Obedience Training with a Professional: An Investment in Your Sanity and Your Dog’s Future

Obedience training plays a strong role in how well your dog will succeed when interacting with the world around them. Teaching skills from the basic “sit” and “stay” to the more advanced “left” and “right” commands, obedience classes give your dog an understanding of what they are expected to do when various situations arise.


  • Obedience creates a mental database of reference points for your dog
  • Proper obedience training makes for a happier dog
  • You are the key to your dog’s success in training
  • Not all dogs respond to the same motivations when training

The Importance of Obedience Training

Most dog owners will tell you that the most important aspect of obedience training is to get their dog to “be good”. While obedience training can get a dog to “be good”, it’s about much more than that.

Our dogs are just like toddlers. They have been thrust into a world that generally doesn’t make sense to them. All they know is that they have needs that must be met and you are the one who meets those needs.

Unfortunately, though, our dogs “speak dog” and we “speak human”. This creates quite a problem for our dogs because while they know that you hold the key to meeting their needs, the communication barrier makes interaction with us difficult. This is where obedience training comes in.

When we put our dogs through obedience training classes, we are using positive reinforcement to enforce a connection between commands and the actions we expect them to elicit.

For example, by telling our dogs to sit at a curb, then rewarding them with a treat when they do sit, we are reinforcing the meaning of the word “sit”. Effectively, we are teaching them the English language.

Obedience Training is Also About Creating “If, Then” Reference Points

Obedience training isn’t all about communication, though. When we teach our dogs sets of obedience commands we are creating mental reference points by which they can understand the world.

For example, when we repeatedly reinforce the “sit” command at the curb, we are teaching our dogs that they must perform this action when they come to a curb. We reinforce the “Sit” command at the curb in this way to keep our dog safe from traffic.

These various commands are stored in your dog’s memory bank and can be referenced to create an understandable picture of the world in the future.

For example, should your dog get loose and come to a curb, they may not have you present to tell them to “sit”, but they have the mental reference point that you have created for them. Your loose dog will get to the curb, notice the familiar cue, and do exactly as you have trained him to do.

Even though their mental database may not have a specific reference point for every situation, your dog can rely on what he does know to get a better understanding of a situation.

When to Start Obedience Training

While most puppies can begin to grasp basic commands at 8 to 12 weeks old, formal training courses should not begin until a dog is 6 months old. There are a couple of reasons for this…

Firstly, puppies (like young children) have particularly short attention spans. This means that obedience training a very young puppy is frustrating for you and them. It also means that training has limited effectiveness because sessions must be reduced to a few minutes at a time.

Secondly, puppy classes for obedience involve a lot of socialization with other dogs. This helps puppies to become more social with other animals, but it also increases the chances of contracting and spreading disease. For this reason, it is not recommended that any puppy take obedience classes until they have received their 6-month vaccinations.

Can Older Dogs Start Obedience Training?

There is an old adage that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Older dogs are just as capable of learning new obedience commands as young dogs are.

One consideration that should be kept in mind when training older dogs, however, is physical limitations related to aging.

For example, older dogs are more prone to arthritis which may make sitting on hard surfaces more challenging. This can be worked around by making adjustments to commands. In this example, it may be easier to put an older dog straight into a “down” command rather than straining their hips with a “sit”.

Which Format of Obedience Class is Right for Your Dog?

There are various formats of obedience classes, these include puppy classes, group classes, specialty classes, one-on-one classes, in-home classes, and “boot camp” classes. Depending on your dog, one of these class formats may be more conducive to your dog’s success than another. You know your dog, so choose the class format that you feel they will be most likely to thrive with.

Puppy Class

Dog Obedience Training with a Professional Puppy Class

The traditional “puppy class” is a basic obedience class designed to teach young dogs the simplest commands. The length of classes and number of classes varies from facility to facility.

Location: These classes are usually held within a veterinary facility or a certified training school.

Class size: Varies but tend to fall between 5 to 10 owners and their puppies. The smaller the classes, the better.

Class Cost: Varies but averages around $75 to $160 for a full course of classes.


  • Classes composed of all puppies allow dogs to socialize without fear of being hurt or getting annoyed with each other.
  • This is the most affordable type of training.


  • Group classes afford less one on one time with trainers.
  • Puppies may be easily distracted by other dogs in the class.

Group Class

Dog Obedience Training with a Professional Group Class

These classes may or may not be combined with puppy classes. When run as a separate class, they function the same way as a puppy class but focus on adult and senior dogs. This allows for more focused dogs to move at a faster pace and not have to cope with hyperactive puppies with no social skills.

Location: These classes are usually held within a veterinary facility or a certified training school.

Class size: Varies but tend to fall between 5 to 10 owners and their dogs. These classes tend to be smaller than group puppy classes because fewer owners pursue adult dog training.

