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  • Writer's pictureJagger Brocious

So many training options, what should I choose?

Hey y'all, now that I've reopened Lucky Paws taking clients, something that is gonna come up a lot is what training options you should choose when talking with a trainer. Like with most things if you ask three different trainers they might give you three different answers and someone is going to disagree with my breakdown of the pro's and con's but that is just the nature of the beast. Let's break down the most common training options out there; In-Home Lessons, Private Lessons (In facility/public), Board and Trains, Day Training, and Group Classes.

In-Home Lessons,

This option is the most common and easily available to any trainer right out the gate. All they need is transportation and they can get started! For the client there are ups and downs like with any training style but let's talk logistics then the pro's / cons.

In most cases In-Home Lessons should be coaching the client through their issues. I hardly ever take the leash when doing In-Home Lessons as clients are paying me to teach them how to teach their dog. There will be exceptions and teaching moments but the whole point is empowering the human and dog to better understand each other not to show I can train their dog for an hour at a time! They normally run about an hour and should have a healthy balance of talking / explaining things and getting hands on with training the dog.

Pro's of In-Home Lessons,

  • Training is done at home! No travel time for the owner, troubleshooting issues where they happen, there is a lot of good that comes of it!

  • The owner is training their own dog so they have all the knowledge to follow through and keep up on training. The job is to get to a point where the client can train their own dog without the assistance of the trainer!

  • The dog is usually most comfortable this way. Their house, their family, not a lot of new things happening making (most) dogs comfortable with the process.

  • Normally one of the cheapest options up front. But can add up over time.

Cons of In-Home Lessons,

  • Training is done in the home! That means learned history or inappropriate behavior will be at its worst. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is removing the dog from that environment to practice first. A lot of frustration can come out when setting up new rules at home when the dog already has a set expectation of how life should be.

  • The owner is training their own dog so they have to put the time in. No matter how we train a dog together my clients have to put the time in but when they are training their own dog it's essentially they put the time in. As week to week the only way we make progress is if the client puts the reps in each week.

  • Learning while teaching can be hard! I use an analogy of student teachers teaching children. It can be a lot to ask for someone new to training to teach a dog how to apply what they've just learned themselves. I'm not saying it's an impossible task but if you have a strong, independent, or sometimes even dangerous dog that can be a lot of stress!

Private Lessons,

This option is very similar to In-home Lessons so I'll keep it brief. They are also coaching lessons meant to empower the human and dog with proper communication and understanding. They are also normally done over the course of an hour involving talking points and practical application. The biggest difference is taking the dog out of its comfort zone!

Pros of Private Lessons,

  • Training is done in a neutral area for the dog. Meaning learned experience won't negatively impact training. Kind of like a kid who is unrulily at home but is polite at school / public. The rules are different and learned from the start which leaves less room for frustration or conflict if the dog gets confused.

  • The owner is training their own dog so they have all the knowledge to follow through and keep up on training. The job is to get to a point where the client can train their own dog without the assistance of the trainer! (sorry a repeat but true!)

  • This one applies to my business but not to everyone, it's cheaper! If you are coming to me I don't have to charge as much as my travel time is non-existent.

  • Normally one of the cheapest options up front. But can add up over time.

Cons of Private Lessons,

  • Training is done in a new place, meaning a nervous or fearful dog might have a hard time adjusting. Dog's who spend most time at home sometimes have a hard time adjusting to a new space and that would have to be accounted for.

  • The owner is training their own dog so they have to put the time in. No matter how we train a dog together my clients have to put the time in but when they are training their own dog it's essentially they put the time in. Week to week the only way we make progress is if the client puts the reps in each week.(sorry another repeat but true!)

  • Though it is cheaper the client has to account for travel time, gas, etc. Basically the savings upfront might not be worth it if accounting for logistics.

Board and Trains,

As a peek behind the curtains this is (normally) a trainer's favorite way to do things. I do enjoy a good Board and Train but a lot of people in the industry that have a hard time teaching people and coaching them lean into these to help clients solve their problems.

The process is quite simple, starting with setting the expectations most Board and Trains have a set list of commands taught or at the very least discuss them before drop off. The dogs either stay at a facility or in the trainers home and over the course of one to several weeks the trainer teaches the dog for you! A good Board and Train also normally comes with a "Go Home Lesson" or "Follow-up Lesson" and if they don't RUN! (Sorry a little dramatic but you need to know how to follow through without that teaching the training can be undone so easily.)

