Board and train programs are designed for people who do not have the time or desire to attend multiple training classes with their pup, or for those who need serious help with their dog’s issues. Rather than working with a trainer to gradually instill proper etiquette and obedience, the owner allows their dog to temporarily live with the trainer while undergoing intensive training.
Board and train programs can be a wonderful option IF you choose the right trainer and remain consistent with your dog’s commands when they return home.
What Do Board And Train Programs Involve?
In their most basic form, board and train programs are exactly what they sound like. You board your dog with a professional trainer for several weeks or months, and they provide training services during that time. This can be an ideal situation for busy professionals and those having specific behavioral issues with their dogs.
Depending on the trainer and what kind of set-up they have, your pup may stay in the home or in a kennel area. As with any facility you entrust with your dog’s care, be sure to take a tour and consult several references before choosing a program and leaving your pup.
Based on your specifications and your dog’s needs, the trainer will create a custom lesson plan. This may include anything from basic obedience and etiquette to advanced skills like gun dog training.
What Happens During The Boarding/Training Period?
Board and train programs for dogs are intensive and may include several training sessions in one day. Having access to your dog 24/7 allows the trainer to work with your pup in multiple situations. Depending on the program, your pooch may work with one specific trainer during the entire boarding period. However, larger facilities may utilize several trainers throughout your pup’s stay.
At the end of the boarding/training period, your trainer will sit down with you to review what was done and how you can continue the reinforcement at home. They’ll teach you the cues they put in place and how to stay consistent back in the real world.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Board And Train Programs?
As with anything, board and train programs for dogs have their ups and downs. Here we will explore them in detail so you can decide if this type of training is right for you and your pooch.
Your dog receives intensive training from a skilled professional.
If you choose the right trainer and facility, board and train programs can deliver exactly what they promise – an obedient, professionally trained pooch!
You do not have to go through the time and stress of multiple training classes.
The most common reason pawrents choose to board and train their dogs is to avoid the time commitment of training classes and in-home sessions. In addition to the time, training can be quite stressful. These programs allow dog owners to sit back and relax while someone else does the majority of the work.
Residential training is ideal for dogs with specific behavioral problems or those training for canine sports.
While many choose board and train for general obedience, these programs are especially beneficial for dogs already displaying behavior problems. These issues often require the intense one-on-one training boarding programs offer. Owners interested in enrolling their dogs in canine sports or using them for hunting should also consider this option.
You will not be learning alongside your dog which may make it difficult to stay consistent once they return home.
You may want to send your dog to a professional in order to avoid spending time learning the tricks of the trade yourself. Unfortunately, if you do not at least learn the basics of dog handling, you will have trouble reinforcing the training of even the best behaved pup.
In addition, no matter how good the trainer, inevitable holes in your dog’s training are bound to pop up. If you do not participate in the process, you will not be prepared to handle these hiccups.
The trainer can only achieve so much in the given setting and time period.
Dogs that attend residential training typically only receive a basic level of training unless you request something more intensive. There will be more work to do when they return home, such as proofing.
Dog trainers use the term “proofing” to refer to the practice of reinforcing learned behaviors in a variety of situations with different levels of distraction. It is typically the final step in training. Unless you give your trainer permission to take your pooch off property, their training will be limited to the boarding facility. To truly proof a behavior, your dog should practice in multiple settings.
Depending on your dog’s training problems and the outcome you are looking for, you will be away from your pup for several weeks to several months.
I don’t know about you, but the idea of being away from my dogs for several months or even weeks sends chills down my spine! Then again, I’m the girl who postponed her honeymoon in order to nurse her dog through knee surgery.
Even if you aren’t quite as crazy as me, you probably do not love the idea of separating from your pup for such a long stretch of time. If you have a new puppy, this could affect your bonding time; and if you have an adult dog, sending them off to a board and train program could be extremely traumatic.
It is certainly not a decision to be taken lightly!
You have no control over your dog’s treatment while out of your care.
Some dog trainers talk a good game, but do not necessarily follow through on their promises once your dog is in their care. An incompetent trainer can do more than just fail to train your dog, they can actually cause a lot of damage and make future training more difficult.
More frightening still is the rare chance your dog may suffer mistreatment at the hands of the staff. Lots of trainers seem kind and professional when you meet them, but what happens behind the scenes? Sadly, there is a possibility your dog may suffer abuse or neglect if you choose the wrong trainer.
This is why it is so important to research the facility where your dog will be staying as well as every employee who will have direct contact with your dog. Insist on a full tour and ask for a list of previous clients you can contact to ask about their experiences. If the staff is not comfortable with these precautions, they may have something to hide.
Residential board and train programs are expensive.
Quality dog training is an investment in your pup. You should not base your decision on cost, but board and train programs are considerably more expensive than classes or in-home training. According to dog training and behavior expert Pippa Mattinson:
“Most residential training kennels charge the going rate for boarding, and then an added fee on top for training. Costs can vary widely but rest assured, this is not going to be a cheap arrangement. You could be looking at $1000 per week upwards.”
What should you expect when your dog returns home?
Your trainer will advise you on how to motivate and reward your dog. They’ll also let you know what to expect from your dog in certain situations. A responsible trainer will be honest about the work you will have to do to maintain your dog’s training.
If your trainer uses positive reinforcement methods, your dog should be eager to participate in additional training and proofing sessions. They will respond excitedly to their new commands and work enthusiastically with you at home and in public.
On the other hand, dogs that suffer through painful or intimidating training methods are likely to be timid and submissive. Mattinson says previous bad behaviors often resurface in these poor pups:
“He may be very obedient at first but will soon figure out that you are not about to beat him into submission,” she says. “Because he hasn’t learned to make good choices, he will probably quite soon revert to his old bad habits.”
How to find a safe, responsible residential trainer
If you decide to send your dog to a board and train program, make sure you choose a trainer who uses positive reinforcement techniques. Victoria Stillwell runs a network of positive reinforcement trainers in the United States. If you live in the UK, check out the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.
H/T to The Happy Puppy Site