Class Cost: Varies but averages around $75 to $160 for a full course of classes.


  • All adult group classes allow for faster learning with fewer distractions.
  • This is the most affordable type of training.


  • Group classes afford less one on one time with trainers.
  • Even some adult dogs may be easily distracted by other dogs in the class.

Specialty Class

Dog Obedience Training with a Professional Specialty Class

Specialty obedience classes are targeted towards a special population of dogs. The most common type of specialty obedience class is one targeted to shy or anxious dogs. These classes may be group or one on one classes depending on enrollment.

Location: These classes are usually held within a veterinary facility or a certified training school.

Class size: Varies but usually limited to 1 – 5 owners and their dogs depending on the population being targeted. For example, smaller classes are best for anxious dogs because they induce less anxiety and one-on-one is preferable for aggressive dogs.

Class Cost: Varies depending on the special need of the dog, but ranges between $150 and $500 for a full course of classes.


  • Classes are targeted towards dogs with specific behavioral concerns in an effort to create behaviorally healthy and obedient dogs.
  • This is often the only way to successfully obedience train a dog with existing behavioral concerns.


  • More expensive than traditional group classes.

One-On-One Classes

Dog Obedience Training with a Professional One-On-One Classes

One-on-one classes are classes where the obedience instructor works one on one with a dog owner and their dog.

Location: These classes are usually held within a veterinary facility or a certified training school.

Class size: One.

Class Cost: Varies but ranges between $250 to $1,000 for a full course of classes.


  • One-on-one training ensures concentrated instruction for the dog for faster learning.
  • This type of training also allows for instructors and owners to spend extra time on commands that are hard for the dog to grasp.


  • These classes are expensive.
  • If a dog is in need of socialization as well as obedience, this is a poor choice.

In-Home Classes

Dog Obedience Training with a Professional In-Home Classes

In-home classes involve one-on-one instruction in the dog’s home. These classes are preferred by many dog owners who work fulltime and have limited time to attend training classes since they can be held on weekends or at night.

Location: Your home.

Class size: One.

Class Cost: Varies but averages around $250 to $600 for a full course of classes.


  • Great for those with limited time availability.
  • One-on-one instruction.


  • More expensive than group classes.
  • Little to no socialization opportunity.

“Boot Camp” Classes

Dog Obedience Training with a Professional "Boot Camp" Classes

Boot camp type classes are classes where a dog goes into boarding or stays with a trainer for a longer period, most often 4 to 8 weeks. During this time the trainer works intensively with the dog without the owner present. The owner is then invited to take part in the last week of training to learn how to initiate commands the dog has learned.

This type of class is often reserved for intensive training for job-specific skills.

For example, dogs that are to serve as guard dogs often undergo this type of training.

Depending on the type of training being done, dogs may travel across the nation or the globe to undergo these classes.

Location: These classes are usually held at a certified training school or at the home of a professional trainer.

Class size: Multiple dogs may be taking part in this type of training with the same trainer, but only one dog is “in class” at one time.

Class Cost: Varies, but usually begins at $1,500.


  • Intensive one-on-one training allows for the dog to get a better grasp of commands.
  • Dogs with job-specific needs can learn specialized commands that may not be taught elsewhere.


  • Dogs undergoing this type of training tend to bond with their trainers and it can take some adjustment for dogs to obey the same commands given by their owners.
  • This type of training is very expensive.
  • Adult dogs that are particularly attached to their owners may have anxiety with being away from home for so long.
  • Likewise, some owners have difficulty being away from their dog for so long and not having a more active role in training.

Your Responsibility When Obedience Training Your Dog

Dog Obedience Training with a Professional Your Responsibility

When it comes to training your dog, obedience classes require as much effort from you as they do from your dog. It isn’t only about showing up for classes, either. You must learn how to execute commands with your dog, how to motivate your dog to follow commands and devote time to reinforcing these commands throughout your dog’s lifetime. If you do not follow through on your commitment, your dog is not going to have a solid foundation of learning – just imagine what would happen if you only took your child to school every other day!

How to Help Your Dog Succeed in Obedience

Beyond attending classes with your dog, there are a few other things that you can do to help them to succeed in their obedience training.

  • Find your dog’s motivation and use it to increase their willingness to learn.
  • Practice obedience commands regularly outside of classes to reinforce them.
  • Be consistent with enforcing commands inside and outside of classes.
  • Know when to take a break! Just like us, your dog can get burned out and need a little to decompress through play or petting.
  • Avoid punishment and negative reinforcement when training your dog, it is ineffective and unfair.

Your Dog’s Success Depends on Your Commitment

If you are committed to obedience classes with your dog, you are setting them up for success. If you don’t intend to follow through with every class in your dog’s training schedule, however, you are creating obstacles to their success. Why make training harder when it will ultimately benefit you both?