I have been lucky to be around dogs for as long as I can remember. Over the past years, I have collaborated with some of the best pet professionals, including Dr. Alexa Diaz, Ph.D., an experienced dog trainer and animal behaviorist. In this article, we will share our knowledge to help you decide whether you should take your dog to a professional trainer or do it yourself and how much you can expect to spend on training.
Although some dogs could be trained by an experienced owner, group training sessions are usually recommended for any dog and cost around $150 to $200. Many dogs would also benefit from private lessons for better results. Budget $550 to $1,200 for 3 to 9 sessions with a certified trainer.
According to a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), 96% of dogs that end up in shelters had not received any obedience training. This statistic shows how much training can be overlooked even though it is so important. Training can seem expensive, but it is an excellent investment. A well-behaved dog will most likely be happier, healthier, and develop a great relationship with family members, which is so important.
As I said, dog training should not be seen as an expense but as an investment. For example, a well-trained dog is less likely to chew or destroy your property. He will know that he can’t eat anything but what you give him and probably avoid unnecessary trips to the vet clinic. He won’t need future expensive training classes to correct behavioral issues.
Does every dog need to be trained?
Every dog should be trained. Some breeds tend to be more docile, but each dog is very different, and training needs must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Some dogs could be trained by their owner, but most should get training lessons (group, private, or a combination of both).
Whether the owner trains the dog himself or hires a professional, a dog should always be adequately socialized, know basic training commands (dog’s name, look at me, sit, down, up, stand, stay, come, leave it), learn to walk on a leash, be potty trained and crate trained. They should also learn to control puppy biting, jumping, and barking.
If getting a dog that will be easy to train is essential for you, make sure to express it to the breeder or shelter where you are getting your pet. Although they cannot guarantee anything, they are the best suited to give an opinion.
A good breeder will know the puppy’s parents’ temperament and have enough knowledge to make an opinion based on the first weeks spent with the puppy and their understanding of the breed. Shelter employees and volunteers will also have spent days, if not more, with your future dog and will be able to share their experience.
Your veterinarian is also a great resource to get an opinion on anything related to your dog, including training.
Can you train your dog yourself?
Training a dog is so much fun, and whether you do everything by yourself or hire a professional, you will have the opportunity to be involved in the process since the dog will live with you. You will most likely be present during training sessions as well.
Three reasons not to train the dog by yourself even if you would prefer to:
- If you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to dog training every day for the first weeks, you won’t be able to get good results, and it’s better to accelerate the process with the help of a certified dog trainer.
- If it’s your first dog, or you have absolutely no experience with dog training, you should also consider hiring a professional.
- If you tried to train your dog but don’t see the results you were expected, or if you or the dog gets impatient or frustrated during training sessions.
Otherwise, you could and probably should give it a go. Training your dog will increase the bond between the dog and yourself, and you will get to know each other very quickly. It is also a great way to save money when welcoming your dog. Always make sure to educate yourself beforehand. There are plenty of resources, including books, YouTube videos, online courses, to help. Below are my favorite ones.
Before & After you Get your Puppy (eBooks)
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Zak George’s book and YouTube channel
Zak George is a fantastic dog trainer and has the most popular training channel on YouTube. I love his dog training revolution audiobook and could not recommend it enough. The great thing is you can listen to it for free with a 30-day Amazon Audible trial. If you already have an account, make it your next pick.
You will learn everything you need to know to raise, train, and care for your dog: from choosing the right puppy, training techniques, picking supplies, finding a vet, selecting the right food, handling behavioral issues, and much more.
Two free online dog training courses from the Dunbar Academy
After reviewing many training programs, the Dunbar Academy seemed to be one of the best because it is the most comprehensive one, and the Dunbars are very reputable. I naturally asked Alexa (our dog trainer) and heard immediately: “Ian Dunbar is amazing!”.
The Dunbar Academy is all about easy, effective, and enjoyable methods to get ready to welcome and train your dog. What is really cool is that they offer two fantastic courses for free. The first one is the Guide to Getting a Dog, and the second one will teach you Six Simple Dog Training Techniques.
Solve the most common behavioral issues simply with Brain Training for Dogs
If your dog shows behavioral problems that you want to eliminate by yourself quickly, Brain Training for Dogs will be a great help toward the obedient dog you want. The course has been designed by a reputable, certified dog trainer, Adrienne Farricelli. It focuses on simple yet effective exercises to develop dogs’ intelligence and teach them to be well-behaved.
