Virtual dog training vs in-person dog training training: which one is more effective?
Given the way things are going, we’re all looking for ways to avoid in-person interactions as much as possible.
Could dog training classes be one of those things we can do online instead of up-close and personal?
The answer depends on the situation!
Read on to find out when it’s a good alternative and when in-person really is the best way to go.
Virtual Dog Training vs. In-Person Training at a Glance
Before we dive into all the pros, cons and what not, take a look at this handy table for a quick overview.
|Biggest Pro||No exposure risk||Have trainers’ full attention|
|Other Pro||Very flexible||Trainer can “read” dog better|
|Biggest Con||Need reliable connection||Less flexible|
|Other Con||Hard to read body language||More expensive|
|Best for…||Simple issues, new puppy orientation||Almost all issues, including behavioral.|
|Not good for…||Aggression and complex issues||Socialization|
Virtual Dog Training Vs. In-Person Training: Pros and Cons of Each
While this is a common question among many friends lately, this article was actually inspired by this Reddit post.
The easiest way to get you the answer you’re looking for is to break down the pros and cons of each.
We’ll also talk about what each one is most effective for, and we’ll look at the general costs of each since budget plays a role in making your decision.
Since you’re considering virtual options, we’ll start there!
Virtual Dog Training
First, it’s probably a good idea to make sure we’re on the same page when we say “virtual dog training.”
So, let’s start by discussing what it entails.
What does virtual dog training entail?
Virtual dog training doesn’t mean “watch a bunch of YouTube training videos and totally DIY it.”
Sure, that can work for some things- like very basic commands or reinforcing skills your dog already learned.
Virtual training is completely different because you’re actually connecting with an expert.
You’ll have access to all of their experience and wisdom…just not in person.
Let’s look at the pros and cons. I think they’ll give you a clearer picture of what you can expect from virtual dog training.
We’ll do this bullet-point style first, then I’ll explain some of the less obvious ones.
- Start training right away, even if puppy isn’t fully vaccinated.
- Access to a professional trainer but from the comfort of your own home.
- More flexibility in scheduling.
- Train your dog in a familiar environment.
- Your dog may be in a less “reactive” state.
- Saves in more ways than just the training fees.
The first three are pretty self-explanatory, so let’s talk a bit more about the others.
Training in a familiar environment is good for a reactive dog
If you have a reactive dog that gets a bit bonkers around new people or in strange places, virtual dog training can be a wonderful tool.
He’s in his familiar environment, he’s relaxed, and he’s generally just more ready to absorb information.
Home training- be it virtual or in-person- also helps ensure that your dog actually follow your commands in his normal environment.
Does that make sense? Let me try an example, in case it doesn’t.
My friend’s dog was an A student in training class. He followed commands perfectly in that dog park field.
At home, though, he ignored every command she gave him.
He just didn’t make the connection that he’s supposed to sit, stay, and come in other places, too.
This is why dog trainers give you homework, to help reinforce commands at home.
With virtual dog training, you’re basically cutting out the homework!
However, that’s also a con, as you’ll see below, since your dog isn’t learning to listen to you in situations outside the home.
So, if you plan to take him out and about with you, make sure you reinforce lessons in different environments.
Saves in more ways than just training costs
We’ll compare virtual dog training vs. in-person training later on to see which is cheaper overall.
However, there are some areas where it definitely saves you money!
First, you don’t need to pay for gas to go to and from lessons. Depending on how far the nearest class is, this can add up to quite a bit of savings.
It also saves you some wear and tear on your car. Again, how much depends entirely on how far you have to drive.
Plus, if you’re like me and prone to panicking about literally everything, virtual dog training may help save your sanity.
I couldn’t do in-person training with my dog because I’d be terrified that she’d get loose and run away.
Freya is very tuned in to my emotions. When I’m anxious, she’s anxious. Virtual dog training is just a lot more relaxing for both of us.
As great an option as it is, though, there are cons. Let’s discuss them.
- Some issues may be too complex to deal with online.
- Harder for trainer to see your dog’s body language.
- Harder for the trainer to see YOUR body language with your dog.
- You need a very reliable internet connection.
- Not good for socialization.
- Your dog doesn’t learn to listen to you outside the home.
Not a good fit for complex issues
“In certain cases with certain dogs, while trying to address very particular lessons or issues, it can be an effective tool, but it can also quickly morph into a problem scenario.Advertisement
Stillwell goes on to explain that a client might hire a trainer to help them “fix” one issue, only to discover that there are more complex issues at play.
