What kind of dog training program is best for you?

When it comes to training your dog, there’s no one-size fits all approach. Every family has unique training goals and lifestyles, and every dog is an individual with their own personalities and quirks. Shopping for a dog trainer can be overwhelming due to how many options are available. Understanding the differences between private lessons, board and train programs, and group classes is crucial in selecting the most effective training program for you and your pup. In this blog post, we’ll explore the nuances of each option to help you make an informed decision.

Private Dog Training

First up, let’s look at private dog training. Private lessons involve one-on-one sessions between a professional dog trainer, you (the dog owner), and your dog. Even among private training, there may be some differences in services depending on who you hire. Some trainers teach private lessons out of a training facility, while others offer in-home training where the trainer travels to your home. Sometimes trainers will even meet you out in public for lessons so that you can learn and practice in settings where you’d like to be able to take your dog on outings.

Why Is Private Dog Training Better?

  • Personalized Attention: Private lessons offer personalized attention tailored to your dog’s specific needs and your training goals. Since every dog is an individual, your trainer can give you advice that is suited specifically to your dog’s learning style and can ensure you’re doing everything correctly every step of the way. 
  • Convenience: Since private lessons are scheduled just for you, there’s much more flexibility in being able to make the lesson times work for you. If your trainer offers in-home lessons, you also don’t need to worry about traveling to and from your lessons. Both of these factors make private lessons ideal for busy dog owners who may have tight schedules. 
  • Customized Training Plans: Your trainer can create custom training plans that align with your lifestyle, schedule, and your dog’s learning pace and temperament. Unlike group classes, you won’t need to spend time learning something that your dog may already know or not benefit from, which gives you a more efficient training option. 
  • Home Environment: If you opt for a training program that offers in-home lessons, your dog will likely learn quicker since they’ll be able to learn where they are the most comfortable. This also gives the trainer the ability to address behavioral issues directly where they occur.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Private Lessons?

While private lessons have many benefits, it’s important to understand that the dog trainer’s job in a private lesson is to teach you (the dog owner) how to train, work with, and live with your dog. This means that while a good trainer will work directly with your dog during the session, their goal is to teach you how to teach your dog. You'll then have to practice what you learned in the lesson in order for your dog’s behavior to change or their obedience to get stronger. In private lessons, a good amount of your dog’s training will be done by you. For dog owners who want to learn how to better understand and work with their dogs, this is a huge benefit. However, if you have an incredibly busy schedule that doesn’t allow you time to work with your dog regularly or if you don’t want to be an active member of your dog’s progress, private lessons may not be the ideal choice for you. 

How Much Does Private Dog Training Cost?

When shopping for private lessons, you’ll find a wide range in pricing available. There are several things that factor into the price of a private lesson, and it’s important to consider these factors before committing to the cheapest option you find. Here’s what to consider when price shopping: 

  • Location: Lessons at a facility are often less expensive than in-home lessons because the trainer doesn’t need to spend the time or gas traveling to your house. They can also schedule more lessons in a day since they don’t have to spend time traveling themselves. However, if your dog struggles with being easily distracted, in-home lessons may give you better results and be worth the extra cost. 
  • Experience: In the United States there is no regulation of the dog training industry, which means that anyone can call themselves a dog trainer regardless of their skill set, professionalism, education, or experience level. Now, this isn’t to say that all inexpensive trainers aren't worth your money. Just like with any skill, we all start somewhere. Often newer trainers to the industry will have more affordable lessons, and they may have great obedience training options. However, they may not have many years of experience with more severe behavioral issues. For many dogs this may not matter, but if you’re dealing with reactivity, aggression, resource guarding, anxiety or other behavior concerns, a more experienced trainer may be better suited to fit your needs. Often with more experience or a higher skill set, trainers can solve your problems faster and more efficiently… which might just end up saving you money in the long run even if a single lesson is more expensive than someone else’s. 
  • Other factors: If your trainer is fully insured or bonded, has certifications or takes continuing education courses they’ll often need to factor these costs of business into their pricing.

Board and Train

Board and train programs involve sending your dog to stay with a professional dog trainer for an extended period of time. Among board and trains, there are two different options that are important to decide between - board and trains where your dog would stay at a training facility, or board and trains where your dog would stay in a trainer’s personal home and live with them as one of their own dogs. Board and train options range in duration, but usually entail your dog staying for anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending on how in-depth the training program is. Although most board and trains require your dog to be gone for the duration of their stay, programs that allow your dog to come home on weekends are becoming more popular. 

Board and trains are usually used for intensive training programs. Dogs in board and train programs receive more one-on-one attention from their trainer than in any other training option. This allows your dog to learn faster and make a significant amount of progress in a shorter period of time since they are being taught entirely by a professional dog trainer. Board and trains are often used for more complex training goals, whether that be advanced levels of obedience or tackling serious behavior problems. 

