So much of our lives has transitioned to an online format. If you’re new to online learning, signing up for video call training may feel intimidating or overwhelming; there are new programs and equipment to set up and use, and working with your dog on camera may feel clunky and awkward at first. We’ve compiled tips and tricks from people who have participated in video call consultations and group classes to help set you up for success.
Zoom is an online video call platform that allows you to connect with multiple people at a time. It is compatible with almost all operating systems and devices, including your phone, tablet, or computer. You have the option of joining in with your video and microphone on or off as well as utilizing a text chat box, giving you control over your interactions with the rest of the group.
While you can access zoom from the browser on your computer, we find that downloading the application to your computer, tablet, or phone tends to be more successful. Your trainer will review using the program’s features at the beginning of your session.
Choosing a location.
One of the benefits of video call training is the ability to join in from anywhere. As you’ll likely discover, though, you and your dog will be more successful in a quiet space without a lot of distraction. Try to choose a well-lit room without much foot traffic or background noise. You’ll also want to choose a space in which you have access to wifi; Zoom burns through a lot of data!
Preparing your equipment.
If you’re attending a one-on-one session, group class, or workshop that includes a ‘lab’ portion, you’ll likely be training with your dog during the session. To receive feedback from your trainer as you train, you’ll need to make sure that your trainer can see you! Before your first session, take a few minutes to figure out where you will set your device or webcam. A space in which you have plenty of room to move around and a plain background is best; avoid backlighting (windows or lights that are behind you) as this makes it difficult for your trainer to see you. Practice recording yourself to make sure your spot will work. Once you’ve found the spot you’d like to use, you can mark the spot on the floor where you are standing and place at which you set your device with a piece of painter’s tape so that setup will be easy when it’s time to start your session.
Zoom may drain your device’s battery. You may want to set up near an outlet with your device plugged in. Don’t forget to put your device on silent and close out of any programs that make background noise as this is quite distracting to other participants.
During your session.
Joining the session.
Prior to your session, you will receive a link to join the call via an email from your trainer. Simply click this link at your appointment time to join the call; it should automatically open in your Zoom app, or click ‘open in zoom’ should your device prompt you. You may be redirected to the ‘waiting room,’ especially if you join a few minutes early. Your trainer will let you into the call when the session begins. If you are in a group session, you will most likely be muted upon joining, though your video will most likely be on. Your trainer will talk you through muting and un-muting yourself as well as using any necessary application features.
Setting yourself up for success.
We all learn differently, and you’ll need to find what works best for you, but there are some general guidelines to success that will likely start you off on the right foot.
• If you have specific questions that you’d like to ask during your session, consider writing them down ahead of time.
• Do your best to minimize distraction during the call. Turn off notifications and silence other devices. Close doors and windows if there is excessive noise outside of your space. If there are other people in your home that are not participating in the session, let them know that you will be unavailable; a sign on a closed door as a reminder may give you some peace of mind.
• You’ll receive a ton of information during your session. You may find that having a notebook handy is beneficial.
Setting your dog up for success.
If your dog is participating in the session, he may need some help to be successful, too. (Note: for one-on-one appointments and lecture-only workshops/webinars, your dog may not need to be present. Check with your trainer if you are unsure.)
• Prepare enrichment projects ahead of time for your dog to enjoy during group discussions. Choose projects that promote calm behavior, such as a lickimat or frozen kong.
• Go out for a potty break right before your session begins. This will drastically minimize the chance that you’ll have to take a break during your session.
• Prep about twice as many treats as you think you’ll need – you may be surprised! Soft training treats or a higher value treat (like meat or cheese) typically work well; your trainer can advise you on the best choice for your session if you are unsure.
• Exercise about an hour before class can be helpful, but don’t overdo it. If your dog is too worn out, he may not be able to focus.
After your session.
Retaining what you’ve learned.
Just like in school, you’ll need to ‘study’ after your session to truly retain what you’ve learned – and that means training time with your dog! Practicing any behavior once is not enough. Review new behaviors for a few minutes each day; frequent, short sessions will help both you and your dog stay on track. Remember that training should be fun, and it’s always best to end your training session while your dog is still enjoying himself – if you or your dog are getting frustrated, it’s time to take a break.
Make note of any questions you have.
If you think of questions for your trainer, be sure to jot them down somewhere. This will make it easier to ensure that you remember all of your questions during your next session. You can also email your trainer at any time; in most cases, you’ll receive a response within 48 hours.
Ready to try online training? Check out all of our online services here or contact us for more information. We’re happy to help you determine which service is the best fit for you and your dog as well as answer any questions you may have about success with online training. Learn more about the benefits of online training here.