Harder to see body language cues from you and your dog
In-person trainers do much more than just teach you how to give your dog commands.
They actually spend time watching how you and your dog interact, both during and outside of training.
For example, if you have a trainer come to your home, they may engage in a bit of small talk before getting into the lesson.
This small talk isn’t a ploy to eat up your time; they’re actually paying attention to how you and your dog behave around each other.
A virtual trainer just can’t get the full sense of your relationship with Fido through a Zoom session.
Completely reliant on technology
Obviously, you also need a reliable internet connection.
I love technology. It’s made it possible for me to make a living at home as a single mom.
However, let’s be honest; it’s not the most reliable thing in the world.
The more advanced it gets, the more often it seems to break down!
If you don’t have a stellar connection, talk to the trainer to find out what their policy is for those types of situations.
If you have one that drops out or is too slow, you could end up paying for time that you don’t even get to use!
When is it the best option?
Based on the pros and cons, I think we can see when virtual dog training is the best option versus when it isn’t.
Let me break it down, though. I’d use virtual training for things like:
- Very basic commands, such as sit, stay, come, down, and so on.
- Preparing your home for a new puppy.
- Dealing with common puppy behaviors, like biting and chewing.
- Tips and strategies for how to exercise your dog at home.
- Teaching your dog to walk nice on a leash.
- Strategies for caring for a senior dog (please consult a vet first, though).
I didn’t just pull that list out of thin air, it’s based on what some of the most reputable online trainers offer.
Also, it’s important to note that virtual dog training is the best option in these cases ONLY if you’re dealing with a dog without any major behavioral issues.
Other Things to Consider
If you decide that virtual dog training is the right option for you, please do your research before committing to a trainer.
Yes, you should always do that regardless of what type of training you do.
However, since it’s just too easy to get duped online, you really need to go above and beyond in your research.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and/or the trainer.
- What type training strategies do they use? (I only use positive training methods with my dog).
- What are their qualifications? Do they display them on their site?
- How do they conduct lessons? Zoom? Facetime? Another platform?
- Do they show testimonials in a way that makes you confident they came from actual people and aren’t just fake reviews?
- Do they offer a free or deeply discounted consultation before you commit to a full class?
- Are their prices comparable to others you’ve looked into? (FYI, significantly cheaper is just as much a red flag as significantly more expensive).
Basically, just really dig around their website. Then, search for their name + reviews, as well as their name + scam.
For example, “XYZ Virtual training reviews,” or “Is XYZ training a scam?”
Okay, we have a pretty good idea of the pros and cons of virtual dog training. Now let’s dive into in-person options.
In-Person Dog Training
In-person dog training includes everything from group classes to one-on-one sessions at the facility to home dog training.
So, what it entails depends entirely on which option you choose.
However, since virtual dog training is primarily a one-on-one thing done at your home, let’s hone in on that option with in-person home dog training.
That way, it’s less an apples to oranges and more apples to apples comparison, so to speak.
What does in-person home dog training entail?
Obvious, with this option, the trainer comes to you rather than you going to them.
They’ll spend some time getting to know you, see how you interact with your pup, and really just learn as much as they can about the problem.
Then, they’ll come up with the best plan to tackle the issue and work with both you and your dog to fix it.
Typically, a session lasts about 30-45 minutes, which includes time spent talking to you.
That may not sound like enough time, but remember, dogs can only really focus on training for about 10-20 minutes at a time.
- You’ll have the trainers’ full attention.
- Easier to see and interpret body language cues in person.
- Can deal with more complex issues than virtual training.
- Fairly flexible, at least compared to classes.
- Start training right away, even if pup isn’t fully vaccinated.
- Train your dog in a familiar environment.
- Easier for you to research the trainer.
As you can see, quite a few of the pros of in-person home dog training line up with those of virtual dog training.
While this option may not be quite as flexible as online options, it’s still more so than classes.
Both at-home options let you start training right away, even if your puppy isn’t fully vaccinated.
Let’s look at some of the other pros in a bit more detail.
Deal with more complex issues
You’ll get the same benefits of training your dog in a familiar environment, too.
However, in this case, the trainer can actually see up close how you and your dog interact.
She can also get a better picture of your dog’s body language cues.