Five training tips
1 – Baby steps. Look for little progress each time (if the dog just slightly starts to do what you wanted, it’s good) and reward even minor successes. Don’t overwhelm your dog, and always change one variable at a time. For example, you can expect a better result in a familiar and controlled environment but might need to take a few steps back in a new environment.
2 – Exercise and fun. Having the dog burn some energy before a training session will help him be more focused. A training session should also be fun, and if the dog gets bored, don’t hesitate to play with him to get him excited again. It’s normal for a training session to last 20 minutes to an hour but not more.
Behavioral issues are often caused by a lack of physical or mental stimulation. Ensuring your dog gets the proper amount of exercise and playtime could reduce or even eliminate behaviors you don’t like. It is also healthy for your furry friend and can prevent him from becoming overweight (you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs but not to see them).
3 – Positive training. Use positive training methods, like lure training. For every little progress, give a treat and praise your dog. Some dogs will prefer a little playtime as a reward too. After a while, treats won’t be necessary, and a simple and happy “Yes” or “Good job” will do.
4 – Anticipate. Don’t put your dog in a situation where you know he will fail. On the contrary, try to help him have positive experiences. For example, if you see your dog sniffing around, take him outside as soon as possible and praise him for doing his business there.
5 – Patience. It can take weeks or even months to train a dog (house training for a puppy can be a particularly lengthy process). Don’t forget that dog training is about repetition. The dog as to learn everything and every scenario. “Leave it” can mean don’t touch food on the table or don’t put something you find on the floor in your mouth, but a dog has to learn how to act in both situations.
The cost of dog training
According to our dog trainer and animal behaviorist, Alexa Diaz, Ph.D., dogs could be classified into three categories.
Very easy to train
Some dogs could be trained by an experienced and motivated dog owner and not need professional training on top of that. They would still benefit from a few group classes for basic obedience and socialization for better results, but it could be considered optional if the owner takes care of everything.
Typically, if owners try to train their dogs themselves following positive training methods learned from previous experiences or a course, they will see a dog willing to learn and please them. Their furry friend will respond well with the training techniques, will not show signs of aggression or fear when meeting other people or animals, and will constantly be improving.
As mentioned earlier, even a very easy dog should go to a few inexpensive group training sessions to learn these skills if the owner can’t or is not willing to train his pet by himself. According to Alexa Diaz, an owner can reasonably expect to pay around $150 to $200 for five weekly one-hour group training classes.
Easy to train
Other dogs will do well with a few group classes. They will offer an excellent opportunity to learn positive leadership training methods, basic obedience, house manners, socialize the dog with other people and animals, and maybe address simple behavioral problems such as leash pulling, puppy biting, jumping, or barking.
For example, if an owner starts training his dog himself but sees the dog struggling to improve or understand a few specific aspects of basic training, or if socialization isn’t going as smoothly as expected, group sessions with a certified trainer will be necessary (around $150 to $200 for 5 hours).
Challenging to train
Finally, on top of group training, some dogs will also need private lessons with a certified dog trainer to adjust well to life with their new family. Some of the concepts covered in group training can be reviewed more in-depth with the trainer’s help. And it is also an excellent opportunity to teach crate training, potty training, and address any problematic behavioral issue.
Some dogs will need the one-on-one attention of a professional to learn how to behave. Even an owner with the best intention won’t be able to get good results with some dogs. Either because the dog is not responding to training (doesn’t focus or doesn’t want to comply), or because some behaviors are too bad to be corrected by someone without experience.
It doesn’t mean that the dog won’t make for a good pet. Quite the opposite, the most challenging dogs to train are also often the smartest ones. It will just take more experience and knowledge to get good results.
For Dr. Diaz, three to nine hours of private lessons on top of group lessons will be enough in most cases. According to her, these private sessions with a certified dog trainer should cost around $550 to $1,200. But prices vary a lot. Some trainers could charge as low as $300, or maybe less, while others would ask for over $2,000.
|Training Cost||Training Lessons||Range||Average Cost|
|Very easy to train||Home training||$0 – $200||$100|
|Easy to train||Group training||$150 – $200||$175|
|Challenging to train||Group & private training||$700 – $1,400||$1,050|
Once again, it is crucial to understand that every dog is unique, and it is impossible to decide whether your dog should be professionally trained or not based on the breed only. We can also agree that dogs from a specific breed tend to have similar temperaments and personality traits.
