Money at 30: Is the Cost of Dog Training Worth It?
A few months ago, my wife and I welcomed a four-legged friend to our family. Since then, our dog Rigby has made tremendous growth as it pertains to get getting used to our home, adjusting to our routines, and even basic things such as walking on a leash. While part of this progress can just be attributed to her spending more time with us, the professional training we purchased for her has also had a big impact.
Of course, these training sessions didn’t come cheap. What’s more, some might argue that they were a waste of money given the amount of free resources that are available on the topic. With that, is professional dog training worth it? Let me explain why we decided to pursue it and what my thoughts on the matter are so far.
Is Dog Training Worth the Cost?
Our training cost and what we got
Obviously the amount you pay for dog training will depend on a number of factors. However, I figured it might be helpful to discuss what we paid and what our training package included. To be honest, while I’m not 100% sure how our pricing compares to others, I will say I’m a bit embarrassed by how much we paid.
The trainer we went with — which is one that we discovered via the farmer’s market hosted at our apartment complex each week — offers three packages. We opted for the middle one, which included five in-home sessions, as well as six months of weekly group classes. The cost? Just over $2,000.
This is a lot. As a result, we definitely did not take the decision to spend this much lightly. So, has it been worth it?
How dog training works — and why some might not like it
Once again, the intricacies of how you’ll train your dog will depend greatly on the trainer(s) you work with. However, a major point I want to emphasize is that, in most cases, the training doesn’t stop with the sessions you purchase. Instead, it will really be up to you to continue the work in order to see the best results. In that aspect, the training you purchase isn’t as much for your dog as it is for you!
I knew this going in but wasn’t quite prepared for just how true it was. In both our at-home and group sessions, the trainers have provided plenty of feedback not just on how Rigby is doing but also on how we’re giving the commands and reacting to her. To me, this has been incredibly valuable as we’re able to continue working with Rigby in between sessions and are seeing our own successes. At the same time, I could see those with thinner skin being a bit resistant to this. Similarly, those who expect that their dog will be perfect after just a few sessions with the pro are likely to be disappointed.
Other options we looked at
Before deciding to go with the trainer we worked with, we did look at some other options. First, we found that PetSmart offers a number of packages at fairly reasonable prices. It’s hard to say which of these packages would have been right for Rigby, but it almost assuredly would have been cheaper.
Another thing we did before landing on the pro option was to purchase a clicker and read articles on training our dog using conditioning. We actually taught her a couple of commands using this method and she did show progress. In fact, it did give her a head start when she learned those same commands with our trainer. Similarly, seeing as we still have a MasterClass subscription, we watched some videos from Brandon McMillan. Once again, we lightly tested a couple of these methods for fun and did make a bit of headway. To be honest, had we stuck with either one of these, we probably would have been able to teach Rigby a lot. Yet, I will say that there are commands we learned from our trainer that we might not have thought of on our own that have proven powerful (namely “place,” where Rigby remains on her cot or any other surface we tell her to place on until we “break” her).
Our experience working with a dog trainer
As I’ve alluded to, we’ve been very pleased with how far Rigby has come since starting training. While the in-home sessions introduced her to the key commands, the group classes and our continued efforts have helped her gain practice while applying these commands to different situations. Plus, the exercises have helped Rigby gain confidence and allowed us to build trust with her. In turn, she’s come remarkably far.
Another big benefit of training
When most people think about dog training, they probably just picture having a “well-behaved” dog who doesn’t jump on the couch or tear up the house. While that’s a part of it, our training sessions also focused on safety issues. For example, we can use the aforementioned “place” command to make sure Rigby is staying put while we open the oven — whereas she might accidentally hurt herself if she were running around the apartment when we were trying to do this same task. Another example is that we’ve gotten into the habit of having her sit before we cross roads to prevent her from pulling ahead of us and into an intersection we haven’t checked yet.
To me, these are probably underrated aspects of training as I’m not sure they’re fully realized or appreciated by many. In fact, I’ll fully admit that I hadn’t really thought about them before seeing testimonials from our trainer’s clients recalling real-world incidents that could have gone quite differently had their dogs not listened to their commands. Therefore, I’m inclined to say that some level of training is worth it just based on this aspect alone.
Final Thoughts on Dog Training: Is it Worth It?
Before we decided to pay for training, we had a lot of hesitation — not only about the price but also about how the program would work. Luckily, though, we’ve been very happy with our investment as it’s allowed us to better communicate with our dog Rigby and live more harmoniously together. Plus, we still have several weeks of group classes left, so we’re sure to see even more significant progress before it’s completely in our hands.
With all of that said, I’m not sure that spending this much makes sense in every situation. In fact, as I’ve discovered from class, there are dogs with greater behavioral issues that may require more assistance (at a cost). Meanwhile, in our case, it’s just that we are first-time pet owners and happened to like the dog trainers when we met them (it helps that they also have a Frenchton like Rigby). Given our situation, it made sense to us to spend the money and get some help. But, perhaps if we were to get another dog in the future, we’d try taking what we’ve already learned and applying it to training them solo instead of paying for professionals again.
Ultimately, training is another potential cost that comes with owning a pet, but it may not be an essential one. Personally, I think it’s at least worth looking into — especially for newbies like us — and would recommend looking for a trainer that will teach you right alongside your dog. If you can find that at a price you’re willing to pay, I think it could be well worth it.