Dog Training: The One Lesson Controversy

Over the years approaches to private in-home dog training have included multiple lesson approaches and single lesson approaches to fixing complex dog problems.

It’s not that the dog owner only wants one dog training lesson to fix their dog behavior problem but some trainers think problems can be handled in just one lesson. Maybe they cover a lot of information in that one lesson that may take as long as 3 hours or longer. That same trainer may also include post lesson consulting via email or phone as well.

I personally feel that dog owners have a lot going on in their daily lives and to a large extent, can be a contributing factor to problems with their dog. And, knowing what I know about any individual’s retention, asking them to endure a 3 hour dog training lesson and remember everything is difficult at best. And I haven’t even included kids, event schedules, husbands and everything else going on in the family once the trainer leaves the lesson. And because no two programs will ever be the same, multiple lessons bring you back each week to insure the best possible outcome for your client with your dog training program.

The reason that no two programs will ever be the same in dog training is because of this one simple fact:

No two dogs, family, environment or schedules will ever be the same, even with the same common dog behavior problem.

Benefits of Multiple Lesson Sets

One Lesson Controversy

I think a single lesson only allows time for a preliminary evaluation of the dog behavior problem in question and then a brief suggestion for program direction. I truly believe that if a behavior modification program can be established to fix your client’s dog behavior problem, multiple lessons are needed to set out and begin working on solutions to modify the dog’s behavior. Here are my reasons why.

1. There is truly no substitute for eyes-on, hands-on weekly guidance of owner and dog. Too much is lost in translation via email and phone. Things get forgotten and are subsequently left out of impersonal communications – emotions, body language of the owner and the dog to name a few critical elements.

2. It also takes approximately 4-6 weeks for dogs to learn new behaviors and commit them to long term memory as a permanent behavior.

3. Dogs learn in context. They don’t understand that no longer jumping on one guest also applies to all other guests as well. That’s the time consuming part, training their dog around distractions that are relevant to their personal situation.

4. As your multiple lesson program progresses, the owner and the dog’s behavior begin to “evolve” under your counseling guidance each week.

5. Multiple lessons also reflect a genuine interest on your part to obtain a successful outcome endearing your client to you for future referrals.

I am not saying that single lesson programs have not been successful. Many have worked out just fine but I think that when you look at a complicated dog problem along with a family that is time-pressed with a lot going on, the expectations of a good outcome can be tenuous at best.

Many things come up in conversation or action on lessons after the first preliminary evaluation and program outline. Something that was left out of the initial interview, whether on purpose or accidental, could have a major impact on your solution. If you were not there to discover this “new information,” your client would not have the benefit of a program adjustment that could swing the solution to their favor.

Multiple Lessons Allow Time for Objectives to be Set and Goals Attained

Objectives need to be set and goals need to be obtained by the owner. Setting the objectives need to b done in a way that will:

1. Be easily achievable by the owner
2. Hold the owner accountable for achieving successful results and,
3. Be monitored weekly by you for the most favorable outcome.

A good example of setting objectives would be talking to one of your clients about resolving a jumping problem they have with their dog.

Ask your client what they would prefer their dog do instead of jump. That way the client sets the objective and is buying in to the solution. They may not care if their dog sits but just stands there to receive a pat on the head. That would be a reasonable solution about which the client feels good.

It might be a quicker solution because many people would prefer a dog that doesn’t have to be commanded to behave acceptably. The dog doesn’t have to make an adjustment to perform another behavior commanded externally. He is allowed to make his own adjustment by “internalizing” or figuring out what works best for him based on how you have taught your client to make just standing there “more” worth his while.

Your job is to show them how and monitor their progress on front door set-ups as the lessons go by. You are holding them accountable for attaining their goal that they have set and have bought in to.

Setting time lines is another very important part of holding your client accountable. “When” the jumping will finally be extinguished is again their responsibility. Yours is to hold them accountable by outlining the number of practice set-ups to be done each day.

Often times objectives and time lines fall by the wayside once a “one-lesson” trainer finishes and leaves his first and only lesson.

Multiple lessons also give you the opportunity to monitor how your client exercises their dog as well as spot check added structure in the home for the dog. It would be prudent to run them through the program each week on exactly how they are requiring their dog to sit for each thing on their list whether it’s getting on the couch or going out to potty in the back yard.

Something as simple as how your client blocks their dog from rushing through the door in front of them is important. It can affect their dog’s reaction to them. How well they can execute a block or effectively get a sit at the door become a motivating factor that influences their thinking as to whether or not they want to continue.

Knowing how to execute each part of the program can easily produce success or failure for your client. Multiple lessons with you allow your client much more opportunity for a successful outcome.


Helping the dog professional market their business sharing my 25+ years of dog behavior experience
Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 9,000+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability and experience to mentor and teach dog trainers how to excel and grow their dog training talents and their business.

Be sure to come visit me on these sites also:




0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *