. People were already becoming more and more comfortable with this concept, then the pandemic hit. Virtual training skyrocketed. Not only is this the wave of the future, but it happens to be the ideal method in treating a very serious canine condition called separation anxiety.
To properly and accurately assess a dog’s baseline anxiety threshold, we need to observe a “real-life” absence routine. Beyond the initial assessment, we have to monitor the minute changes in the dog’s body language and the gradual change in his stress threshold over time. A trainer’s presence in the dog’s home alters these results and therefore provides inaccurate information.
However, when working remotely in a virtual session, a trainer can assess the dog and review future absences without the dog being aware of any changes in his/her environment. This provides the trainer and guardians with more precise data and allows for a training protocol tailored to this specific dog’s needs on that very day.
This brings me to another great advantage of working with separation anxiety dogs remotely. It is simply impossible and impractical to visit a client’s home daily to assess these minor changes. But with regular online meetings and recorded video, the trainer can catch any fluctuations in the dog’s behavior or stress signals and adjust accordingly. As a result, this sets the trainer’s clients and their dog up for success.
Benefits of Virtual Training for You, the Client
If you’re uncomfortable having someone you’ve never met before in your home, virtual training helps you stay comfortable—there’s no need to worry about a stranger being in your home.
There’s also no potential embarrassment if your dog is unruly when the trainer arrives. We know dogs can be unruly. We’re used to that, but many clients feel embarrassed by their dog’s (normal) behavior.
And there’s no need to worry about a house that’s a little messy. Maybe you don’t fret about that, but some clients do—no need to scurry about and straighten up before the trainer walks through the front door.
You’ll have the ability to focus on the information shared without your dog being distracted by the in-person trainer (who smells different and has the odor of other dogs on her).
Strong Relationships Develop Between the Client and the Trainer
One of the things we love most about helping dogs is working with the client. We love the people as much as we love the dogs. The trainer and the client relationship builds just as easily with virtual training as it does with in-person training. We’ve worked virtually with hundreds of clients over the last seven years and have developed long-lasting friendships through face-to-face sessions using Zoom.
There are so many benefits to virtual training. We can observe a dog in its home environment without the presence of an unknown trainer (who smells like treats and all the dogs touched that day), we’re able to demonstrate with our own dogs (live, on camera) so you can easily see the goal behavior we suggest for your dog, the ability to seamlessly provide mid-week support, the ability to record the virtual meeting for viewing time and time again, and the ease of scheduling at a time that’s convenient for you.
The only downside when working with puppies virtually is that we can’t smell their puppy breath! Now, if only someone would create a ‘smell cam’ app, the world would be perfect.
It’s true that virtual learning is becoming the norm today in nearly every industry. And effective virtual dog training is no exception. Let us help you with challenges you experience with your dog. Book a virtual training consult with one of our talented, caring, certified professional Cold Nose College dog trainers.
Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. She enjoys providing virtual behavior consulting and training solutions to clients around the globe and offers coaching, mentoring and behavior case support for pet professionals. www.coldnosecollege.com