7 min read

Dog Training Classes vs. Home Training a Dog: A Complete Guide


Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 12/18/2020, edited: 01/18/2023


You may wonder if it’s better to train your dog at home or enroll your pup in a training course. This is a great question — and a tough one. Ideally, you could take your pup to a few classes, and they'd come home a perfect dog. The truth is even if you enroll your woofer in a course, you’ll still need to continue training at home. 

So is it worth investing in a training course? And how much time will it take for successful at-home dog training? Can you really be successful at DIYing your dog’s obedience training? These are all valid questions, and we’ll cover all of these topics below.

What are my dog training options?

There are tons of ways you can go about training a dog in and out of the home. Here are just a few that we'll touch on:

  • Individualized training courses
  • Group classes
  • At-home training
  • Obedience classes
  • Scentwork classes
  • Rehabilitation classes
  • Board-and-train programs
dog trainer wearing pink fanny pack holding a clicker in front of a dog who's sitting in the grass

A quick overview of professional dog training programs

Before we delve into the different types of training classes, let's take a look at how much dog training programs cost, what you'll need to enroll, and how soon you can expect to see results.

Time and cost of training courses

Duration: 2 weeks to 3 months on average
Cost: $30 to $100+ an hour

The time and cost of dog training courses vary depending on your location and budget, as well as the training option you choose. More intensive training options, like board and train "boot camps", might be as short as 2 weeks.

However, most training classes are 6-week programs that require you and your pup to attend class each week. These programs are often split up into different tiers (typically beginner, intermediate, and advanced). If you want to complete all 3 tiers, you'll need to dedicate about 18 weeks to the program.

Training classes can range from $30 to $100+ an hour, depending on how intensive the course is. Some facilities offer package rates that cover the full duration of the course, while others charge per class. Board-and-train options are typically the most expensive, with costs soaring well into the thousands depending on the program you choose.

Unfortunately, time and cost play a significant role in your dog's candidacy for training classes. Not everyone can afford to dedicate 4 hours a week or $400 for a month-long training course, which is why at-home training is often the better option for many pet parents.

What you’ll need to enroll your dog in training courses

*Some classes require this, but not all. 

How effective are dog training classes?

Research shows that it takes 3 months of consistent training for a dog to respond to learned cues consistently. Most classes don’t last that long, so it’s up to the pet parent to reinforce the training at home. Consistency is crucial when training a dog. With that being said, training classes are an invaluable tool if used correctly with follow-up training at home.

What are the different types of dog training classes?

There are dozens of training courses that you can enroll your dog in, but not all of them may be available in your area. Behavioral therapy courses, for instance, can be trickier to find. We’ll discuss some of the most common class types and the best candidates for them below.

Group classes

Group classes are exactly what they sound like: a group of dogs learning together in a structured setting. These are typically hands-on courses that require the pet parent's attendance.

Dogs that benefit from group classes
  • Puppies
  • Competitive dogs
  • Shy dogs
  • Social dogs
  • Friendly dogs
  • Dogs with a grasp on obedience basics
  • Dogs with an interest in scent or service work

Obedience classes

Obedience classes are often recommended for all puppies. Obedience classes cover basic commands like come, stay, leave it, and loose leash walking. This is typically the most economical option for training classes. 

Dogs that benefit from obedience classes

Individual classes and behavioral therapy

Individual classes are an excellent tool for dogs with social issues. One-on-one lessons can target problems like aggression or anxiety without the stress of a group class.

The downside to individual courses and behavioral therapy is that they're costly — even double or triple the price of group classes. Individual sessions often use relationship-based training and exposure therapy to help condition your dog into giving more appropriate responses.

Dogs that benefit from individual classes and behavioral therapy

Board-and-train programs

Board-and-train programs are some of the most expensive dog training options. These "boot camps" involve your pup going away for a few weeks to learn obedience.

However, boot camps aren’t as effective as you might think. Having the pet parent take part in the training process is crucial for the training to stick. In essence, training is about earning your dog's attention and respect. A key part of that process involves learning canine behavior psychology and body language cues.

