Online Dog Training Courses: These Are The Ones To Buy


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So, you’ve got a new puppy or maybe a new adult rescue dog, and now you need a good, quality online dog training system to train your dog. Whether your dog is a puppy, adolescent, or senior, I’ve got you covered on the best dog training courses to train any dog on any budget. 

When comparing dog training courses, the best overall pick was Brain Training For Dogs, which compares equally well to the other courses on content, features, and instructional quality but at a substantial discount. Top Dog and Pupford Academies are good choices if you prefer subscription-based programs.   

When training a dog using an online program, the training should be easy to follow with not much room for guessing. So, I looked at half a dozen different online training programs with various features and purchased five programs to find the best tools for you and your dog.

Finally, I narrowed it down to the top three courses based on specific selection criteria, and I included my recommendation based on overall content, features, and price. 

Online Dog Training Selection Criteria

Dog training courses can have different features depending on the design and presentation formats they have chosen. However, all programs should have specific core elements to provide the best instructional design and value possible.

The core features are “must-haves,” whereas other features fall into the “nice to have.” 

I use training techniques from all the programs I buy, which allows me to assess the effectiveness of each system. However, training is fluid, and I can only recommend a program if I test drive it by using it with my dog.

Bailey (my Golden Retriever) responds to some methods better than others, as do I. Assessing a program can be a lot of work, but I enjoy it. 

Must-Have Features

Science-Based, Force-Free Methods

Choose training instruction that advocates positive reward-based training. If the training advocates punishment or laying our hands on your dog (e.g., alpha rolls), then move on. Dominance theory has widely been disproven by science, and most reputable dog organizations do not advocate it.

Comprehensive Library

A program that covers as many areas as possible and offers training instruction through all stages of a dog’s life is beneficial. Your training needs may differ based on your dog’s life stage or a specific training issue, such as dealing with a behavioral problem.

So, the best value programs include instructional training for multiple areas such as training puppies, adults, basic obedience, behavior problems, etc. 

Must Deal With Problem Behaviors

Puppies play bite; older dogs chew; they jump up on guests and tables and do other stuff they shouldn’t. So how to deal with it? You want training guidance for all issues or, at the very least, as many as possible.

Price

Most of us just want to teach our dogs the basics and possibly some cool tricks. So, for most dog owners, their goal is a well-behaved dog that listens and is obedient.

With that in mind, the best courses should be reasonably priced while providing quality instruction so as many people as possible can train their dogs to be good canine citizens. 

Nice To Have Features

Video and Text-Based

Ideally, there should be a mix of video and text. Each has its purpose and best use.

For example, video-based instruction helps identify nuances that otherwise might not be easily discerned. On the other hand, text-based education is often better in sequentially providing step-by-step instruction, especially for more straightforward training such as basic skills.

Forum

A forum to discuss training with others is helpful. A significant feature of a good forum is posting questions and having qualified trainers respond with strategies and tips.

This feature could easily rate as a must-have depending on whether trainers are addressing questions personally and the quality of the responses to questions. 

My Top Picks

I’ve collected a great list of dog training programs, so let’s dive into the best options.

CoursesWhat I Loved About ItPrice
Brain Training For Dogs
Best overall training system
Best course if on a budget
– great forum
– trainer answers all questions
– least expensive program
– ongoing case studies section
$47 one-time payment
(Lifetime access)
Top Dog Academy
Largest training library
– most complete program
– live webinars and Q&As 
– includes all historical content
– legendary trainer
$20 monthly or $150 annually 
Pupford Academy
Best production and design
– unique content
– amazing dashboard
– high production value
– iOS/Android app
$9.99 monthly
$39.97 for six months
$199.99-lifetime access

Best Overall Dog Training System  

Brain Training For Dogs (My Recommendation)

Science-Based Force-Free MethodsComprehensive Training LibraryBehavioral Problem CompendiumMulti-format Training InstructionForum 
YesYes – Large YesYes – video and text-based Yes

This dog training program is one of the best instructional systems out there.

No, it’s not as flashy as some others, but its basic design does not mean it’s not good or effective. The dashboard or member’s area is pretty simple, yet the dropdown menus make the site relatively easy to navigate.

