So you’re having issues with Fido and looking into hiring a trainer, but you had no idea they could cost so much! If you’re wondering why dog training is expensive, here are some answers from a trainer’s perspective.
1. It’s a specialized profession.
After a few years of being a dog walker and realizing that I was training everyone’s dogs for them, I figured it was a skill that came with the territory of working with dogs. Upon asking my colleagues if this was the case, however, I found out that not many of them felt like they could train. Furthermore, most of them couldn’t even say “no” to a dog!
The truth is, few people know where to start and most don’t have the experience that a professional does — and it takes a certain disposition to really understand canine behavior and get results.
2. It means less time and work for you.
There are tons of resources out there, but if you’ve ever Googled something like “How Can I Get My Dog To Stop Jumping On Guests,” you have seen that there are a thousand different opinions and ways to train.
Trainers are experienced with these behaviors and know which things are likely to work versus those that aren’t for your specific dog. In addition, they have all kinds of knowledge to impart about breeds, behaviors, and dogs in general.
Dog trainers are kind of like Cliff Notes for a really, really long book that you might not have time to read. In addition to all this, there are some behaviors, like aggression, that an experienced professional should address.
3. You get what you pay for.
In New York City, trainers generally start at $100 – $200 per hour (with others going even higher than that) for private sessions, and group classes tend to be anywhere from $40 – $75 per class. If someone is going below these rates, it is likely due to either lack of experience or lack of confidence. You don’t want to deal with either of these things when it comes to having your dog trained. Oftentimes, skimping on the budget still costs the same (if not more) in the end because you end up needing twice as many sessions to get the desired results.
4. Training is an investment.
Good trainers will teach you skills that last beyond your current dog. If you invest in learning how to properly train a dog from the beginning, it will apply to other dogs you have in the future. (This by no means makes you an expert in understanding all dogs, and if it’s a dog with severe behavioral issues they will still likely need to be seen by a professional.)
5. It’s a fluctuating business.
There are a lot of variables that go into the dog training business. Some of these variables include how many sessions a dog will need, how often the owners are working with their dog, severity of behavior, weather, hours a client is available, etc. Trainers can only do their job when their clients aren’t at work themselves (typically evenings and weekends), and this limits the number of hours that they can work in a week.
Further, some clients drop off unexpectedly without giving reason. (If you hire a trainer, please don’t do this! Instead, discuss the issue with them — trainers can’t learn from their mistakes unless you tell them, nor can they properly budget when you don’t give any notice).
6. It can improve not only your dog’s quality of life, but your own.
Having an unruly dog that refuses to listen can be a major stressor, and being stressed is not a good place to start trying to train on your own. Many people try to “wait out” behaviors that are only going to become more deeply embedded and troublesome over time, and they start adapting to their dogs’ behaviors instead of the other way around. (Think: crossing the street when you see another dog because your pup goes nuts.)
Hiring a trainer that can pinpoint problems and teach you how to better work with your dog is going to make your life much easier in the long run.
7. It’s very hard to train your own dog.
You have a very special bond with your dog that makes it difficult for you to train them objectively. This means you will probably have a harder time pushing them out of their comfort zone and saying no to that adorable face that you love infinitely, so bringing in someone with an outside perspective is often necessary.
Not only that, but your dog likely already knows how to push your buttons to get exactly what they want. Hiring a trainer to come in and start them on a training regimen will make them more likely to listen when you tell them to do something new, because the trainer is instilling new patterns into their routine.
8. It can possibly save your dog’s life.
One of the primary reasons dogs are surrendered to shelters is because owners are overwhelmed with behavior issues. A trainer can help you work with the behaviors that are stressful, and your dog won’t end up going to a shelter where their quality of life is diminished and they may only have a short amount of time to be adopted.
For dogs with severe issues like aggression or biting, owners face the risk of someone getting hurt and either suing you, reporting the dog, or both. Depending on the severity of the bite and where you live, the dog could even be euthanized for biting. Training is a must in the case of aggression.
9. Trainers need to know that you’re serious.
A little-known trade secret of dog trainers is that training is expensive so that they know you’re serious. If you’re spending a higher amount of money on training, there’s more likelihood that you’ll put in the time and commitment that it takes to train a dog. Otherwise you just threw your hard-earned money down the drain, and there aren’t too many people who can afford to do that these days.
Trainers don’t want to waste their time or yours working with someone who isn’t willing to put in the effort, because 1) it hurts their reputation if the dog doesn’t improve (even if it was due to the owners’ lack of utilizing training methods), and 2) it’s taking time away from other dogs who need help (see #5 re: fluctuating and limited hours to train).
10. Becoming a dog trainer can be expensive.
Not every trainer goes to school (and that’s perfectly acceptable as long as they have the skills and experience to work), but for those that have – it’s pretty darn expensive!
Online training programs like Animal Behavioral College and Catch range anywhere from $1000 to $5000 and beyond. Trainers wishing to be certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers have to pay for annual tests. A skill assessment test costs $225, while behavioral consulting and knowledge assessment tests cost $385 apiece. (This might not seem like much, but when you’re trying to sustain yourself as a dog trainer, trust me – it is!)
If you want an animal behaviorist, then you’re looking at someone who has paid for four years of college, a graduate degree, and sometimes more. (Beware: there are many trainers out there who call themselves “behaviorists,” but unless they have a master’s degree and the ability to prescribe medication to animals – they aren’t.)
If you’re looking for basic training and can’t afford private sessions, look for group training sessions in your area. It might not be the fanciest training, but it’s a starting point. If you have a dog with more advanced needs like aggression or a dog that needs to work with issues in the home (such as territorial aggression or jumping on guests) that can’t forego private sessions, consider making the investment now that will give you returns in the months and years to come.
There are many people who feel like it’s a personal failure if they can’t train their own dog – this is not the case! You are dealing with an animal that has a completely different brain structure than yours, and we as owners have a tendency to see our beloved pets as human because of how much we love them.
Hiring a trainer will give you a better understanding of how our dogs’ brains work, which will lead to you work better with them in addition to building an even stronger bond.
Look at it this way — if you didn’t go to school for finance but wanted to invest in stocks for the first time, you would most likely go to a broker. Dog trainers are brokers who help you understand your dog’s behavior and figure out the best way to work with them, which is invaluable for all owners.
It will save you time and frustration to work with a trainer, and it will probably make your life easier in the long run. That means a happier dog — and a happier you — in the end!
Header image: smerikal/Flickr