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AKC Gazette breed column, Giant Schnauzers—Online classes allow dog owners to participate on their own schedule and introduce new concepts in a low-distraction environment.

Online training classes are the latest resource for dog owners, allowing access to trainers who are highly skilled and current in the latest methods without having to travel thousands of miles. Thus far I have participated in three online classes: “Heeling Games,” which focused on secondary behaviors that can be added to encourage engagement while heeling; “Conformation Skills,” which covered stacking, free-stacking, gaiting, and presenting the dog to the judge; and “Advanced Heeling and Problem-Solving,” which covered how to correct problems in heeling.

There are online classes available on almost any training subject: rally, BAT, puppy development, engagement, play, obedience, tracking, agility, IPO, nose work, fieldwork, and so on. Due to the online aspect, classes can be taken via training websites originating in different countries—just check the language of instruction.

[Editor’s note: To find classes, you can start by doing a Web search on “online dog training.” Examples of programs offering online courses include CyberDog Online, e-Training for Dogs, and Awesome Paws Agility Academy.]

An online class is typically a nice balance of text and videos demonstrating the introduced skills. Many classes offer three levels of participation:

  1. Auditing;
  2. Participation in the online class forum; and
  3. A “working spot,” where you participate in the online class forum and also submit video for instructor feedback.

One might be skeptical of online training, but a huge advantage it provides is the ability to assess your training skills separate from the actual training of the dog. This style of class can facilitate learning—not that we don’t want to be responsive to new material while training, but we just have so much to think about: our dog, the environment, our body position, and our verbal cues. Working spots have the additional advantage of providing you with instructor feedback. Even just the process itself of videotaping and evaluating your own training process is very educational. Additionally, by observing feedback to the working spots you can learn to develop your own critiquing skills, which will help you continue to facilitate self-improvement long after the class. If not taking a working spot, it is important to be aware that online training classes can be structured around a set goal or can be more driven by the working-spot issues relating to a subject. There is value in both, but if you require a more structured environment, the second type is difficult to apply to your own training. However, by following the other students with working spots, you often find a team that is similar to yours.

Another great aspect of taking online classes versus learning through DVDs or books is that they may be more current with new concepts. Online classes are also generally simpler to navigate and review concepts with than a DVD, due to being broken out according to specific skills with the combination of text and short videos. A negative aspect of online courses is that participants typically are given an end date in terms of how long they are able to view the material. Some programs are very generous, however, such as the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, which keeps all lecture material on your account as long as one course a year is taken.

I hope this new resource helps others enjoy their Giant Schnauzer—the breed is “easily trained,” as described in the standard—or their dog of any breed. —Bridgette Tuerler,

For more information about Giant Schnauzers, click here or here, or visit the website of the breed’s national club, the Giant Schnauzer Club of America.