The videos do not have the same production value as the other programs I discuss, but they are still very good (there is a sample video provided later on). Still, for this price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a training program with this quality of instruction and one that is this comprehensive.

The training library covers everything you need to train your dog through ALL life stages. Instructional content covers basic menu categories such as Dog Training & Courses (including Brain Training For Dogs, Obedience 101, and Polishing Up Training), Puppy Training, Behavioral Problems, Adrienne’s Archives (video and articles), Case Studies, and the Forum.

Each training category contains multiple levels, and each level has various courses, so there are hundreds of instructional tools. I recommend starting with the Brain Training For Dogs course and working through all the modules.

Straightforward members area: dropdown menus guide you to content

Name a behavioral issue, and chances are you’ll find some content offering a solution – the training archive is enormous. For example, there are even courses on dog psychology, understanding a dog’s body language, and senior dogs. 

This program also features the best forum, and this feature is HUGE. Inevitably you will encounter some issues that are not covered within normal training parameters, and access to a trainer is a must. 

Some of the other programs have private Facebook groups, but I find those are lacking. Typically, the responses in those are minimal and sparse.

In contrast, all questions on the Brain Training forum are answered by the trainer and developer of the program, Adrienne Farricelli, and her responses are amazingly in-depth. 

For example, my dog runs up and barks at the TV. I posted a question on the forum on how to deal with this, and Adrienne Farricelli responded the next day with a 2300-word response detailing strategies on how to deal with this.

In addition, she included links to videos and other learning articles in her archives. Responses of this nature from Adrienne are the norm, not the exception – she cares and loves what she does, and it shows. 

Those features alone make this a great program choice, and she could easily charge double for her system, and it would be well worth the price (and it would still be far less expensive than other programs).

But what about the instructional content? After all, without great instructional content, a program is all form and no function.

Fear not because the instructional content is excellent. Courses are taught in a multi-format approach using module-based, “level by level,” and step-by-step breakdowns.

Some lessons use easy-to-follow text-based explanations of methods with good quality images. Other lessons come in problem/solution style text and video to help diagnose and fix your dog’s problem behaviors or teach tricks and games. Either way, the instruction is detailed and easy to learn and follow. 

The “brain training” module follows after the basic obedience module (Obedience 101). The intent is that once your dog learns (or already knows) basic obedience skills, then the brain games support those skills by increasing your dog’s intelligence. And a more intelligent dog is better behaved and more obedient.

The video below shows Adrienne demonstrating some of the games you will teach your dog. It also gives you an idea of the video quality.

Puppies and adults start in “preschool,” which teaches basic skills that help in later levels and life. After that, each level gets progressively more challenging.

For example, the game “Jazz Up and Settle Down” helps teach your dog to calm down. 

My dog Bailey loves these training sessions because the games are fun yet challenging, and it increases our bonding time. Bailey has completed the obedience module and is currently in the “high school” section of Brain Training and is doing wonderfully.

And, yes, they work. Since working through the system, Bailey has been much calmer, obedient, and better behaved.

Another great feature is the search box. There is so much content that I often use the search box for quickly finding issues such as jumping or how to cut my dog’s nails.

Another of my favorite features is the case studies where Adrienne deals with problem behaviors. Adrienne shows how she assesses the dog and then teaches alternate behaviors – case studies are conducted using both video and text.  

Ongoing cases studies are an excellent feature

The amount of information she provides for $47 is staggering. Chances are if you have a training issue, there is course content on how to deal with it. If not, then post a question in the forum.

And new content is continually being added to an ever-growing library, so you get lifetime access to new content as it’s added. 

Speaking of Adrienne, she holds dual certification in dog training. In 2010, after undergoing more than 200 hours of apprenticeship under a master dog trainer, she became certified by the Italian Association for Dog Trainers and Canine Consultants.

She later obtained certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA®) in the United States. She is science-based and force-free and has been published in numerous blogs and articles. 

Check out the program here: Brain Training For Dogs

Largest Training Library   

Dunbar’s Top Dog Academy

Science-Based Force-Free MethodsComprehensive Training LibraryBehavioral Problem CompendiumMulti-format Training InstructionForum 
YesYes – Immense YesYes – video, text, and audio  No – private Facebook group

Ian Dunbar is a legend in dog training. Not only is Ian a dog trainer, but a veterinarian and animal behaviorist. The word dog training is nearly synonymous with Ian Dunbar.

