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, homeowners association or animal control/law enforcement  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 get 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 a professional to help address problems, ask yourself the following:

  • 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 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 more in lawyer fees and court costs than he would have if he had fenced the yard and worked with a trainer. Some owners take a “wait and see” approach due to the cost of a trainer.

Waiting to see if the issue is outgrown can increase your cost and work. One owner let problems go for eight years due to cost. Over those 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. Sometimes the cost is a case of prioritizing how funds are allocated in life. Sometimes money truly is an issue. Owners lose jobs or are facing costly medical bills and other matters.

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. Some owners decide to opt for a lifetime of management while others move on to training. Ideally, management should not fully replace work. Management is a big part of any program, but the dog should have 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 is the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County.

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