In this day and age, everyone turns to the internet for help and education. You can receive high school and college degrees, trade school certifications, and even become a dog behaviorist or trainer online.
If you’re looking for advice, there are an abundance of life coaches, counselors, alternative care providers, and therapists who work virtually. There are also dog behaviorist/trainers like myself who do sessions both online and in person, but are they as effective as in-person training?
There are a few “celebrity” trainers who say that they aren’t. They argue that online training is great for troubleshooting, evaluations, brushing up on basic training, and quick answers to questions, but trainers need to be physically present and hands-on to be truly effective in cases where dogs have behavioral issues.
I can say with certainty that they are wrong, and I have hundreds of happy online clients to back me up. Except for a few rare cases, virtual training is as effective, and sometimes better than in-person training sessions.
Trainers Love to Show Off
Qualified trainers are generally great with dogs. They became trainers because they have a natural affinity for working with dogs and have a good rapport with them. They know how to quickly establish a relationship with an animal.
Most can easily walk into your home, take over your dog, and show you how well your dog can behave. They “wow” you with their techniques and give you tips and advice, then they leave.
Many of my clients have worked with multiple trainers before they came to me, but even after numerous in-home sessions, their dogs would go right back to their old tricks as soon as the trainer was out of the home. The reason for this is that their dogs aren’t the ones who need training; they are.
Clients usually expect a trainer to fix their dog. They want a plug and play solution to their problems. Trainers understand this, so they cater to people’s need for things to be easy. Teaching a dog to sit, stay, or lie down is only half the battle, though. Most dogs misbehave because there is a relationship problem with their owner, not an obedience issue.
There are other factors, like trauma and conditioning that have an affect on behavior, but the relationship problem is what needs to be worked on first. Once that’s addressed, then your dog actually WANTS to behave for you and is more willing to do what you need him to do.
It also makes him or her feel more comfortable accepting you as someone who can help solve problems.
Virtual Training is Convenient and a Money Saver
Most trainers tack on a fee for traveling expenses when they come to your home, so the price is usually higher. Going to their training facility costs you time and gas money, and is usually expensive because it costs money to run and insure it.
There also seems to be a surprising lack of reasonably qualified positive trainers out there, especially in smaller towns and rural areas. Access to a good in-home trainer is an issue for many people.
If you want a positive trainer with lots of experience and great reviews from clients, they are hard to find. Virtual training can fill that void.
I can easily go to a client’s home, make friends with their dog, and get the dog to do almost everything I ask within a session. The problem is that by doing that, I’m not allowing the dog parents to create the connection that is vital to a trusting, respectful, healthy relationship with their dog. That connection is what creates balance and corrects behavior issues, not obedience.
Having an online session instead of in-person training allows me to get out of the way, so that dog parents can become the authority and “go-to” guy for their dog.
Confidence is Key
I can’t tell you how often I’ve gone to a client’s home and the dog acts like a perfect angel for both me and the client. They say in disbelief “She’s never this well-behaved. She always barks at strangers who come in the house. I can’t believe it!”
One of the reasons for this is that dogs can sense a person who understands them and their needs. I understand a dog’s body language and signals that they’re giving me, and I respond accordingly.
As a result, dogs behave differently when I’m there because they trust me, which makes them feel safer and more confident. They will do the same thing when any good trainer or handler who is in their space.
Another reason is that dog parents tend to feel more confident handling their dog’s issues while I’m present. It’s similar to learning how to swim when you’re a kid. Your parent or teacher supports your body while you learn how to kick and paddle. You feel confident you could be the next Michael Phelps until they take their hand away.
Most people sink the first few times.
In the United States there is no regulation or certification requirements for dog trainers, so anyone can claim to be one. There are plenty of people out there claiming to be “certified,” but since there is no regulating body like there is for vets, the claims don’t mean much.
I found a scholarly and great researched law review article that is called "OCCUPATIONAL LICENSURE FOR PET DOG TRAINERS: DOGS ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES WHO SHOULD BE LICENSED," from Elizabeth Foubert
There are some good organizations, like the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, that allow trainers to pay to take an exam, and if they pass, they can become affiliated, but again, it’s not a regulatory body.