Plus, if it turns out that your dog is dealing with more complex issues than you originally through, it’s easier for an in-person trainer to adapt your plan.
Easier to research an in-person trainer
Last, researching an in-person dog trainer is just a bit easier than researching a virtual option.
If I want to know whether a trainer is reputable in my area, I can ask friends, family, and even my vet.
I can also look at local reviews, reach out to Facebook groups, and so much more.
With virtual trainers, sure I can look up reviews, but without actually talking to the person giving it, how do I know they’re real?
I just feel like I can get a better overall sense of a trainer’s style and personality in person.
- Puts you at a higher risk of exposure to illnesses
- While somewhat flexible, not quite as much as online training.
- Can be more expensive.
- Not as good for socialization as classes.
- Your dog doesn’t learn to listen to you outside the home.
As far as cons go, there are two that really stand out.
First, given the current events throughout the world, in-person training puts you at a higher risk of contracting a serious illness.
If you’re immune-compromised, even in the best of times it may be safer to do as much online as possible, including dog training.
The other con is, of course, the price. In-home dog training isn’t cheap. We’ll get into that in a moment.
Of course, if you do decide to do in-person training at home, you will save on gas money and what not! So there’s that!
When is it the best option?
Honestly, if you can afford it, there really aren’t many situations where one-on-one in-person home dog training isn’t the best option.
The only time I’d choose classes over home lessons is if you want to socialize your puppy.
In that situation, classes are the best way to go, period.
Specifically though, I’d use this option for all of the situations that are best for virtual dog training, plus
- Complex behavior issues and aggressive dogs
- Highly reactive dogs
- Stubborn dogs who need more work with basic commands.
- Situations where you’re just not sure of the underlying cause.
Before I bottom-line this whole 2,600+ word article for you, let’s quickly go over the costs of each and see which is cheaper.
Virtual Dog Training Vs. In-Person Training Fees: Which is Cheaper?
As with all dog training classes, the actual fees vary significantly depending on the trainer, the situation, and even where you live.
According to Home Guide, the national average for dog training costs is $50 per hour.
It’s important to note that they arrived at that number by averaging out the high and low ALL options combined.
For our purposes, I looked costs from a few different virtual trainers and in-home trainers to come up with a rough comparison.
Take a look at the table for an “average” run down, then read on for more details and factors that play a role in cost.
While we didn’t talk about it here, I am also adding a column for the cost of obedience training classes (versus one-on-one).
That way, you can compare the cost of all of your major options. Prices are per hour.
Also, before you think, “wow, her math stinks,” the “average” is not between the high and low, but rather the national average based on my price research.
*Classes typically charge by the course rather than by the hour.
I divided that cost by number of weeks (usually 6) to get a rough hourly fee.
How much does virtual dog training cost?
Cold Nose College, a really stellar and highly accredited virtual dog trainer charges. between $45-55 for 30 minutes and about $90-100 for an hour.
They’re actually one of the few that I feel comfortable recommending, as they have multiple trainers with a crazy-long list of credentials.
Their prices are pretty much on par with other options that I looked at. So, let’s go with $90 an hour.
Now, let’s look at the cost of in-person home dog training.
How much does in-person home dog training cost?
While virtual training costs are pretty much the same whether you live in Pennsylvania or California, in-person costs are highly dependent on your location.
I used Thumbtack to look at a few different places to get an idea of what we’re looking at.
In my area in Pennsylvania, I can expect to pay between $100-135 an hour for someone to come to my home, and I only have two options.
In New York City, there’s a bit more competition.
So, even though the overall cost of living is more expensive there, the rates for in-person dog training are actually cheaper.
Costs there range from $50-99 per hour.
All the way across the continent in California, I typed in the only zip code I know (90210, of course).
Their prices range from $75-250 an hour!
If we go with $100 as our average, it’s pretty much the same as virtual dog training, meaning one isn’t necessarily cheaper than the other.
However, keep in mind that your options may be even more limited than mine.
Bottom line: Which is the Better Option?
Don’t hate me, but honestly I can’t tell you which is the better option.
I laid out all of the pros, cons and considerations so you could make the right choice for your dog, but I can’t give you the answer.
I do personally think in-person training is better for the really tough cases, but beyond that, it really just depends on what you’re most comfortable with.
Whichever you choose, just make sure you do your research and make sure they’re a legitimate and accredited trainer.