YouTube can be a treasure trove of information for new dog owners.
If you enjoy learning all sorts of useful tips and adorable tricks and watching free dog training videos, you’ll be able to find them on YouTube.
However, just about anyone can make a YouTube channel and start sharing how-to videos. And unfortunately, on-camera charisma doesn’t necessarily translate to top-notch advice.
Today, we’ll dive into one popular training channel — Doggy Dan (channel name: The Online Dog Trainer). We’ll explain a little about the trainer, his philosophy, and some of his most popular videos below. And then, I’ll give you my thoughts on Dan and his training lessons.
I am a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, meaning my area of expertise lies in working with dogs with serious behavior concerns, such as aggression, anxiety, fear, phobias, reactivity, and obsessions (though I certainly do lots of basic manners training as well).
Doggy Dan is specifically focused on pet dog behavior around the house, but at times, he strays into behavior modification for dogs with fear or aggression issues.
Key Takeaways: A Certified Dog Behavior Consultant’s Take on Doggy Dan
- Doggy Dan is a popular YouTube personality who offers a variety of video training courses. Some of these courses are available for free, while others are only accessible to those who pay for them.
- Doggy Dan is a successful marketer, but he doesn’t seem to have completed any formal dog-training education or informal mentorship programs. This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but his lessons illustrate several key misunderstandings of dog behavior, training techniques, and canine psychology.
- Doggy Dan’s videos may prove helpful for some owners, but most will be better served by seeking training advice from other sources. Specifically, owners should seek out trainers who eschew antiquated methods and meet other key criteria, which we’ll outline below.
Doggy Dan: The Basics
Doggy Dan is clearly a highly successful marketer and businessperson. In fact, the first few paragraphs in his bio are mostly about the success he’s found in marketing, rather than his expertise or education in dog behavior and training.
To me, that’s always a little red flag.
While it’s impressive that his book and videos draw lots of eyes, I am more concerned about the accuracy of the information he provides than the popularity of his offerings.
Doggy Dan’s story sounds familiar enough: He was confused and overwhelmed with the dog training options out there as an owner.
But he does not mention any mentors, influential books, or education programs; instead, he states that he:
“read every dog behavior book I could get my hands on and watched more dog training video’s [sic] and DVDs than I care to remember.”
Doggy Dan’s Training Philosophy
Doggy Dan claims to have developed his own training methodology that dogs instinctively understand.
I find this sort of marketing speak to be yet another red flag.
I see nothing in his material that indicates he understands – or has even researched – learning theory, ethology, hormones, neuroscience, applied behavior analysis, or any other important bodies of work in the animal behavior world.
His bio is full of grand claims, such as:
“This method is without a shadow of a doubt the simplest, gentlest and most logical way to change your dog’s behavior. Based firmly on the dogs [sic]’ own communication signals they understand it immediately.”
However, he never explains anything further regarding the baseline of this method. After reading his biography, I have no clue if he supports using shock collars or treats or something else altogether.
The language is so vague and grandiose that I am highly skeptical.
On another page of the website, Doggy Dan does explain that he aims to use force-free methods. He claims that his dog training method uses no force at all.
While that is a laudable goal, when I read his training suggestions they do in fact use force (such as placing a barking dog in a small quiet space and not releasing him until he’s quiet).
This isn’t inherently bad advice, but it’s disingenuous to claim that it’s force-free.
In watching another one of Doggy Dan’s videos on dealing with aggression towards people, I immediately noticed that either due to his lack of skill or the desire to get a flashy video, Doggy Dan is putting the dog in a very stressful situation.
Rather than slowly approaching the dog at a long distance and offering treats, Doggy Dan is focused on using non-confrontational body language and helping the owners learn to body block. While this is a decent start, Doggy Dan claims success while the dog’s tail is still fully tucked.
I am alarmed to see that Doggy Dan claims to not need to use food while attempting to counter condition the aggressive dog. If you are unwilling to use treats, toys, praise, or petting to reward the dog, you will almost always need to resort to physical force or intimidation to control the dog.
To be clear: I have not seen any violent training techniques from Doggy Dan. However, I am incredibly concerned that he claims that treats are “bribery and temptation” that will not work over the long-term for serious dog behavior issues.
This is completely counter to all research in learning theory and the best practices most leading dog trainers and behaviorists embrace.
He suggests that treats only work for tricks, which is categorically incorrect.
At one point, he completely misinterprets the point of clicker training, which left me ready to turn the video off in disgust.
If he truly mentored under and learned from a variety of trainers, he would understand that clicker training and counterconditioning are not bribery. They are a way of using positive reinforcement-based dog training to help four-footers make connections about the lessons they’re learning.
He is either intentionally misunderstanding the bodies of work put forth by most true animal behavior experts, or he has not actually looked into it.
What Does Doggy Dan Offer?
Aside from his free YouTube videos, Doggy Dan offers a variety of training options for dog owners.
- The Easy Way To An Obedient Dog (free): It is a bit unclear what this course covers. The four videos highlighted don’t give any explanation or indication of what they entail. The videos are titled “ Why Most Dog and Puppy Training Fails,” “How to Get Your Dog to Choose to Follow You,” “Five Rules That Will Change Everything,” and “The One Resource to Solve Every Dog and Puppy Issue.” As with other Doggy Dan products, I am concerned by the sensationalist marketing language that overshadows any substance of what the buyer actually gets or what the training methods actually are.
- Potty Training (free): This course looks like a standard potty training course. It covers schedule making, your responsibility as the owner, dealing with accidents, getting your puppy outside at the right times, and nighttime potty options. The sales language is a bit cringey with lots of exclamation points and grandiose guarantees, but the actual substance of the course seems solid enough.
