Training Instruction

There are several important factors to consider when choosing resources for training your dog, so don’t rush in until you consider the best one for teaching your dog in the best manner.


After researching and purchasing four different online courses, I had the most success with Dog Training Essentials.  For me, it’s the perfect balance of price, comprehensiveness, and quality, and a one-time payment versus a subscription program. Honestly, for the price, the course is more than most people will ever need for training their dog.

You can test drive Top Dog Academy for one month free by clicking here: Top Dog Academy – First Month Free

After the first free month, you can keep going on a month-by-month basis with the option to cancel anytime from your account dashboard (so no need to talk to anyone), OR you can upgrade to a yearly membership for $150 per year.

Often people get what they need after a few months and they feel like they’ve gotten what they need. Others, like to immerse themselves indefinitely. Either way, YOU are in control.

At a Glance: The Training Programs

ProgramOne-time Payment or membershipCourse Content QualificationsFormatPrice
Top Dog AcademyYearly or monthly membershipMost comprehensive content and covers everything. Content continually addedIan Dunbar is a legend. Veterinarian, Animal Behaviorist and renowned dog trainer. Video, books, PDF articles, manuals, and tools$20/month or $150 annual
Pupford Training AcademyMonthly, semi-annual, or lifetimeGrowing library and content being added. Not as comprehensive as Top Dog Academy. KPDT certified trainer.Video, PDF manuals$9.99/month, $59.94 semi-annual, $199 lifetime
Dog Brain TrainingOne-time paymentBasics commands, some behavior issue training, and games. Games is the focus of course. KPDT certified trainer.PDF manual and videos for games$47.00 one-time payment
Sympatico Dog Training EssentialsOne-time paymentGear needed, potty training, basic commands, games, leash walking, and common behavior problems. Additional course offered on leash walking.Ian Ross. Masters degree in teaching, owner of training school, KPDT certified trainer, AKC canine evaluator. 27 videos$49.00 for first course only
I have more in-depth reviews for each of these programs below if you want to read about each.

What Tipped The Scales For Me?

I hate complicated, boring methods that don’t work, are aversive (punishment-based), and not based on science.

The first thing that differentiated Dunbar Top Dog Academy for me was all their methods are 1) Easy, so anyone can use them, 2) Effective, so you should start seeing progress rapidly, 3) Enjoyable for you and your dog, and 4) Science-based, positive training methods with real-world testing that works.

The second distinguishing factor is how comprehensive the program is. You get access to 100s of hours of dog training videos, plus ebooks, podcasts, worksheets, and more. You’ll get access to demo videos, seminars, and workshops. The dashboard is well laid out, user friendly, and very easy to navigate (I hate searching for stuff).

The program covers everything from puppy and adult dog training and preventing/resolving most common behavior, temperament and training problems, and even dog training for children.

  • You’ll learn basic manners: “Come”, “Sit”, “Down”, “Stand”, “Stay”, “Follow”, “Heel”, “Hustle”, “Steady”, “Speak”, “Shake”, “Beg”, “Bow”, “Bang!”, “Rollover” and High Five”

  • You’ll also learn many other useful instructions and fun games to teach your dog: “Don’t Touch”,  “Find Your Chewtoy”, “Go To Your Bed”, “Settle Down”, “Find My Car Keys”, “Find Daddy” and “Find Grampa.”

  • You’ll learn how to teach your dog to want to comply promptly, happily, and willingly, when off-leash, at a distance, and when distracted, whether at home or in the park.

  • My favorite – You’ll get access to the Behavior Problems Compendium, where you’ll find specific sections for all of the most common dog behavior problems. Leash pulling, barking, jumping up, digging – you name it – just click on the problem you are interested in, and you’ll find everything you need to resolve it, starting with a short video that explains the three most useful techniques for that specific problem. This makes it incredibly easy to find the information that you need.

  • You’ll learn non-aversive means to quickly and effectively deal with occasional non-compliance and misbehavior without scaring or hurting your dog.

Key Takeaway:

The most important takeaway from this article, I believe, is that I strongly encourage you not to purchase training resources that address only one aspect of training. Why? Because you will run into issues, almost guaranteed, and it’s nice to have the resources to remedy it right away instead of letting it evolve into something worse (and much more challenging to resolve the longer you wait).

And, really, you could test drive the program for three months with the coupon offered above and only spend $40 versus buying other programs for much more. If within that time, you have what you need, or don’t like the program, cancel your membership.

