- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
You love your precious pet, of course, but even the best dogs can use a little TLC—training, love and caring. Maybe they don’t listen to you when you give a command the first time (or second… or third), or they struggle to walk calmly on a leash, or get anxious when other dogs are around. It could even be that there’s been a major life change, like a new house or family member, and your dog is struggling to cope. Dog training is an excellent option for all of these situations.
But professional training costs money, which requires some forethought. How much does dog training cost, exactly? Well, it depends.
What influences the cost of dog training?
“I think costs vary widely based on where someone lives,” says Annie Grossman, co-owner and senior dog trainer at School for the Dogs. If your dog or your dog trainer is in a big city like San Francisco or New York, the rates your dog trainer will charge are likely to be steeper than if you’re in a small town.
It may also vary based on what type of training you’re looking for. Training a puppy for basic obedience could run at one rate, whereas advanced training for aggressive pets, or for more sophisticated tricks, could cost more. Additionally, is your pet being trained privately or in a group? Private sessions are more expensive.
One thing that isn’t a guarantee: a more expensive dog trainer isn’t necessarily a better dog trainer. “Dog training is an unregulated field, and even the industry certifications that exist don’t mean that much since most people outside the field can’t tell the more serious certifications from the less serious ones,” Grossman says.
She’s written a post about the meaning of different certifications to try and clear up the confusion, but mostly she cautions people not to associate more money with a guarantee of better results. “Unfortunately, I know a lot of poorly skilled, non-certified trainers who charge huge amounts of money,” she adds.
3 types of dog training
Dog training options tend to be broken down into three main categories.
Private dog training
Private classes are typically offered in-home or at the trainer’s facility. You’ll work directly with the trainer on exactly the skills you would like your pet to learn. Think of it as dog training and people training.
You’ll be taught about how to read your pet’s cues as much as they’ll be learning to sit, stay, and otherwise be a good companion. Private training can be effective for people who are short on time or who have a pet with a behavioral issue that’s not suited to group classes.
Cost: You may have guessed this by now, but prices vary. PetSmart’s website quotes $89/hr for private lessons. Shoshi Parks, owner and head trainer at Modern Hound in San Francisco, said $125/hour is the going rate for private training in the San Francisco area. Grossman, who is in the New York City area, says private training costs between $175 and $400 an hour. You can sometimes get a bit of a better deal if you buy your training in packs of three sessions or more. This depends on the trainer or facility.
Group dog training
“Public training classes are groups of up to 10ish dogs and can work on a variety of different things, from basics to sports like agility,” says Shoshi Parks of Modern Hound. Some common group classes include basic puppy training, obedience classes for adult dogs, “growly” classes for dogs dealing with aggression or anxiety and classes that teach pets new tricks or skills like scent work. These can be a great way for both dogs and owners to socialize, all while your pet is learning.
Cost: The good news is, group training is typically much less expensive than a private session. A basic 6-week training class can be as little as $119 from PetSmart. Grossman’s group classes at School for Dogs tend to be between $50 and $75 a session. Group training for difficult dogs is in the range of $200-$300 for 5-6 weeks.
Board and train
For dog owners with minimal time or who feel they need a more serious intervention with their pet, boarding and training programs can be a place to turn. A pet can be dropped off for the day and picked up in the evening — often called “day training” — or placed with a program for a series of days or weeks to learn good habits.
However, it’s worth noting that dog training is an ongoing process and you’ll still need to continue teaching your pet when they come home. Also, not all pets are a good match for boarding, so it’s worth talking with the facility beforehand.
Cost: Two weeks of boarding and training start around $900 and goes up from there. Grossman says that day training rates — where your dog hangs out at a boarder or daycare center for the day and learns new skills — tend to range from $90-$200 a day in her area.
What to look for in a dog trainer
Just as important as cost is to look for a trainer who uses science-based, positive reinforcement techniques.
There are still, unfortunately, many dog trainers who use aversion techniques like choke or shock collars, sharp tugging, pinning dogs to the ground, and other “alpha” training tools that the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has recommended against.
Be sure to get clear with your trainer on the types of tools they use to modify a pet’s behavior before committing to classes. This is your pet, after all — they’re worth treating (and training) right.