- The Dog Calming Code ($47 for 2 hours of video): This course aims to assist owners dealing with over-excited dogs and “naughty” behavior. Several exercises mentioned on the sales page seem oriented towards aggressive behavior, which isn’t really equivalent to dogs who are easily over-excited or “naughty.” Like the first course, the page for this course doesn’t really explain what’s covered. All of the content is extremely salesy, such as that you’ll learn about “The WORST possible thing to do… Rewarding bad behavior when training your naughty dogs (avoid like the plague).” More concerning to me, though, is that many of the reviews mention “pack leader” terminology. Pack theory is outdated and based on shoddy science that’s since been disavowed by the original researcher. I am concerned that such a popular trainer is continuing to push pack theory and avoid using treats as a solution for so many issues.
- The Puppy Coach ($19): This course heavily emphasizes relationship-building with your puppy and understanding the pup’s psychology. While I love the sound of that, I can’t help but remain skeptical that Doggy Dan’s understanding of psychology is based on crock science and anecdotes rather than actual behavioral research. I love that Doggy Dan seems so relationship-oriented and that he poo-poos punishment and shock collars. However, he seems to replace punishment with vague promises of solutions and paradigm-shifting approaches. I love that this program not only offers instructional videos but also includes a video diary from Doggy Dan’s new puppy. It appears to me that the puppy products from Doggy Dan are the most solid options he offers.
What Do Dog Owners Think about Doggy Dan?
Rather than highlighting the glowing reviews Doggy Dan has on his website, I chose to dive into the YouTube comments on his channel. I wanted to get an idea of what reviews said without being hand-selected to be highlighted on the website.
Generally, YouTube reviews and comments are extremely positive of Doggy Dan’s videos. Several commenters mentioned that dogs looked uncomfortable or that there wasn’t enough detail in the videos.
However, most comments were either thanking Doggy Dan for his free videos or asking for further guidance on a specific question.
It’s important, though, to note that people often leave YouTube comments in the spur of the moment. People rarely come back weeks or months later to share successes or – more importantly – failures.
Accordingly, it isn’t easy to determine how effective his lessons are proving over the long-term, even if they do provide some instant improvements in some cases.
Doggy Dan FAQs
There are a couple important questions to answer before going forward with any trainer, but given Doggy Dan’s profile, questions about him are quite numerous. Some of the most common questions about Dan and his programs include:
- What Kind of Training Does Doggy Dan Use? Doggy Dan seems to use a “pack leader” training approach that neither relies on treats and clickers nor on shock or prong collars. While Doggy Dan claims to use force-free training, most of the videos I watched included physical manipulation or intimidation (body blocking) to get the dog to comply with instructions.
- How Much Do Doggy Dan’s Training Programs Cost? Doggy Dan’s programs are pretty affordable, ranging from free mini-courses to monthly subscriptions of $37/month.
- What Are Doggy Dan’s Five Golden Rules? Doggy Dan has “Five Golden Rules,” but they’re actually framed as questions. They are as follows:
- Who controls the food?
- Who will take care of any danger?
- When you are away from your dog, who is the pack leader?
- Who dictates the terms (i.e. Do you listen to your dog or vice versa?)
- Who walks who?
- Are There Coupons Available for Doggy Dan’s Courses? Most of Doggy Dan’s courses seem to be perpetually on-sale. There do seem to be some coupons on coupon aggregator sites, but several that I tested did not work.
- Does Doggy Dan Offer a Guarantee? Doggy Dan offers a 60 day money-back guarantee. According to the site, if you want to cancel you’ll get a refund with no questions asked.
Conclusion: Doggy Dan is a Doggy-Don’t in My Book
While Doggy Dan comes across as gentle, earnest, and kind in his videos, I am deeply concerned by his training methods and lack of continuing education. I suspect that Doggy Dan is popular due to his marketing skills and charisma rather than his actual dog behavior expertise.
Doggy Dan relies on outdated pack leader methodology that is strict and difficult to follow through on. His training is based on body language and physical manipulation. While I have seen far worse training in my day, Doggy Dan is far from the best!
Doggy Dan’s programs are affordable, and his puppy programs seem to be in line with those offered by other trainers, so they may provide some value for some owners. But I would stay far away from his other programs.
K9 of Mine offers basic obedience courses and puppy raising programs, which I suggest checking out instead (see below).
But no matter where you learn about training your dog, you’ll always want to be sure to seek out trainers or behaviorists who exhibit the following traits:
- Clear evidence of continuing education through mentorship, conferences, certifications, and/or courses.
- Honest communication about expectations. Avoid trainers that make grandiose claims about dog training – there are no guarantees in this line of work.
- Specialization in the area you need help with. Don’t hire an agility trainer for aggression issues; you need a certified dog behavior consultant for that. Conversely, you don’t want a behavior consultant for basic obedience — just seek out a trainer instead. Some trainers also specialize in breed groups.
- Explanation of training methods. One of the biggest red flags about Doggy Dan is that it’s nearly impossible to understand what type of dog training methodology he uses without hiring him.
- Adherence to dog training ethics. There are several acceptable options, including fear-free, force-free, LIMA, Humane Hierarchy, or positive reinforcement based. These ethical standards are important to ensure your dog is treated fairly in the classroom!
For more tips on finding a great dog trainer, check out our how-to article here.
What about you? Have you completed any of Doggy Dan’s courses? How did they work for you? What kinds of things did you like or dislike about them?
Let us know in the comments below!