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Hedy Talks Virtual Puppy Classes with Allie Lum from Follow the Leader

Happy Toller Puppy Walking
Hedy Toller Tails in Covid-1 Safe Puppy Play Session (Photo Credit: Follow the Leader)

Being a puppy during Covid-19 is ruff. Especially for our pet parents who are worried about our socialization and puppy training. My humans are no different.

So, when they saw that Follow the Leader was offering Virtual Puppy Classes, they jumped at the chance. You can read my review of puppy virtual classes from the pup side of things in an upcoming post later this week.

But that got me thinking about other pet parents. What they would like to know about a virtual puppy class. So, I set out to sniff out some information.

This being my first time interviewing a human, Allie Lum KPA-CTP certified dog trainer with Follow the Leader agreed to be interview.

Hedy Toller Tails (HTT): Welcome Allie and thank you for agreeing to be my first human interview. Now, tell me about your online virtual puppy class program? How does it work?

Allie Lum (AL): Hi Hedy! So our virtual class works in a similar way to in person classes. Your human registers online at our Follow The Leader website and chooses the day and time slot they’d like to attend. Then, we send an e-mail with links to our Zoom meeting room, as well as any videos we show during class.

Each week at a set time, pet parents tune in with their dogs and we go over all the same material we would in a regular class. Pet parents practice with their pups and the dog trainers, like Jon and myself give your pet parents feedback in real time.

HTT: What are the greatest challenges in conducting a virtual puppy class?

AL: Great question! One of the biggest challenges for me as an instructor is not being able to physically show clients how to work with their dogs.

The upside of this is that I’ve had to get very good at coaching through verbal instructions only! Another downside is not getting all those puppies kisses, but that’s more subjective.

HTT: When you have in-puppy or in-person classes, you get to see us puppies grow and learn. Do you see the same learning and growth through online puppy classes?

AL: We actually are able to see a lot of progress with the puppies in online classes! We especially love when clients send videos showing off their dog's new skills. Each week we build on what we learned the previous lesson, so the skills progress naturally.

Sometimes it’s a little more difficult to see how much the puppies are growing physically, but we definitely notice when they stand next to their humans!

HTT: Why should a new puppy parent consider a virtual puppy class?

AL: Virtual puppy classes are quite different, but have a lot of benefits. The first and most important is safety. We are all trying to do our part to stay home and reduce the spread of Covid-19, and training from your own home is much safer than going to an in person class.

Secondly, you can control the environment a lot better than with an in person classroom. That means if your dog gets easily distracted, you won’t be struggling to keep your dog focused, and you can introduce distractions more gradually. There’s also the added benefit of no commute or parking time, which I love! I may be biased, but I believe every puppy and dog should attend a reward based training class at least once to give them the skills they and their humans need to live together successfully.

HTT: Are virtual or online dog training classes for puppies only?

AL: Right now our classes are geared towards puppies, so we cover typical puppy concerns like house training, nipping, and crate training, but these are all things that can be applied to adult dogs as well. The skills we teach are the exact same as our adult class! Any dog can attend.

HTT: Are there limits to what type of dog training can be done through a distance learning/virtual class?

AL: Great question! I think virtual training is great for manners and certain issues that don’t necessarily require a professional to be there in person. I would say more serious issues like aggression may need an in person assessment. That being said, I know of trainers that report great results with virtual teaching. I think it also depends on the client; some people are really visual learners and learn a lot better with in person demonstrations.

HTT: Anything else you would like to tell puppies and puppy parents about dog training during this Covid-19 time?

AL: Keep socializing your dog as best as you can! There’s a lot of socialization you can do at a distance where your dog doesn’t need to interact directly with people or other animals. I would also encourage puppy parents to make sure to leave their puppies alone!

Start with very short departures and gradually make them longer as your puppy is successful. Make it a positive experience for your dog by giving them stuffed Kongs and safe food toys. Prevention is key, you don’t want your dog to develop separation anxiety.

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact a reward based trainer if you’re having problems leaving your puppy alone. We are all worried about an influx of dogs with separation anxiety! Prevent, prevent, prevent.

HTT: Thanks Allie! You’re a great human.

AL: Thanks so much for the interview!

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