Perhaps the greatest benefit is being able to address “emergency” issues in real-time. An example would be if a client has guests coming over for a party and their dog has a problem greeting people in groups. We can have a video chat and I can walk them through the process while the event is happening.
So how does it work?
Here are some common questions that people ask about virtual training.
“What exactly do you mean by virtual training?”
Some trainers consider recorded online video classes to be the extent of virtual training, but in my case, I do live sessions online or on the phone with clients. We use software video apps like Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Facebook Messenger, or Google Hangouts to do the sessions.
Most people already have one of these apps on their phone, tablet, or computer.
It works just the same as if I were in your home, but has the added benefits of me showing you how to do something on one of my dogs and being able to record portions of the session so that you can view it later for reference.
“How can you see what I’m struggling with when you’re not in the room with me?”
I have over 14 years of experience watching clients with their dogs.
Their tone of voice, what they say and how many times they say it, their body language, and reactions all create a big picture of what’s going on during a ZOOM-video session.
I can also see a dog’s signals and responses to your actions, which give me a clear indication of how he feels about what’s going on.
I can watch the interaction for about a minute and a half and usually figure out what the core issue is.
“My dog is reactive to me. How can I be the trainer if he thinks I’m the problem?”
I work to help my clients build a relationship with their dogs first, before we do anything. In some cases I need to train the owner how to be less “scary” to their dog. Quite often it’s body language, approach, or tone of voice that’s the problem. I look for what the trigger is.
I also have exercises that I have the owner do with their dog that establish communication, trust, authority, and connection. As the relationship heals between them, then we can go onto any behavior issues that are still there.
If the dog still continues to be reactive or is aggressive with the owner, I’ll help find a good local trainer through my network.
“How is it possible to socialize my dog when using an online trainer?”
Many people think that the only way to socialize their dog is to “throw them to the wolves.” They bring them to a public place or have people or animals over and force interaction. I disagree with this practice because it can actually create a problem if it’s not done properly.
I always spend time doing prep work with the owner before I send them out into the world with their dog. As I’ve said before, once a healthy relationship is established, then we can do what I call “laser sessions” to socialize the dog, if it makes the owner feel more comfortable. .
A laser session is a short 30 minutes session, happens online in real-time. I ask my client to have another person film them during the interaction while they have a bluetooth on. If they don’t have that bluetooth technology, they can get it for under $20. I walk them through the process of interacting with dogs, people, or just being in a public space.
The laser sessions are helpful, even though the owner feels confident in their relationship with their dog and his ability to handle most situations when they arise, he might want to have a real-time feedback. To schedule Laser Session click here
“What training approach do you recommend?”
Behavior science has advanced and confirmed, that animals suffer under aversive training.
I use relationship-based, force-free, and positive reinforcement training methods, that balancing dog’s body-mind-spirit.
I believe in giving my clients every tool that they need to become their dog’s best parents and trainers.
“How long does it take to change my dog’s behavior ?”
It depends on what the root of your dog’s behavior is. Pulling on the leash on a walk might be addressed in a single initial consultation. Barking at the door might need at least two sessions bundle.
With aggression, how many sessions it takes depends on WHY it's happening, which I can figure out after premium consultation and seen the similar behavior in action.
An example would be if the aggression is from fear, then we would work on helping him have trust. If it's from trauma, like a fight or dog bite, we need to find the trigger and address it in that way.
Clients are amazed how responsive their dog becomes once they gain knowledge and step into their power. Like Jared from Louisiana who sent me his video review www.romansk9training.com after the end of his fife sessions training package.
Complex behaviours problems that don’t have medical or neurological roots, need a transformation package, that starts with fife sessions and can be extended if needed.
80% of these clients reached their goal with a regular training package.
“I’m a dog professional with experience, can I add online training to my services?
I encourage professionals to go virtual, it’s a great tool even if you are serving local clients.
90% of behavior issues can be solved over the phone in 45 Minutes.
That’s how long it would take to travel to the client .
If you’re a trainer, interested in going virtual, or you’d like to schedule a mentoring session, please click to learn more.