When You Can’t Afford a Dog Trainer

By Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA

Not a week goes by when I get a call from someone dealing with a troubled dog and they hesitantly ask me: how much do you charge? And then, sadly, they tell me they can’t afford to work with me. While I do offer a sliding scale, many dog owners are living paycheck to paycheck and for a variety of reasons, they simply do not have any extra in their budget to pay for a fairly expensive behavioral consult and training session.

Photo courtesy of Tica Clarke Photography

This affects the dog living in the house most of all since most of the owners calling me are often making a hard-luck, last resort phone call. Many of the dogs have bitten dogs or humans or have begun growling at people. If the dog is not helped and helped properly, there is a very real chance that dog will be put down.

I want those dogs to have access to a peaceful life – one with lessened anxiety and fear. Most dogs (based on scientific studies) bark, bite, lunge, growl, etc. as a way of canine communication expressing anxiety, uncertainty and fear. No dog is trying to dominate humans – that is a disproven myth.

So how can you help your troubled dog without hiring a personal, professional dog trainer? Thankfully there ARE many excellent free resources.

Photo courtesy of Tica Clarke Photography

I have put together my favorite free online resources for dog owners. I do want to say one word of warning when looking up training advice online. You have to do your homework on behalf of your dog. Dog training advice – and especially harmful out-dated and simply wrong-headed “advice” even espoused by “professional” trainers exists on the internet in huge quantities. Don’t believe everything is true just because you find it via “Dr. Google.”

Dig deep and find out WHO is posting training advice. Insist that the advisor is in fact a qualified, force and fear free dog trainer or behavior expert. Be on the look out for words such as “balanced training” or “we use whatever tool is right for each dog.” These concepts sound okay but you want a trainer who is well trained in science-backed training protocols that belong to our current century. You want a trainer who will do no harm to your dog while that trainer is actually helping your dog using proven methods that never involve force, fear, pain or intimidation. This includes ANY dog training tool that comes with the words “it doesn’t hurt if you use it correctly.”

Here are some free online educational sources (and one place to purchase books and training DVDs as well) so that you CAN begin to help your dog on your own:

Behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell has a terrific blog:  www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash

Check out a one-hour plus presentation on the Science of Dog Behavior by Dr. McConnell: www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9a2xwziyj8

Behaviorist Chirag Patel has 75 free videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/DomesticatedManners

The late, truly great Dr. Sophia Yin has 183 free videos:https://www.youtube.com/user/SuperBark1

Veterinarian Dr. Ian Dunbar has many fine free videos on You Tube – here’s one to start with:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KcUx-YZsk8

Also check out Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Star Daily: www.dogstardaily.com

Psychology Professor Dr. Susan Friedman has free reading material on her website:http://www.behaviorworks.org/

Dog trainer Donna Hill has 194 free training videos on You Tube:https://www.youtube.com/user/supernaturalbc2009

Positive dog trainer Victoria Stilwell has on her website a “Positively Dog Knowledge Center” that has tons of terrific training and behavior information:   https://positively.com/

Dog trainer Michael Baugh is an elegant and wise writer. Read his thoughts on dogs here:  http://www.michaelbaugh.com/

Writer Eileen Anderson breaks down the science of dog training in every day speak: http://eileenanddogs.com/

Best place to purchase dog training books and DVDS: www.dogwise.com

I and many other force free trainers are more than happy to research and recommend qualified local trainers for dog owners searching for one and we do so for free – just ask!


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Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA is a Certified Fear Free dog trainer based in Utah. She is the author of the best selling book, The Midnight Dog Walkers: Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living with Reactive and Aggressive Dogs. She is a columnist for Dogster Magazine. Phenix is available for private of group seminars based on the protocols in her book.