Ian Dunbar has taught thousands of courses, workshops, and seminars for 35 years. He has also published numerous books on dog training. Ian Dunbar’s 35 years in the industry means his Top Dog Academy is easily the most comprehensive on the web, with a rich historical background. 

Top Dog Academy has the most extensive online dog training library by far. The amount of instruction is mind-boggling – no other program I have researched compares to Top Dog Academy in sheer content.

Courses are taught using a combination of text, audio, and video formats. 

You get 100s of hours of videos and hours of dog training podcasts, dozens of recorded seminars and workshops, and multiple dog training handouts and worksheets. You also get copies of Dr. Ian Dunbar’s published books in digital or audiobook format. 

There are even courses for dog trainers and veterinarians.

Frankly, there may be too much content for the average pet owner. I found all the content overwhelming at times.

That being said, if you are someone who likes videos with almost all of your instruction or wants to be guided slowly in a very detailed step-by-step manner and have access to massive content, then this academy is for you.

For example, do you have a puppy to train? Then you can choose between two courses, Essential Puppy Training with 113 lessons or Puppy Training with 96 lessons. The Essential Puppy Training course is the newest addition, but both are excellent and video-based.

Courses are comprehensive and detailed. For example, the Essential Puppy course has 113 lessons

The program does not have a forum like Brain Training; instead, they have a private Facebook Group with professional dog trainers and the Dunbars (Ian, Kelly, and Jamie) answering questions. They also have periodic live webinars and Q+A sessions that allow you to ask the Dunbars your dog behavior and training questions in real time. 

A very nice feature is that much of the text-based instruction is supplemented with videos to show a particular skill. Top Dog Academy easily has more video content than any course I have reviewed, and the videos, especially with the newer content, are high level.

However, some of the older content seems a bit dated in some areas. While it is nice to get historical content from the past 35 years, and while it may be effective, those lessons just seem outdated.

However, the library is ever-growing and updated to keep up with emerging science-based methods. You just have to search the library for the newer course content.

Another handy feature is the Behavior Problem Compendium, which has access to 193 lessons on the most common dog behavior problems.

All the courses are listed in your dashboard, and you can see an overview of the courses offered or click “start course” to begin. When you start a course, the content is listed in a top-down design similar to a table of contents, and your work through the course sequentially.

Your progress is also tracked in your dashboard, so you always know how much of the course has been completed. Very well organized, good quality, and easy to use. 

The program is a bit more expensive at $20.00 per month (you can cancel at any time) or $150 annually. I canceled my monthly subscription to Top Dog Academy because Brain Training was all I needed for training my dog.

However, suppose you’re looking for a great system with an immense training library and amazingly detailed step-by-step instruction with a well-organized and easy-to-use dashboard. In that case, I recommend you check out the program.

Check out the program here: Top Dog Academy, and get your first month for free.

Best Production and Design 

Pupford Academy

Science-Based Force-Free MethodsComprehensive Training LibraryBehavioral Problem CompendiumMulti-format Training InstructionForum 
YesYes – Medium YesYes – video and text, mobile app No

Pupford Training Academy is a beautifully designed program from top to bottom, but it does lack the comprehensiveness of content found in Top Dog Academy and Brain Training For Dogs. As such, it’s my number three pick.

However, in its defense, it is relatively new, and content is continually being added. And, Pupford does have some unique content not found elsewhere, such as dock diving and driving with a dog.

A nice feature of Pupford is the merging of many disciplines, so you’ll find courses from CPDT-KA certified trainers, veterinarians, and animal nutritionists. For example, they have courses on Dog First Aid and Basic and Advance Puppy Nutrition.

Like the other programs, Pupford trainers use positive reinforcement and science-based techniques to help you train your dog safely, effectively, and humanely. They never recommend e-collars, choke chains, spray bottles, yelling at your dog, or using force.

And, similar to the other programs discussed, the courses are taught in multi-format.

Some of the courses are taught using videos. Each video has a video recap in text, and many courses also come with a Definitions of Important Words section listing essential training words or concepts. In addition, you often get PDF cheat sheets you can download to take with you. 