What to Look for In Training Instruction

Obviously, you’ll want training instruction that teaches you how to train your dog adequately in a step-by-step format. But, there are certain criteria you should be looking for.

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

Comprehensive.  Pick a training program that covers everything from puppies to adults, all stages of life, cats, training for children…everything.

Must Deal With Problem Behaviors.  Puppies play bite; older dogs chew, they jump up on guests, tables and do other stuff they shouldn’t. How to deal with it? You want training guidance for all issues.

Training Games. High energy dogs like Golden Retrievers mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. One of the best methods is enrichment activities and/or impulse control games. Very few instructional courses address this important requirement.

Price.  I recommend not buying the cheap under $47 instructional courses – they don’t cover enough, or courses advocating dominance or pack mentality because I haven’t found one that I consider ethical.

Still, you don’t have to spend $500 or $250 either. I also like having options to go monthly or annually, so I’m in control of my budget either way.

The Programs – A Closer Look

Ian Dunbar’s Dog Academy – I’ve pretty much covered all the amazing positives of this program in-depth above, so no need to rehash it.

One issue I had was that some of the course content is very dated, although I guess it’s nice to have the entire history of Ian Dunbar’s work included. And, in fairness, they continually update the program with new courses, webinars, and such. Heck, they even have a course on how to socialize a new pup while dealing with the CoVid pandemic.

There’s also a ton of content so it’s easy to get distracted. The dashboard is well laid and user-friendly, but I’d suggest picking a course that is most applicable to your situation and working through that first.

The other issue is the price, which is a little steep for budget-conscious folks at $20.00 per month or $150 per year. However, it’s better than most programs price-wise and offers the most comprehensive training site available.

Pupford Academy – This would actually be my 2nd pick, and I very much enjoyed it. Their content is not even close to Dunbar Academy, but apparently, they will be adding more content each month. The price is better than Dunbar Academy but you’ll need to choose if a bit cheaper program is worth not having access to some stuff, at least initially.

The other issue is they use hierarchical training methods where if positive methods don’t work they move to more aversive methods. Not a big fan, especially since it’s done easy to give up and move up the ladder for most novices.

Like Dunbar, a good idea is to test drive the program. They offer Paypal, so for $9.99 you can check it out and see if it’s for you. I’ve got a coupon for the first month for $1, so if you want to test drive the program, a dollar will do it.

Click Here: to redeem your coupon for the the first month of Dog Academy for $1

Dog Brain Training–  I admit I like this training program very much, and the price was under $50. The course utilizes excellent positive based training methods. The limitation is it only covers so much, so it’s lacking in dealing with many things I needed to address with my dog. But, some of the games taught are amazing, and I do use them to this day.

It’s also quite expensive. Yes, the $47.00 was pricey. The basic commands and behavior training is text only. The games section is the real value and includes videos. However, you could purchase a good dog training book and use YouTube to learn the basics so, $47.00 for games seems steep to me.

I would have recommended this as my budget option, but considering that you can get a much more comprehensive syllabus with the Dunbar Dog Academy (including games) for $20/month. In fact, for $40.00 for 3 months (with the coupon for the 1st month free), I still think that is a better value.

Doggy Dan – Nope. I should have known better when I heard pack mentality and alpha as buzzwords. The website notes positive-reward-based training, but that’s deceiving. If specific positive methods don’t work, then he utilized “corrections” as in physical reprimands. This is hierarchical training, which means that if positive ways don’t work, they move up a ladder (or hierarchy) to more aversive, punishment-based methods. Not on my dog, and you shouldn’t do it for yours.

I only got a 1-month subscription, thankfully. The price is $37/month, so almost double the Dunbar Top Academy. Way too much money for methods that are no longer advocated. Stay away.

Karen Pryor Click Training– Karen Pryor is the real deal and can be considered the mother of positive-based training methods. This is a great program if you are looking at becoming a professional dog trainer and utilizing clicker training.

The initial course (Foundations) is pretty introductory for the $249 price, and as you progress to get certified, it gets more expensive.

If you have no desire to become a dog trainer, there are better options for under $200. If you want to become a professional, this course and Jean Donaldson’s courses are probably the best.

Masterclass with Brandon McMillian – I admit I didn’t get this either. The price is $240, but it only covers the basic commands and nothing more in looking through the syllabus (I did appreciate that they listed what is taught in each video).

While Brandon is awesome and the video quality looks A+, I didn’t think the value was there in terms of limited content for $240.00.