Dog Training: The One Lesson Controversy

Over the years different approaches to private in-home dog training can range from multiple lessons to a single lesson approach to fixing complex dog problems.

As I coach dog trainers in setting up and running the business end and the training end of their business, the question of “how many lessons” always comes up.

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 that trainer covers a lot of information in that one lesson that may take as long as 3 or more hours. This may also include some follow up via email or phone.

I personally, feel that you, and many other dog owners, have a lot going on in your daily life and to a large extent, how busy you are can be a contributing factor to problems with your dog.

And, knowing what I know about any individual’s retention (including my own), asking you 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 walks out your door from the lesson. And because no two programs will ever be the same, a multiple lesson program will bring your trainer back each week to insure the best possible outcome for you 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

 The 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 dog behavior problem, multiple lessons are needed to set out and begin working on solutions to modify your dog’s behavior.

Here are my reasons why

1. There is truly no substitute for eyes-on, hands-on weekly guidance of you the owner, and your dog. Too much is lost in translation via email and phone. Things get forgotten and are subsequently left out of impersonal communications – your emotions, body language and your 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 your dog around distractions that are relevant to your personal situation.

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

5. Multiple lessons also reflect a genuine interest on the part of your trainer to obtain a successful outcome of your training program.

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 by accident could have a major impact on the solution to your dog behavior problem. If your trainer was not there to discover this “new information,” you would not have the benefit of a program adjustment that could swing the solution to your favor.

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

Your trainer should guide you into setting reasonable objectives that will enable you to reach your goals. Setting your objectives needs to be done in a way that will:

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

A good example of a trainer assisting you in setting objectives would be talking for instance, about resolving a jumping problem you have with your dog.

You would want to think about what you would prefer your dog do instead of jump. That way you set the objective and become responsible for the solution under the guidance of the trainer.

You may not care if your dog sits but just stands there to receive a pat on the head. That would be a reasonable solution about which you would feel good.

Your trainer should show you how to teach your dog what you want and monitor your progress on front door set-ups as the lessons go by. You are responsible for attaining the goals you have previously set.

Setting time lines is another very important part of achieving goals. “When” the jumping will finally be extinguished is again your responsibility. Your job is to do the required number of practice set-ups to be done each day.

Many 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 your trainer the opportunity to monitor how you exercise your dog as well as spot check added structure in the home for your dog. A good trainer would run you through the program each week on exactly how you are requiring your dog to work for each thing on your list whether it’s getting on the couch or going out to potty in the back yard.

Something as simple as how you block your dog from rushing through the door in front of them is important. It can affect your dog’s reaction to you. How well you execute a block or effectively get a sit at the door becomes a motivating factor that can influence your decision to continue.

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

Thanks for letting me share my dog training knowledge with you. Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear what you think.

Remember: “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

 Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 9000+ 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 to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have, easy step-by-step process to helping your dog. Be the dog owner your dog needs to be a great dog. Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.