Usually board and trains are the most expensive type of training program, and rightfully so. Your trainer will be your dog’s primary caregiver, sole companion, and playmate on top of being their trainer. They’ll need to spend a significant amount of time with your dog, not just training them but also taking them out to potty, exercising them, and feeding them. This limits the time they can spend with other dogs or human clients. It’s a 24/7 job, they aren’t able to just leave at 5pm and ignore your dog until business hours the next day.

There are two scenarios where I usually recommend a board and train over private lessons

  1. In cases where the dog struggles with severe anxiety, fearful behavior, resource guarding or aggression. In these cases, being away from home can have the benefit of acting as a “reset”. Think of board and trains (at least the good ones) like sending your dog to a rehabilitation center. A professional trainer will be able to help your dog overcome the things they’re struggling with and give your dog the attention needed to do so.
  2. In cases where your schedule or preferences prevent you from practicing regularly with your dog. Even if your dog doesn’t have severe behavioral concerns, your dog will need consistent practice to grow their skills. If you have a busy schedule that prevents you from practicing, or if you just prefer not to, board and trains are a great way to let the trainer take on the bulk of the workload. 

Staying successful after the board and train is over

A good board and train program will include private lessons after sending your dog home. These private lessons will teach you how to transfer your dog’s skills from the trainer’s house to your household, and will teach you how to maintain those new habits and behaviors. Without private lessons, it’s likely that your dog will go back to their old ways as soon as they come home, so make sure any board and train you consider includes private lessons in your program.

Dog Day Training

Day Training is a lesser known option that is beginning to become more popular. Day Training provides your dog with a more comprehensive training program than private lessons alone without needing to send them away for a board and train. 

Every trainer’s day-training options may differ slightly, but day training typically consists of your dog getting one-on-one time with a trainer while you’re at work, running errands, or doing whatever it is that you need to do. There's quite a range of different options when it comes to day training, and it’s impossible to sum up all the variations in a blog post, so instead I’ll give you the example of how I run my day-train options here at Cape Canine Academy.

Within my service area (which I’m lucky enough to have be beautiful Cape Cod, MA) I offer in-home day-training, or a homeschool option as we often call it. I travel to my clients homes once a day, three to four days a week, and work with their dog on whatever skills are needed to reach their goals. Then at the end of the week I meet with the owners to do a private lesson so that I can teach the owners how to do everything their dog learned throughout the week. I also start everyone off with an initial private lesson before the day-training begins, and another a week after it ends to make sure everything is going smoothly. We may do two or three weeks of day-trains depending on how in depth your goals are. This allows me to make a significant amount of progress with the dog in a shorter amount of time, because I can focus solely on training the dog while I’m there instead of dividing my attention between training the dog and teaching the owners. This way when we’re doing a private lesson, your dog already knows the skills and you get to do much less work yourself. This schedule also allows us trainers to get to know your dog much better than private lessons alone, which helps us give even better personalized advice.

Group Dog Training Classes

Group classes involve multiple dogs (and their owners) attending training classes together. There are many types of classes that exist, from basic obedience and puppy classes to more specialized classes like agility, nosework or rally. 


  • Cost: Since the trainer can sign up several clients for the same block of time, group classes are usually the most economical option for training. 
  • Socialization: Group settings provide your dog with the opportunity to learn how to interact (or ignore) other dogs and people in a controlled environment. 
  • Distraction Training: Training among distractions can be a significant advantage of group classes if your dog is ready and able to be successful. 
  • Community Building: Attending group classes with other like-minded dog owners in your area can allow you to connect with others who share similar experiences and challenges, fostering a sense of community and support. 


  • Distraction Training: As mentioned above, if your dog is ready and able to be successful, learning to work around distractions can be great. However, learning new skills around distractions can be difficult for many dogs and prevent you from making progress. 
  • Cookie Cutter Training Programs: Because group classes are meant to provide a large group of people with a training plan, you don’t have the option to pick and choose what you do or don’t want to work on or learn. This may mean that you don’t get to touch on a skill your dog needs, or that you spend a significant amount of time practicing things your dog already does well. 

Having spent years offering group classes as well as private lessons and board and trains, I find that many people benefit from group classes the most after having already taken private lessons, particularly if they are new to training their dog or if the dog is easily distracted by dogs, people or smells. Private lessons (or a board and train, since privates should be included) will provide you with the skills necessary to help your dog navigate the distractions present in a group class and be able to focus. Once your dog can focus and be successful, then group classes provide the opportunity to strengthen their obedience farther by allowing them to practice in a more difficult environment. 

As you navigate the world of dog training, it’s essential to recognize that there’s no perfect solution that fits everyone’s goals and needs. Whether you opt for the personalized attention of private lessons, the intensive training of a board and train program, or the socialization benefits of group classes, the most crucial aspect is choosing a program that aligns with your dog’s needs and your lifestyle. By understanding the differences between these training options and considering factors such as your dog’s temperament, behavior issues, and your schedule, you can make an educated decision that sets you both up for success. Ultimately, the goal of any training program is to support your dog in learning the skills and behaviors necessary to live happily and cohesively with you in your day to day life.

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