To give you a little insight, Dr. Diaz has classified the most popular breeds in these three categories based on her experience as a dog trainer.
|Very Easy to Train |
$0 – $200
|Easy to Train |
$150 – $200
|Challenging to Train |
$700 – $1,400
|Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cockapoo, Cocker Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Havanese, Labrador Retriever, Pomeranian, Portuguese Water Dog, Shetland Sheepdog||Australian Shepherd, Basset Hound, Beagle, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bichon Frise, Bloodhound, Border Collie, Boxer, Collie, English Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel, Maltese, Mastiff, Newfoundland, Pug, Puggle, Saint Bernard, Shih Tzu, Standard Poodle||Akita, Belgian Malinois, Boston Terrier, Brittany, Bullmastiff, Cane Corso Italiano, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chihuahua, Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher, English Bulldog, French Bulldog, German Shepherd, German Shorthaired Pointer, Goldendoodle, Labradoodle, Malti Poo, Miniature American Shepherd, Miniature Schnauzer, Papillon, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Shiba Inu, Siberian Husky, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Vizsla, Weimaraner, West Highland White Terrier, Yorkipoo, Yorkshire Terrier|
If the breeds you are interested in aren’t there, or if you want more information, visit our All Breeds page.
Dog training supplies and cost
You will need some basic supplies during dog training. In this section, I will introduce the most important ones, talk about their costs, and how to pick them for your dog.
Collar or Harness
You will either need a collar or a harness. If you are getting a puppy, you will likely have to change it as the dog gets bigger.
A collar is cheaper and more comfortable if you plan on leaving it on the dog all the time. It’s also easier for breeds with long hair. Whether you go with nylon or leather is really up to you as long as it fits well. To choose the right size:
- Measure the circumference of the dog’s neck.
- Pick a collar that can be adjusted a bit larger. You should be able to fit two fingers between the dog’s neck and the collar.
- Make sure that your dog is within the recommended weight range.
- Verify the collar fit on your dog regularly. Readjust it if needed and change the collar when it becomes too small.
Cost: usually $5 to $40
- This durable nylon collar from Amazon will do a fantastic job.
- If you want your dog to be as classy as you, go with this fancy Italian leather dog collar from Muttropolis. There is a matching leather leash available.
A harness will give you better control of your dog during walks, and it is more comfortable for him as it distributes the pressure on a larger area. It also discourages the dog from pulling as it redirects him and stops the forward motion. Harnesses are also better for escape artists with thin necks prone to slipping out of their collar (like Grehounds) or for dogs with breathing problems (breeds with short noses such as Pugs, Bulldogs, etc.).
Most harnesses can be attached from the front (excellent to control larger dogs) or the back(more comfortable for smaller and more sensitive breeds). You also want to make sure to buy the right size for your dog.
My pick: I would choose this model on Amazon. It is made from durable fabric and offers two attachments, as discussed (front and back).
A quick side note here. I don’t like nor recommend choke or prong collars. There are more efficient training options to teach your dog to stop pulling based on positive reinforcement.
It is better to start with a short leash, usually 4 to 6 feet long, until the dog or puppy is leash trained and socialized. A retractable or adjustable leash could do the trick as well. A shorter leash will give you more control over your dog, which is especially important for the first days (you can even keep the dog on a leash inside in the beginning).
If the dog is a heavy chewer, you might have to buy a chain leash. Otherwise, both nylon or leather is fine as long as the product is appropriate for your dog’s strength (they are usually rated by dog weight).
You should also consider buying a longer leash (20 to 30 feet long) for training, like when you want to practice “stay” and “come” from a distance.
Cost: usually $5 to $30
My pick: Tamaria, our dog walker, recommends this strong 5′ leash from Amazon.
Toys and treats
Toys and treats are great rewards during training sessions and are key tools for positive training.
Pick the right size of toys for your dog. If it’s too small, the dog will destroy it, or worse, could swallow it. Make sure the toys are safe and durable. Discard toys that the dog broke and avoid homemade solutions like taking a toy from a child to give it to the dog. Finally, add variety (chew toys, brain games, chase toys) to keep the dog interested and challenged.
Cost: usually $15 to $155 per year
Buy treats made in the US with high-quality meat, natural ingredients, that are easy to break up (you only want to give little pieces during training sessions, the size of a grain of rice for a small dog, and a pea for large dogs). You could also use small pieces of unseasoned cooked turkey or chicken.
