What do you mean we’re doing this virtually?

Things changed a lot over the last year. And that meant having to change with it. Perhaps it is a silver lining in all of this, that I was forced to move more virtual with my work during the pandemic, because it had been a long term goal of mine for a while.

“Wait, you WANTED to go virtual?”

Yes, I did. Among the teachers struggling, and people finding themselves working from home in makeshift offices in the corner of the bedroom, with a closet door for a background, I was finally able to do what I had wanted for some time: work remotely.

I have been working slowly towards moving virtual for several years. All my work building the ideas and platforms behind Hikerhund were all geared towards providing an entirely online service center for people to get help with their dogs. The pandemic simply forced my hand, and made me take the leap. And I loved it more than I even imagined I would.

My long term goals had always been to build Hikerhund as an online platform, a resource for training and education about having dogs in the outdoors, safely and for maximum benefit. But I suffer a constant battle with never feeling like I am quite “ready.” This has lead to me putting off, delaying and otherwise avoiding taking big leaps more than once in my life. And the results of lock downs and a global pandemic with an illness that was particularly risky for me (I am a severe asthmatic) combined to force me to make the big jump. In a matter of a couple of weeks I was able to launch new programs, and offer new services via zoom and continued over the last year to build and rebrand, and design programs to promote virtual learning with dogs.

“But you’re a dog trainer, how can you train dogs from a computer?”

The simple answer is that I am not training dogs. Despite the misnomer of my job title the reality is the bulk of my job is actually training other people to train their dogs. I can teach a dog to almost anything, but that is not much use to people when I am not around. My job is to teacher owners how to train their dogs, so that at some point they feel confident to continue working with their dogs while I am not standing there watching (especially since I assign homework!) My goal with any client is to make sure they feel confident enough to understand the process of moving forward, so that in the future when they encounter speed bumps on the road of life they have developed the skills and understanding to tackle them on their own. (And if they run across something they don’t feel equipped to handle they know exactly where to reach to for help!)

“But I really want you to see my dog do….”

I don’t. Which sounds blunt, but it’s the truth. I do not want to see your dog fail, I do not want to see your dog have an overly emotional response to a stimuli. I do not want to see your dog practice poor obedience behaviors. I do not want to see your dog making mistakes and practicing those mistakes. If you’ve caught the behavior on video prior I will gladly watch it but during training I will go out of my way to avoid setting your dog up to practice a poor decision. And I will be teaching you how to avoid that too. The truth is I don’t need to see it, because I have seen it. I’ve spoken with you at length about the issue, and I know what reactivity, what aggression, what over stimulated manic behaviors look like. So addressing them is a matter of relying on my experience and education, not necessarily witnessing the dog losing it’s mind over a squirrel and blowing off his recall.

In the case of particularly nervous dogs, or dogs who struggle with aggressive behaviors my not being present in the environment is a great benefit. It means we are able to work with the dog in an environment he is most comfortable, and with out the added stress of another human present. This makes it so much easier for dogs who struggle in the presence of strangers to maintain composure to focus, and learn and rehears good skills with their handler to reduce poor decisions out in public again.

But I’d really like you to come with me on a walk to see how we are doing.”

Great! Let’s get your phone out and let’s go! I can take a walk with you anywhere in the world with the simple use of a strap, and a set of ear buds/phones. And as an added bonus once again there is not another person adding stress and excitement to your dog’s normal routine of going for a walk, and you get real time help anywhere you are – so even when you’re away from home. And for me, I get to watch through video everything that happens and coach you through everything you need help with, but neither one of us can fall back on the crutch of me just “doing it.” (Which is something I struggle with allowing to happen since I know how to quickly and easily get behaviors from dogs it can be tempting for both of us to fall back on letting me do it instead of really getting you, the dog’s handler and guardian to over come obstacles and learn to teach the skills. This I particularly true with leash skills.)

“Well… when can I try this out?”

One of the benefits of going virtual is that I can be a lot more flexible. Since I do not have to factor in travel times, I can offer a lot more to clients more often and earlier/later into the day as well. This means I can often see you sooner then I would be able to do if you wanted to do something in person, this also means for people who want excellent , expert help from other regions they too can get good, reliable, solid, scientifically backed information to help them train their dogs. No matter where they live.

It also means more flexibility for you. When I was doing in person training I had a hard time of an hour session. This is often a LOT for dogs, and even for clients. I can pack a lot of information into 60 minutes, and that isn’t always a good thing. It can be overwhelming. Dogs have a limited attention span, and pushing past that can make training an unpleasant experience, and then make dogs resistant to learning. With virtual training I can cut sessions down to 30 minutes, this is enough time to maximize a dog’s potential and a human’s (people have a general attention span of about 45 minutes.) Since there is no factor of travel time, we can get in, get to work and be done before any one is overloaded with information. This allows me to trim training to it’s essential elements, and really refine our work. It is the perfect length of time to engage both humans and dogs, and it’s not something I could offer in person while driving all over the place.

If you want to know more send me an email! Let’s talk about your dog! pine@irwindogtraining.com

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