Dog Training: Group Class vs Private Lessons

“Should we take the group class or does my dog need private lessons?”


This is a popular question but we need to know your situation in order to answer it correctly.    


  • Are you having behavior problems or just wanting to teach basic commands?
  • How is your dog in new settings?
  • How is your dog around strangers and other dogs?

With such questions in mind, let’s take a look at the differences between group classes and private dog training lessons:

Group Classes


More Affordable: Many people love our group classes because of the price. Compared to private lessons, our group classes have a lower hourly rate.


Limited One-On-One Time: Please understand that, due to being a group of up to 12 dogs per class, the trainer will have limited time to spend with each individual. We give demonstrations and instructions to the whole group and then we walk around to see how everyone is doing and give small doses of individual assistance as needed.


Teaches Basic Commands: Our Puppy and Basic Obedience Classes cover the basic commands of Sit, Down, Come, Heel, Stay, Leave It, Loose Leash Walking and an intro to Agility Obstacles. Learning how to teach and enforce basic commands in a balanced fashion creates a clear communication system with your dog but will not be enough to help with every behavior issues you may be facing.


High Distraction Level: You will be surrounded by up to 11 other dogs and all the people who come with them. Sometimes there are also dogs, horses and cows on the other side of the fence. Because of these distractions, dogs with aggression, fear or reactivity may not be suited for group class. It really depends on how bad it is. A lot of fearful and reactive dogs make good progress with the group class but the more extreme cases need to start with private lessons to prepare for the group setting.

Private Lessons


More Expensive: We keep our prices very reasonable and competitive but, compared to group classes, private lessons require a higher hourly rate. It just has to be that way because there is not a group of people splitting the bill. That said, we don’t mind if you have friends with dogs who want to split the lessons with you.


Complete One-On-One Attention: The time is all yours. Your trainer is not busy observing and assisting an entire group, so you will have their complete, undivided attention. You will also be less distracted, so you will have a better chance of hearing your trainer’s instructions. You will also be free to ask as many questions as you want without having to worry about holding up a group of other dog owners.


Totally Customized To Your Needs: With private lessons, we can work on just about anything you need, as long as it’s within our range of expertise. We try to focus directly on what is needed most urgently to avoid wasting your time and money on things you don’t want or need. What is needed may or may not include the basic commands that are taught in group class but people usually call for private lessons due to behavior issues. The usual suspects are fear, aggression, resource guarding, separation anxiety, barking, chewing, digging, jumping, biting/mouthing, housebreaking, running away, chasing kids, chasing cats, etc. We also get the occasion head scratcher like “Our dog won’t let us watch the TV show Glee.” Yeah, that was a strange one but that’s a story for another time. To some extent, the basic commands can help with behavior issues but we usually need to get more into dog psychology, which goes beyond simply teaching basic obedience commands.


Variable Locations: Private lessons have the flexibility to be done at the Thriving Canine Training Center, in your home or anywhere that may be helpful, such as out in public places.


Variable Distraction Level: If we need less distraction, we go somewhere less distracting. If we need more distraction, we go somewhere with more distraction. If your dog is ready for the group class level of distraction, we can move you into the group class.


Variable Time Slots: While the group classes have a preset weekly time slot, private lessons can be scheduled with a wider variety of options. For example: This week you might have an appointment Tuesday at 3:00 pm and then in two weeks it could be a follow up on Thursday at 11:00 am.



Ok, so let’s sum this up. If the group class schedule fits your calendar and all you need is the basic commands and a little bit of socialization, then the group class is a super affordable option. On the other hand, if your dog is aggressive, fearful or not ready for that level of distraction for any reason or you have a tricky schedule or you need something more specific than teaching basic commands, then private lessons would be the way to go.


Chad Culp - Certified Dog Trainer, Canine Behavior Consultant, Owner of Thriving Canine. 

© Thriving Canine 2023 


Please contact us for any of your dog training needs. We offer in-person training in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as virtual consults anywhere in the world.


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