How to Train Your Dog Yourself and Save Money
Getting a dog is an exciting addition to your life. Who wouldn’t want an energetic, adorable puppy zipping around the house?
But adopting a dog comes with more responsibility than most realize. Outside of the obvious responsibilities like feeding, walking, and taking a canine to the vet, basic obedience training sessions are a must for any dog-owner.
Having a well-behaved dog isn’t just a nice trait — it will make both you and your dog much happier. However, dog training can range from roughly $25 per group training session to over $100 each for individual and in-home sessions with a dog trainer.
It can seem like a big task to teach your dog how to be on its best behavior on command, but it is completely worth it for a loving, content relationship with your pup. Here’s how to start with the basics of dog training — without chewing a hole through your wallet.
How Much Does Dog Obedience Training Cost?
Obedience training, whether learned at home or in a classroom setting, is crucial to your dog’s behavior, safety and happiness. But going the classroom route can be expensive.
For example, a six-week class at PetSmart for beginners is $129. This class teaches basic commands like “leave it” and “drop it.” It also covers house manners and impulse control exercises.
A second six-week class for intermediate-level dogs will run you another $129. This class reviews what was taught in the first course and adds commands like “heel.”
These courses, and subsequent PetSmart courses at similar price levels, still require commitment from you outside the classroom. That means, when training your dog at home, you must be patient and practice consistently.
The Cost of Not Training Your Dog
Teaching your dog basic commands is crucial for a number of reasons. The first and most important: your dog’s safety. By teaching him to come to you or stay with a single word, you can prevent your dog from running into traffic, getting tangled with other dogs, and chewing up that new furniture you just bought.
Reward-based training (where you give your pup a treat every time they do something correctly, like remain in a sitting position even when tempted with a toy or food) is a great way to teach your dog self-control, as well, which is critical as the dog gets older, bigger, and more powerful.
Note: Destructive behavior can happen even in trained dogs and could be a sign of separation anxiety. Consult your veterinarian to discuss behavioral changes and possible medications to reduce the effects of separation anxiety.
Training your dog basic obedience skills may seem daunting. But by using a few simple tools: treats, a happy voice, new tricks, and using food or other rewards to gradually increase the complexity of commands, you are potentially saving thousands of dollars that would be spent on training or repairing chewed up items in your home.
Dog Training Resources
You can thank the digital age for helping with the training process because there is easy access to apps and videos that allow you both to conquer basic commands for how to train your dog. Most dogs will enjoy the individualized attention they get from their pet owners.
The following four resources will train you to train them.
1. Apps for a DIY Dog Trainer
It seems as though there’s an app for everything under the sun these days and dog training is no exception. You’ve embarked on dog ownership and these apps take that commitment seriously.
One of the top apps for training your dog is also free. Enter: Pupford.
Pupford has tons of instructional videos led by Zak George, a well-known dog trainer, to keep unwanted behaviors at the bay. Simply download the app to begin learning how to teach your dog things like: walk calmly on a leash, and obey commands like “sit” and “stay.” There are even instructional videos on crate training and potty training for your puppy, too.
A big part of working on behavior problems and teaching your dog new tricks is consistency. Just like with people, a routine and schedule will help your canine companion find fun and safety as the dog learns and grows throughout training.
Pup-to-Date is an inexpensive app (free for 10 logged events and then $3.99 for unlimited access to the entire app) that can help with dog obedience and new behavior. This app helps you log all things “dog,” from bathroom times to nap times to when your dog succeeded in responding to a verbal command.
Other apps like Dogo and GoodPup involve interacting (sometimes in real-time) with certified dog trainers, but those have limited free trials and then are slightly more expensive: $99.99 for a year and $29/week, respectively. Spend some time using these apps and you may find yourself saying “good dog” more than you will reprimanding.
2. Training Sessions Through Online Courses
The internet continues to be a great source for new puppy training. Ali Smith is the founder and owner of Rebarkable, a $24.99 one-year program to teach your dog how to respond to verbal praise and commands, hand signals, treats as rewards, and more.
“I’m passionate about helping new puppy parents get it right, right from the start. Not just training them, but also helping puppy parents understand their growing pup and so enabling the new puppy parents to become their pup’s best advocates,” said Smith. “I’m here to help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.”
Rebarkable sends an email each week with an overview that includes the amount of activity, sleep, and food your canine companion should get alongside training. You are also warned of any red flags that could crop up during training, what type of socialization to expect this week, and what your dog should learn over the course of the week.
Rebarkable is just one of many online programs and resources to check out, but it’s key to make sure the program you choose is hosted by a certified dog trainer (not just someone who likes dogs) and employs humane methods of training.
Other online obedience classes to check out are Wondrium, GoodPup, SpiritDog and Puppy Trained Right, whose motto is “Train, don’t complain.” Hard to argue with that even when your dog has an aggravating short attention span.
Certified dog trainers may come in the form of holding a local certificate from a shelter, a regional training organization, or otherwise. You can do a quick Google search to make sure the credential is legit.
3. YouTube as Dog Training Partner
We often forget what a wealth of information YouTube can be. Just like with the caution above, you need to carefully pick and choose what media you consume on the site. But — it can be a treasure trove of helpful tips and tricks when it’s time to start training your dog.
In fact, Smith recommended Kikopup’s YouTube channel in particular as a standout and legitimate source.
Zak George, the founder of the app Pupford, also has a YouTube channel geared toward obedience training and mitigating behavior problems.
Stonnie Dennis is another famed YouTuber known for his positive reinforcement methods when it comes to training puppies and older dogs alike.
These are all free resources that only require you to put in 15-30 minutes a day of training with your beloved canine.
4. Turn to Shelters for Help
There is nothing an animal shelter wants more than to see all its animals placed in “forever homes” with loving owners. However, many are surprised at the effort it can take to create a dog-safe environment and end up returning the poor dog just months after adoption.
Instead of defaulting to frustration and rehoming your animal, ask around at local shelters to see what behavior resources they may have for pets. Many offer free behavioral resource libraries and regularly scheduled dog training classes with behavior experts for just this reason — to prevent exhausted owners from thinking there is no way to even begin training their new family addition.
Give your dog a chance to socialize, have fun, and walk on a loose leash with the help of free or donation-driven training classes from shelters. You may be surprised at the high quality of training and wealth of knowledge the shelter behaviorists have. They might even be able to provide medical advice on small issues.
Dogs are like people; they need love, consistency, care, and positive reinforcement in order to succeed and feel safe in their home.
Check out the American Kennel Club for information about how to adopt a dog, resources for training your canine based on breed and temperament, and how to get sound medical advice to keep you and your pup adventuring together — in a well-behaved way, of course — for years to come.
Colorado-based writer Kristin Jenny focuses on lifestyle and wellness. She is a regular contributor to Codetic. Information from contributor Timothy Moore is included in this report.