Cost: usually $3 to $12 per bag of training treats
My pick: To add variety and keep your dog interested and stimulated, Bark Box is a fabulous monthly subscription box. Each box comes with innovative toys, treats, and a chew. It only starts at $23/box (shipping included), and the box is tailored to the dog’s size. It’s the perfect way to keep your dog motivated during training.
House training pads, Stains and odors removal spray
Most puppies will have a tough time controlling their bladder until they are four months old, and potty training can take a few weeks to a few months, depending on the dog. Going outside is ideal, but not every puppy can make multiple trips outside every hour.
That’s when including pads in the house-training routine comes in handy. You want to make sure that the pads have the proper size and absorbency for your dog. Usually, a puppy will be OK with a standard absorbency, but an incontinent adult dog might need heavy-duty pads.
Cost: usually $15 to $45 for around 100 disposable pads or a couple of washable pads
My pick: I like these machine-washable pads 2 or 4 pack (get at least two pads to use one while you wash the other).
It’s a good idea to buy a spray to eliminate stains and odors from dog urine, vomit, etc. Get an enzyme spray that can be used on different surfaces (floor, furniture, fabric) and is safe for your pet. It will also discourage the dog from marking the same space repeatedly.
Cost: usually $5 to $20
My pick: Nature’s Miracle advanced stain and odor eliminator will do the job.
Clicker training is a very popular positive reinforcement training method, and if you want to use a clicker, they only cost a few dollars. The main advantage is that the click is faster and more distinct than saying “good dog”. By giving a treat immediately after clicking, the dog associates the clicking sound with a reward. You can do without a clicker by replacing the click with a simple “yes” or any other distinctive sound.
Playpen and fences (optional)
In the beginning, you want to limit the space your dog has access to inside to facilitate house training. Once you see progress and the dog understands that inside is his living space and outside is for his business (except where the training pads are), you can add new rooms for him to explore. You might need a playpen or fences to achieve that.
For more information, check our Dog Supplies Guide and get tips to choose the right items for you and your dog. Learn everything about costs and find the best products available.
Cost of training for working dogs
Working dogs will need extra training lessons to learn the appropriate commands and behaviors required while they are doing their job. A dog used for security or protection must understand how to react appropriately to the situations he will face. He must also develop a strong relationship based on positive leadership and trust with his owner to respond to every order.
Private training lessons with a certified dog trainer can easily cost $100 to $250 an hour. The number of sessions needed will depend on the dog and the quantity of information he will have to learn.
Cost of training for service dogs
A service dog is trained to assist people with disabilities. According to the National Service Animal Registry, a trained service dog can cost between $15,000 and $50,000. The alternative would be to train a dog yourself, which could easily cost $100 to $250 per hour of training and take up to two years.
How to find a professional?
Once you decided to look for professional help to train your dog, there are a few ways to find the right trainer:
- Ask the breeder/shelter where you got the dog.
- Ask your veterinarian.
- Ask family and friends.
It is essential that you feel comfortable working with the trainer you pick. Training a dog is teamwork, after all. The trainer will only be there to start teaching your dog the right behaviors and show you how to replicate them yourself, so good communication will be critical.
Here is what to look for, and the questions you should ask the professional you consider hiring:
- Working hours: Can the trainer accommodate your schedule?
- Wait time to get an appointment: Would you be able to start training as soon as the dog is vaccinated?
- Prices and payment methods: Can you afford their services?
- Certifications: Is he or she a certified and experienced dog trainer? The dog training industry is not the most regulated, so beware of self-proclaimed trainers. Does the trainer have dog first-aid and CPR certifications?
- References: Can the trainer provide references from past customers (ideally for the same breed as your dog)?
- Methods used: Does the trainer use positive reinforcement training methods? If there is any mention of physically punishing or controlling the dog or using prong or shock collars, it is a red flag.
- Insurance: Does the trainer have professional insurance?
More content you could like
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- Find out whether or not you should get pet insurance.
- A veterinarian explains medical costs for a dog.
- Check our new dog owner guide to know everything you need to get ready to welcome a dog home in a few minutes.
- Get two fantastic training courses for free. The first one is the guide to getting a dog, and the second one will teach you six simple dog training techniques.
- Find the price of puppies in the US for over 150 breeds.
This article is original content from PetBudget.
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