Once you have your pup’s attention and respect, commands are just a matter of repetition and consistency.

dog trainer holding a treat out to a black bulldog walking in the grass

Training a dog at home

All dog training begins in the home, from learning to come when called to elaborate tricks and scent work. Let's take a closer look at the time and cost of training your dog at home, the supplies you'll need, a few tips to help you on your journey, and more.

Time and cost of dog training at home

Training a dog at home takes a lot of time and patience, but the cost is near pennies compared to training courses. You’ll only need to buy a few things, some of which you may already have from other pets. You’ll need a crate, a clicker, a leash, and some treats. Depending on the size and type of your crate, this averages out to between $40 and $100 total. 

What you’ll need for at-home training

Introducing commands and rewards

Start with straightforward tasks, like getting your dog’s attention. Say their name, and when they look at you, give them a high-value treat. High-value treats can be any type of food your dog adores, from tiny morsels of chopped chicken to dog biscuits.

The main things to consider when picking a high-value treat is that your dog likes it,  it’s small and can be consumed quickly, and won't fill them up fast. As long as your dog wants to eat, you can keep their attention. This is why many professional trainers suggest scheduling training times between meals or when it’s nearly time for your dog to eat.

On the other paw, some dogs aren't food-motivated and may not respond well to treats as rewards. That's why it's important to know what motivates your dog and use it to your advantage when training. For example, some dogs prefer praise, while others love playtime.

At-home training schedule

The next commands to teach are  to come when called and to sit. From there, you can go to heelinglaying down, and loose leash walking.

Teaching a dog to walk on a leash can be tricky if your pup isn’t a natural. Teaching your dog to potty outside is another can of worms, but something you should be working on from the time you get your dog.

The key to house-training a dog is to start young and be consistent. We know “be consistent” is probably starting to sound like a broken record, but it really is key. It’s easy to start training and then fall out of practice when the dog obeys the command a few times. Abruptly stopping training exercises may cause your dog to forget the commands or just no longer regard them.

How effective is training a dog at home?

Home training a dog can be just as effective as training classes, sometimes more so, as long as you keep up with it. Practice makes perfect, and if you stick with it, your dog will get it eventually. Don’t give up!

And remember, there’s no shame in reaching out to external sources to help, but at the end of the day, the real work starts and ends at home. 

At-home dog training tips

  • Don’t make training a bore. Use a high-pitched tone, smile, and cheer your pup on while doing your exercises.

  • Switch up rewards. If you typically use treats, try letting them play with a special toy they only get when they do a command correctly.

  • Praise Fido enthusiastically. Give lots of pets, and use an encouraging and happy tone.

  • Use a clicker to mark desired behaviors — you can learn more about clicker training here

  • Have your dog walker or sitter keep up with Fido’s training while you’re away. 

  • Don’t attempt to train a sleepy dog. Only train when your pup is well-rested and energized. 

  • Set ground rules and actually stick to them. 

  • Discourage undesirable behaviors early on. 

  • Make the crate a safe place, and never use it for punishment.

  • Don’t punish your dog for doing a trick incorrectly; this will only make them resent training and likely you too. 

  • Have your pet spayed or neutered to help make them more receptive to training.

  • Pick a setting with minimal distractions when training. When your dog has a few commands under their belt, you can move to practicing commands with distractions

Finally, don’t let dog training stress you out. You and your pet will both be happier when you have some structure and ground rules in place. Don’t be afraid to call in reinforcements, whether that means an animal behaviorist or a dog trainer. Sometimes, a second opinion is all you need to get your dog on track. Most of all, practice regularly and have fun!

Book with Wag! to save money on dog training

If your dog needs to brush up on their obedience skills but you don't know where to start, consider booking an in-home dog trainer or virtual dog training session through Wag! Getting your pet to training classes multiple times a week is almost impossible with a busy household and a full-time job. Trainers on the Wag! platform take the hassle out of training and bring the training classes right to your doorstep!

Book a virtual or in-home dog trainer near you today to help your pal learn the rules of the roost!

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