I have consulted with owners who were facing problems because a dog was put in a position where something happened. Some incidents involved the dog going after someone. Some cases involved a bite. Other cases involved damage dogs did to rental property when owners were not home. In each situation the owner was told by a landlord, home owners association, animal control/law enforcement, etc., to find a trainer. In some cases once contracts were discussed the next words were “Oh that will cost too much” or “Let me discuss the costs with my spouse and I will call back.”
It is best to work to prevent problems. This means choosing a dog that is the best match for your life and choosing the best source possible. From here you start early socializing and work. Find a good trainer to help get you started on the road to prevention. No matter how much work we do, these are still dogs. Sometimes things happen which are best addressed with a professional. Now come the monetary concerns!
Before you say you cannot afford professional to help address problems, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I afford to pay increased premiums for my homeowner’s insurance?
- Can I afford to lose my homeowner’s insurance?
- Can I afford to cover all bills for injury my dog inflicts?
- Can I afford to be evicted by my landlord?
- Can I afford to be sued?
- Am I willing to risk losing my dog if something else happens?
- Are there places I can cut back to afford help?
Let me give you a couple examples. I consulted with a man who allowed his dog in a position to easily escape the property and attack a pedestrian’s leashed dog. All he was told to do by his county was adequately fence the yard and show he was working with a trainer. As soon as this was done they would lift the designation. He said it was too expensive to do either so he hired a lawyer to fight his county’s decision. The owner ended up spending almost three times in lawyer fees and court costs than he would have if he fenced the yard and worked with a trainer. The owner called me several years later and complained about the lawyer costs and how he should have fenced the yard in the first place.
Some owners take a “wait and see” approach due to the cost of a trainer. Waiting to see if the issue is grown out of can increase your cost and work. One owner let problems go for 8 years due to cost. Over those 8 years the dog caused thousands of dollars in damages to various properties. What prompted the owner to seek a trainer was the dog doing $10,000 in damage in one day to the owner’s new apartment. This was on top of thousands of dollars in damage to various homes during this time. The owner said training was too costly.
Sometimes the cost is a case of prioritizing how funds are allocated in life. I got a call from a woman needing help with vet bills. Her puppy was in a serious accident and needed surgery. She thought animal lovers would help pay for the puppy. Then she started talking about how she really needed to replace her Lexus because it was older and she wanted to buy a larger house (she lived in a very affluent area) because she felt her current home did not suit her. Also she was taking a European trip and wanted to pay in cash so she could not use the money for the puppy and… All this would mean no extra money to fix her puppy. I confirmed the story with her veterinarian. Priorities. Yes this is for vet bills but I have had people tell me dog training is too expensive and in the next breath discuss going shopping at boutiques where I know one dress often costs more than a series of group classes at a local facility.
Sometimes money truly is an issue. Owners lose jobs or are facing costly medical bills, etc. I have worked with people on seriously fixed incomes who were honestly having to choose sometimes between grocery shopping and vet bills. If money is truly tight, discuss management options with a good trainer. I would rather an owner learn to manage a situation than do nothing at all. Some owners decide to opt for a lifetime of management while others eventually move on to training. Management is a big part of any program but the dog should have some additional work for the best chance of good results.
When you get a dog, training is an expense you must consider. When you look at the big picture, a dog trainer may be cheaper than the alternatives.
Karen Peak owns West Wind Dog Training and The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project in Prince William County, VA.