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When you’re investigating how much dog training costs, it might be tempting to look for a discount. And while dog trainer cost is an obvious factor, you’ll definitely want to make sure the trainer has the credentials before you consider the bill, says Sarah Kalnajs, CDCB, CPDT. She’s certified as a dog behavior consultant and a pet dog trainer who owns Blue Dog Training and Behavior in Madison, Wis.
Whether it’s teaching basic cues or modifying your dog’s behavior, you need a science-based trainer who doesn’t employ aversive methods, Kalnajs tells Daily Paws. That could cost more than a trainer who’s not as experienced, but oftentimes more experienced trainers will have comparable—or even cheaper—rates.
The cost to train a dog also depends on the kind of training you’re looking for. Group classes are cheaper, while a stay-and-train program might run you thousands of dollars. Let’s run the numbers.
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How Much Does Dog Training Cost?
Kalnajs says it’s best to think of dog training costs as part of the total amount you’ll spend on a new dog or puppy. Total training costs, depending on where you live and how much training you want, can run around $1,500–$2,000 in the first year, she says.
That total cost creeps up if you live somewhere with higher living costs, or if you’re looking for professionals who will do all the training and offer you the most support. That “Rolls Royce”-type training can cost more than $4,000 in a year, Kalnajs says.
And keep in mind: We still have inflation to worry about, and demand for trainers is quite high. That’s driven rates, including hers, up.
“There’s way more dogs than there are trainers [now],” Kalnajs says.
In the Midwest, where Kalnajs is based, you can expect to pay a trainer about $100 to $200 per hour for individualized sessions. She charges $140 per hour for her basic training sessions. (Again, that’s in the Midwest, so you can expect to pay more where the cost of living is higher.)
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Here are some other training options, depending on what you plan to spend:
A group training class, where you and your dog learn sit, stay, and lie down alongside other owners and dogs, can cost about $150-$200 total for the weeks-long training, Kalnajs says. That’s definitely a more affordable option, but you won’t get as much face time with the trainer leading your classes.
Stay and train involves dropping your dog or puppy off with a trainer for days at a time. That way, the puppy can learn both basic cues and house rules. It’s a good option if you don’t have the time to train a puppy yourself, but it is expensive. Kalnajs’ Blue Dog charges $3,600.
Consultations for puppies or new dogs are another option. A trainer like Kalnajs will visit your home and follow up with you to advise you how to best teach and handle your new dog. At Blue Dog, those sessions cost a flat fee of $395.
If money’s tight—dogs are expensive—there are some free resources you can use to train your dog. Kalnajs recommends several online trainers, including JW Dog Training and Behavior, Dog Training by Kikopup, and Simpawtico Dog Training.
What to Look For (and Avoid) In a Dog Trainer
Cost is important, but choosing the right trainer is vital. Besides, do you really want to have to pay another trainer when the first one doesn’t get results? Luckily, we and Kalnajs know what you should look for—and what to avoid.
What to Look For
Credentials: Does your prospective dog trainer have acronyms as a part of their title? That’s a good sign. For example, if the trainer has CPDT after their name, like Kalnajs does, it means they’re a certified professional dog trainer. They’ve completed hundreds of hours of training and passed an exam. Some trainers might also be certified behavior consultants (CDBC, ADCBC), which is great if your dog needs to work on any problem behaviors, like anxiety or reactivity.
Experience: If they’ve kept up on their own education and attended—or presented at—conferences, that’s a sign of a good trainer. A trainer who’s been in the game for years is likely someone you can trust, but don’t let that keep you from hiring a younger trainer. If they show commitment to their own training and education, you can give them a shot, too.
Do you need a behaviorist? Trainers are great for teaching your dog cues and tricks. But if your dog is exhibiting some unwanted behavior, you’ll want to talk to a behaviorist or behavior consultant, Kalnajs says.
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What to Avoid
Someone who promises a quick fix or says they can fix anything: Kalnajs calls those “red flags.” Sometimes, dogs’ problems are complex or take a long time to solve. And the dog-training industry isn’t well-regulated, so you need to be on the lookout for guarantees that sound too good to be true.
Trainers who use aversive methods: If you see trainers using choke chains, shock collars, or any other harmful methods, look elsewhere. Reputable trainers should only use positive reinforcement methods.