For example, the Dock Diving course (a bonus course) had a gorgeous 7-minute video, a text-based video recap, and a seven-page downloadable PDF to take with you to the dock (the PDFs have high production value like the videos – they look like brochures).

Most of the courses are taught using text-based step-by-step instruction with GIFs to help visualize the techniques. However, I found the GIFs odd and often hard to follow with their jerky movements, and they often would make me dizzy. Plus, the GIFs really do not add any more value than good images.

However, I like their mobile app. It’s nice to access all the instructional material using your phone. The app is something unique to only this program and well-designed.

The Pupford mobile app is pretty slick and handy

However, a potential drawback is that Pupford does not have a forum or area where you can get input from trainers directly. Therefore, if you run into an issue that is not taught, that could be a limitation. 

The instruction is excellent, and the video quality is top-notch. Having the brand of Pupford behind this academy ensures the money is there to produce top-notch quality products, and it shows.

The production quality of the member’s area, dashboard, and videos is seriously high level and the BEST of any program I’ve seen, although Top Dog Academy is close behind. 

One of the best features of Pupford is its dashboard. The dashboard makes finding a training area or course a breeze. Once you find a training course you’re interested in, then working through the course is logical and well developed.

Each class is broken into a streamlined, sequential level-by-level format. Once you click on a course, you are given “blocks” of modules that you work through progressively. The percentage of the course completed is displayed on your dashboard, so you always know how you are progressing.

The dashboard and the course layout are slick, and it is equally fantastic in the app.

At $9.99 per month, it is about half the price of Top Dog Academy, but it has far less content than Top Dog Academy or Brain Training. Pupford also offers a semi-annual membership for $39.99, or you can purchase a lifetime membership for $199.99.

However, as I did with Top Dog Academy, I canceled my monthly subscription. I could not justify spending $10 per month when I already had a complete system in Brain Training with lifetime access for $47.

However, this may be a great option if you prefer high production value, unique content, a great app, and a seamless and slick dashboard area. 

Check out the program here: Pupford Academy

Other Dog Training Courses I Considered

I purchased two other courses, but they did not make the grade. It was not because the instruction wasn’t top-notch, but rather because it did not offer the same value as the top three picks. 

I also considered Doggy Dan, but it did not make it to the purchasing round for reasons I’ll outline later in the article.

Spirit Dog Training

I purchased Spirit Dog Training’s Fabulous Focus Bundle for $99.00. That bundle included the Calm Down and Reactivity core courses and nine bonus mini-courses such as Goodbye Leash Pulling and Hyperactivity Helper. 

The dashboard and course layout are very good, and like Brain Training, it is more focused on function than form (i.e., it is more straightforward and less flashy). The purchased courses are listed in your course dashboard, starting with core courses and then bonuses.

Each core course is broken into numerous lessons, and each lesson is further broken down into specific instructional exercises using video instruction. You work through the course lesson by lesson, e.g., lesson 1, then 2, and so forth.

The dashboard keeps track of your progress, and there are quizzes (a nice feature) to test your knowledge, although the questions are quite easy. Upon completion of a course, you get a certificate as well.

The core courses are taught with videos, the instruction is excellent, and the video content is above average. Mini-courses are primarily text-based. 

Steffi Trott and her trainers are fantastic and are science-based and force-free like the other programs. 

There is no forum, but you can post questions under each lesson. A professional dog trainer will respond to your question, usually within a day.

That feature is very nice and comparable to Brain Training. However, the responses lack the depth that Andrienne Farcellio provides in the Brain Training forum. In addition, you do not have access to other people’s questions, as you do in a forum, so there is no way to learn from others.

Where Spirit Dog Training misses the mark is the price and lack of all-inclusive content. While outstanding value as a standalone program, each bundle does not offer the same level of comprehensiveness as the others. 

For example, if you have a puppy, you need to purchase the Ultimate Puppy Program Bundle. If obedient leash walking were your goal, then the Loose Leash Walking Bundle would need to be purchased separately, and so forth.

With Spirit Dog Training, it would cost you hundreds of dollars to cover multiple areas of dog training. However, there is no need to buy additional courses in the other programs I have recommended because the price includes all content.

