Professional training, or not? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-03-2019, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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Professional training, or not?

Is it fine to just train your dog to be a good family pet on your own or with the help of good websites, or is it recommended that you get a dog trainer to help you through? What about when you are casually training in a sport? Competitively? What are the pros and cons of professional training vs home training? Online training vs in-person training? Group classes vs private classes? I know I'm asking a lot of questions, I'm just trying to get the whole (general) picture about professional training vs home training so I can make an informed decision later, if I need to. I also know that every situation is different, and so the specifics could differ. That is why I made this thread, so I could take the info here and apply what I can to my situation, should I try to make this decision. Thank you in advance for any information contributed. (Sorry about the long post.)
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-03-2019, 06:07 PM
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It is all about your goals, your own handling/training skills and your dogs temperament. I personally needed instruction(still do) for more advanced training for competition. If I was going into a sport or activity that I have no clue on, I want instruction to do it right.
You still train at home...it just helps to have guidance and motivation.
I can't personally see paying huge hourly rates that some private trainers want. I would go to group classes, or a club first if that was an option.
Behavior modification is different though than the training for pet/companion. If you have a dog needing specialized training to manage behaviors, then the cost is worthy for private instruction(as long as there is progress made).
I had a dog with aggression that was fear based and went to recommended trainers and got nothing from that time. The trainers had no experience yet were on a list of recommendations for behavioral issues. Choose carefully!

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-03-2019, 06:09 PM
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I think all novice owners should attend training classes, provided reputable trainers are available. I think most folks could train their own dog but often new owners benefit from assistance and it provides them reassurance with common issues.

I am not a trainer but when I was younger I offered free help with basic obedience training as well as assistance with crate and potty training, because trainers in my area charged a lot and in working at the local shelter training issues were the number one reason for surrender.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-04-2019, 05:16 AM
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A trainer basically trains you more than they train the dog. Having another set of eyes to help you get passed some tough points is very valuable. Having a good mentor to ask "Is this normal?" is priceless. You can learn a great deal of theory from online videos. Online videos can also make your head spin because some advice conflicts with others. Podcasts help with theory, too. All of that is a start. You will have to get to know your dog first before you know exactly what you need. If possible, visit some local classes. Talk is cheap. What you want to do is watch the dogs. Does their technique look like something you'd feel good doing? Are the dogs and handlers enjoying each other and communicating clearly? (usually, we all have off days). Is the sport something you might want to sink time and money into?

Not need to apologize. More people need to think these things through before falling in love with some fluffy puppy.

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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-04-2019, 09:49 AM
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The rescue I work with feels so strongly about the importance of attending at least one basic obedience course that it's part of our contract now. We don't get dogs back from people who honor that part of the contract -- returned dogs always seem to come from people who didn't fulfill that part of their adoption promise. I think that it's because something magical happens with the bond during the class that's much bigger than learning some skills. When you're working toward a goal, you and your dog become partners in achieving it -- and that's what happens in a rigorous course with a test of skills, with distraction present, on graduation day. A communication flow develops between the two of you, and that lasts for life.

There's something important about having weekly assignments, homework practice drills every day, even the frustrating in-between weeks where it all falls apart and you have to get it back together before the next class...that daily grind is what makes the magic happen. And it usually doesn't happen if you don't have someone making sure you do those daily assignments and testing you on them -- you do them because you don't want to be the ding-dong with the only dog who can't do what was assigned for the next class, but that little bit of pressure keeps you on task, working with your dog.

Over the years with different dogs, I've been through many styles of class and different trainers. Even though I know several ways to teach the skills in a basic obedience class, when I adopt a new dog, I still go through class myself with them! Often I pick up something new, a good trainer may pick up something going on with the dog that I missed, and the class format keeps me on task with the dog.

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-04-2019, 10:07 AM
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I agree with Magwart. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I personally like the accountability and distractions a class provides. I'm currently training with a club, which is cheaper than most places around where I live. I plan to try and become a member of the club which will further reduce the prices as well. I have lots of friends that train and teach there, so why not?

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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-05-2019, 03:15 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you to everyone who replied! Your information/opinions are very valuable to me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by onyx'girl View Post
The trainers had no experience yet were on a list of recommendations for behavioral issues. Choose carefully!
Wow. I definitely will research about the trainers I might use. Does anyone have recommendations for trainers in my area (Central MI)?
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-05-2019, 07:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HaPpY AnImAl LoVeR View Post
Thank you to everyone who replied! Your information/opinions are very valuable to me. Wow. I definitely will research about the trainers I might use. Does anyone have recommendations for trainers in my area (Central MI)?
GoodDog! in Okemos has experience with working breeds.
I would maybe check with them.

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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-06-2019, 10:38 AM
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The difference is that professionals have that extra experience and knowledge to take training to the next level. You certainly can become very knowledgeable by just learning on your own. Most people can train a dog to sit or down etc but struggle when it comes time to teach heel, extended sit, extended down, place, recall, off, distance commands, and so on. I personally like to train and like professionals who train without constant reward and positive reinforcement. I like my dogs to do as their told with focus on me and when Im done giving commands and training I give them the command to be free and do as they want.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 02-06-2019, 01:24 PM
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Another nice thing about structured classes or scheduled lessons is that it holds you accountable, lays out a roadmap, and creates deadlines.

Life has a habit of getting in the way, and even the best intentions of "I will practice by myself 15 minutes twice a day, and practice in public places every Saturday!" falls apart when work, family, house, car, etc. problems rear their head.

It's just the way life goes. Happens to all of us.

When I know I have a scheduled class/lesson coming up, I force myself to make time to train and train some more beforehand, so I've visibly made progress over the previous week.

Otherwise one week quickly blurs into the next. I do better with benchmarks and check-ins, and I know I'm not the only one! Good trainers also hold you accountable for whatever it is you're supposed to be working on - whether you're pushing hard to hit a competition goal, or simply aiming for solid reliable obedient behaviors.

Another unrelated (invaluable) benefit is growing your dog network. The people you meet at training end up becoming resources, carpool allies, trial buddies, help if you have a dog emergency, and in the best cases - friends.
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