Pro's of a Board and Train,

  • A professional has your dog in their care. Someone who (hopefully) trains dogs day-in and day-out, someone who has the skill set to expedite the process and truly help the dog understand.

  • It saves a lot of time! While your dog spends a few weeks away and trains you can live your life! Heck, oftentimes people kill two birds with one stone and schedule the training while they are out of town, moving, etc. Does the dog already need to board? Why not tack on training to make use of that time.

  • A good Board and Train comes with continued support like any training. The dog might be good at the trainer's facility or home, but the next steps are making sure you have that power and you have the ability to apply said training in your home setting.

Cons of a Board and Train,

  • Your dog is with someone else for a week or several at that. Most programs either outright deny visits or at least discourage them and I understand it can be hard to leave your dog with someone else.

  • You are given a "finished product" meaning you don't know how they got there just that now they listen. Where Board and Trains produce great products you lose the "How" they got there. Some people want that extra knowledge.

  • Dog's aren't computers, we don't just upgrade their software. As such even with a good Board and Train you still have to do the homework. Clients have to still show the dog they have the same rules as the trainer. If they don't speak the same language and follow the same rules the dog may (and probably will) return to their bad habits.

  • It's the most expensive up front. But I will say the quality is normally the highest as a professional puts a lot of work into their product directly.

Day Training

This is something I LOVED when I worked at my last company. But with me living in such a rural area it just isn't possible for me to expect from clients. Day Training is basically a hybrid of Lessons and a Board and Train (if done right). You drop off the dog while you are at work, the trainer trains the dog, and you pick them up at the end of the day! Usually they come with lessons as well to show you how to get the dog to listen!

Pro's of Day Training,

  • Doggie Daycare is all the rage! Instead of just sending your dogs to play it's like sending them to school. They still have fun but it's constructive and they learn something along the way.

  • Mental Stimulation is important, working a dog's brain is so much better than working their body if you want a tired dog. Play / Daycare can exhaust a dog but nothing is like a brain game to get a dog to sleep HARD!

  • You honestly get most of the pro's of lessons and boarding. Hands-on experience with a professional helping the dog progress. Working from home while the dog also does some work with the trainer outside the home!

Con's of Day Training

  • Logistics, whatever mornings are set means adding something else to your morning routine, same with pickup it's like double the driving. Also lessons also take up time while you are getting a lot out of it, it also requires the most planning.

  • Communication is important, a lot of Day Training you don't see the trainer every day. So without constant contact you won't know how the dog is doing and until your lessons you can't really help the trainer.

  • Pricing, Day Training upfront is more than lessons but less than a Board and Train, However, sometimes it takes more time. One package leads to two or three. Next thing you know you are spending more than that Board and Train as it adds up!

Group Classes

I love group classes for so many reasons. Curriculum is set from the start and spending several weeks in a group of 4 - 12 people has created bonds between clients that last a lifetime. I've witnessed so many people bond over training dogs that go one to have play dates with their kids, cookouts, you name it! It can be social and informative. Plus most importantly it's normally the cheapest for the client! It boils down to being a balancing act for the trainer as everyone paid equally to be there and everyone should feel valued. Instruction time followed by a hands on period is how they normally operate and again they run close to an hour. As soon as I find a good place to host them I will be adding Group Classes to Lucky Paws as they are so much fun for me.

Pros of Group Classes,

  • Some clients have a hard time training around other dogs and group classes have 4 - 12 other dogs who also need to train around other dogs! It's a win-win.

  • It's economical as individuals pay less and still get good information!

  • Good information is given and if the trainer balances it right everyone gets the individual help they need while hands on.

  • I'm biased but if done right it's just more fun!

Cons of Group Classes,

  • If your dog has behavioral issues or is overly excited it might not be the best learning environment for them. Dealing with so many dogs and people in a new place can be challenging. (My rule of thumb is giving it 2 weeks to see if it gets better. If it doesn't I will refund towards another form of training.)

  • You are paying less but that means less one-on-one help. If you have specific needs, getting specific training might be better. Trainers can't often change curriculum to help one person.

  • It's not everyone's cup of tea. Some people just want individual help and that's understandable.

In closing,

So that's my abridged opinion on training options. Again, your experiences may vary depending on where you live and who you train with. Most of my experience was working for a large company with a huge facility in the Austin area. I've done a little of everything and A LOT of Board and Trains, Private Lessons (in facility), Day Training, and Group Classes. I've helped a lot of people and refunded a fair share switching from one training type to another based on those pro's and con's. There is always more to talk about so feel free to reach out for an eval or just contact me at if you have any questions!

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