Each training area or bundle will incur a separate cost

Now you could get the Spirit Training Masterclass Bundle which includes almost all the courses and bonuses, for $449.00. However, compare that with Brain Training, which gives you everything, including future content, for a $47.00 one-time payment or a lifetime of Pupford at $199.99.  

So from a value perspective, Spirit Dog Training, while an excellent system, does not offer the same bang for the buck as the top three programs recommended. Nor does it meet the mark in the amount of inclusive content provided for the price.

As a result, sadly, I could not recommend it, although I will continue to use it in my training. 

Dog Training Essentials

I also purchased Sympaticos Dog Training Essential for $99 (I got it on sale for $39.99). The course is offered through International Open Academy.

I opted for lifetime access for another $19.00, as the regular price only gives you access for a specified time, and I like to take my time. So the total cost was $58.99.

Frankly, this was odd. I have never come across a basic dog training course that limits your time and costs you to extend that time to 365 days or a lifetime. All the others were either subscription-based or a one-time payment for lifetime access.

The instructor, Ian Stone, is a fantastic teacher. His ability to convey thoughts on the video and demonstrate techniques is unparalleled. He has a background in education, and it shows.

This is the best feature of the program. The instruction is excellent. Ian Stone is CPDT-KA certified and knows what he is doing. There were many techniques in this course that I had not seen anywhere else, and I adopted them into my training.

For example, he was the first instructor who showed the proper way to hold a leash. 

However, I had one issue: Ian teaches leash walking with a slip lead collar, which I personally don’t like. It is far too advanced for novices, in my opinion, and can choke a dog. However, you could teach the same methods with a leash or harness since the mechanics taught for leash walking are the same. 

The videos in this course are high quality and are on par with Pupford. Kudo’s to Sympatico because they did not sacrifice quality on video production. 

My biggest complaint is the dashboard in the course, which is very clunky. I still have difficulty navigating through the course content. It is just not user-friendly.

However, I don’t believe this is a Sympatico issue but rather an International Open Academy issue. I’d have to purchase another course to be sure.

Additionally, the price is too much for too little content compared to the other programs discussed. The course covers six modules, including puppies, obedience skills, and a few games and behavior problems.

Content for the price is a bit spare, with no lifetime access unless you pay to upgrade

Unfortunately, there is no text with the system, just video, so you have to go back and rewatch demonstrations of skills over and over again. 

That is the advantage of having text with images, videos, or GIFs. You can study step-by-step what needs to be done and print them off to take with you if required (or read them on your phone or tablet). Sometimes video instruction is better; other times, the text is. 

Ultimately, I rejected this as a recommended pick due to the high price for a time-restricted program in which you do not get lifetime access unless you want to pay an additional $19. The program also lacks text-based materials and doesn’t have the near depth of content the other programs do.

Finally, the clunky dashboard is frustrating. 

Missed the Cut

I also considered purchasing Doggie Dan, but it was rejected at the research stage. One of my selection criteria was science-based force-free training.

Doggy Dan still subscribes to Dominance Theory and Dog Whispering, such as alpha rolls and eating before your dog so they know who is alpha. 

Science has widely disproven Dominance Theory, so I decided not even to explore this option. Additionally, it was also more pricey than the other subscription-based programs at $39 per month (yup, per month), so it failed in the value department. 

If you prefer the subscription model route, go with either Dunbar Top Dog Academy (he even has a course on the Dominance Theory Myth) or Pupford Academy. Both are force-free and are cheaper. 

My Overall Recommendation

Brain Training For Dogs is my recommendation for the best overall dog training system. Honestly, for most of us, it’s all we’ll ever need to train our dogs and then some.

Plus, I’m personally not a fan of subscription-based models where I have to pay either monthly, semi-annually, or annually. Nor does it makes sense to pay separately for expensive bundles that only cover a few training areas.

With Brain Training For Dogs, you get everything you need to train your dog – from puppy to adult, games, and tricks to behavioral problems – it covers it all for $47.

So if you’re budget-conscious yet still want a system that covers everything imaginable, with top-notch training instruction and the best forum, then Brain Training For Dogs is the one to buy.

Check out the program here: Brain Training For Dogs

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