Nearly a year on from 'long lockdown', everything from TV audiences to Tai Chi is on Zoom. I've been to Zoom seminars, Zoom book clubs, Zoom yoga and Zoom Zumba (try saying that after Zoom drinks). Some work well, some not so much. To me, socialising on Zoom is a very poor substitute. But puppy training on Zoom turns out to work amazingly well. Why? To start with, the sheer bloody hard work we put into adapting our puppy classes to being taught online. How could we make each participant feel valued? How could we give everyone a personal experience? How would it work, if someone had only a tiny space? If we couldn't take hold of a lead and show someone side-by-side, what would we do? Answering all those questions has made us much better dog trainers. But the real reason why puppy training on Zoom works so well is one that every dog trainer will understand. Puppies learn best when they're relaxed. Learning is more effective when there are fewer distractions. So it's obvious that learning at home is going to work brilliantly for puppies. And owners tend to be more relaxed too, despite the odd intrusion from the cat, the delivery person and the kids. And puppies learn all the time, so it's a huge advantage to be able to start training really soon after your puppy arrives with you.
Learning in a distraction-free environment means the puppies learn faster, and are then more confident in practising those behaviours in ever more distracting environments.
I'm not saying we don't miss 'in person' classes because we really, really do. We love the interactions with owners, we're happy to have chapped hands from sanitising constantly so we can say hello to the pups. And 'in person' classes offer puppies valuable interactions with other people and puppies, albeit from 2m away, that Zoom classes simply can't do. But we've learned so much from running our Zoom classes, and our puppies have too.
We will be forever grateful to everyone who has taken that leap of faith and come with us to learn online - literally hundreds of owners, dogs and puppies now - and even more grateful for the brilliant feedback and encouragement you have given us. Keep Zooming, and we will meet again!