To Board and Train or Not? 5 Powerful Considerations Before Sending Your Dog

Are you considering a Board and Train program to teach your dog new skills? I’ve seen many training programs in my years as a professional dog training expert, but the Board and Train approach has always resonated with me the most. Imagine your dog, well-trained and responsive, thanks to a comprehensive program tailored just for them. Before you dive in, it’s crucial to understand key aspects and make informed decisions. Let’s explore further!

What’s the Scoop on Dog Board and Train Programs?

A Board and Train program (commonly referred to as doggy boot camp) is a bit like sending your dog to a specialized school. They’ll stay at a professional dog trainer’s facility for a while, diving deep into tailored training sessions. Depending on the program, the professional will train your dog in basic commands, tackle behavior quirks, or even prep them for advanced roles like competition dog sports or service dog tasks. It’s an immersive experience that combines expert training with a touch of adventure for your four-legged friend. So, when they return, expect some newfound skills to be part of their repertoire!

Understanding Board and Train Dog Training Programs

Board and Train programs might differ depending on the organization and its specific focus. However, when it comes to basic obedience training and behavior modification, many tend to cover areas such as:

  • Crate Training / Kennel Training
  • House Training
  • Basic Manners
  • Basic Obedience Commands
  • Fence Fighting
  • Destructive Behavior Issues
  • Dog Aggression & Human Aggression
  • Reactivity
  • Off-Leash Training
  • Separation Anxiety

Is a Board and Train Program the Right Fit for You and Your Pooch?

Board and Train programs offer a myriad of advantages. They’re particularly useful if you struggle to juggle private or group sessions or if your bustling schedule makes it tricky to lay down that essential training groundwork. Think of it as an intensive training camp for your furry buddy, tailored to fit into your hectic life.

Key Benefits

  • Consistent training by a professional
  • Immersive training and socialization in a short period of time
  • The hard groundwork is done for you
  • The trainer gets to know your dog and can better help you as needed

Potential Drawbacks

  • Expensive – They are typically the most expensive type of dog training program
  • Your dog won’t be home during the length of the program

Board & Train programs undeniably bring a wealth of benefits. However, it’s not uncommon for some pet parents to feel apprehensive about parting with their four-legged friend for an extended period. The financial aspect can also be a bit daunting, with prices varying based on the program’s intricacies and length.

If you’re finding challenges in training your pup at home, this might be the solution you’re looking for. A handy tip? Many dog owners sync their Board and train schedules with their own vacation plans. This way, their dog gets training while they’re away, killing two birds with one stone. And if the budget’s a pinch point, keep in mind that some trainers offer payment options to lighten the load.

Two guide dogs at dog training after a board and train
Image Credit: westend61

Key Considerations Before Enrolling Your Dog in a Board and Train Program

Just as you would research before any significant investment, the same diligence should be applied to choosing a Board and Train program for your furry friend. Here are some crucial Red and Green Flags to watch out for when seeking the ideal dog trainer:

Short-duration Training Programs, Specifically Two Weeks or Less for Adult Dogs

While the thought of missing your furry pal is challenging, prioritizing their well-being is vital. Two weeks can be a lot to take in for a dog, especially those who are more anxious or take time to adapt. Dogs often need several days, if not a week, to truly settle in and establish a trusting bond with their trainer. Condensing the training process can lead to rushed sessions and unnecessary stress on your pup. An extra week might seem trivial, but it significantly impacts the quality of your dog’s experience.

However, an exception can be made for puppies. Their adaptability is often quicker, and their training centers more on socialization and foundational puppy lessons than rigorous obedience. But a standard 2-week program is generally not recommended for an adult dog.

The Trainer Adopts a Universal Training Method

Remember, each dog is unique; a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t always cut it. A proficient trainer understands the importance of flexibility in techniques and adapting to meet every dog’s individual needs. If a trainer seems rigid with only one dog training method, it suggests they might be effective for a specific dog type but could falter with dogs that don’t fit into their predefined mold. Diversity in training methods is essential to cater to the broad spectrum of canine personalities.

Absence of Follow-Up Lessons

Dog training isn’t a one-and-done deal; it’s a two-way street involving the dog and its owner. If a trainer only provides a single lesson when you pick up your dog and offers no subsequent follow-ups, it’s a signal to keep searching. Opt for a trainer who understands the importance of continuity, offering at least one additional follow-up session after the initial go-home lesson. This ensures a smoother transition and continued learning for you and your pup.

Lack of Post-Program Support

Training doesn’t end when the program does; continued support is paramount. While each training company may have its unique way of extending help post-training, a complete absence of such offerings is a huge red flag. If they don’t promise any form of ongoing support, it’s a clear sign you should look elsewhere. Your dog’s long-term success hinges on sustained guidance and assistance.

Offering Blanket Guarantees, Especially for Behavioral Concerns

At first glance, a guarantee might seem reassuring. After all, who wouldn’t want a surefire promise on their investment? However, when it comes to dog training, it’s not that simple. Dogs, being the dynamic creatures they are, aren’t programmable entities. They evolve due to age, experiences, environment, and more. The essence of a Board and Train program is to lay a strong foundation, but it’s not a magic wand solution. The onus is on you, the dog owner, to consistently reinforce and maintain the training. A trainer offering blanket guarantees is likely not seasoned enough or might prioritize a sale over genuine outcomes.

Training Programs Spanning 3 to 6+ Weeks

A good measure to consider when evaluating training programs is the duration. Generally, the sweet spot lies between 3 to 6 weeks. This timeframe allows ample opportunity for your dog to adapt, learn, and grow. Longer durations often equate to your canine companion’s more comprehensive training experience.

Adaptive Training Methods

Seek out trainers who shun the “one-size-fits-all” philosophy. An ideal trainer recognizes the distinctiveness of each dog and is equipped with a diverse set of techniques. Seasoned trainers possess an extensive toolkit, ensuring they can cater to every furry individual’s unique requirements.

Provision of Weekly Progress Updates

Consistent communication is key. While the mode of updates might vary—be it through emails, texts, Google Drive, or social media stories—it’s imperative that the training facility keeps you informed. An ideal trainer will offer weekly insights into your dog’s progress, ensuring you’re looped into your pet’s journey and milestones.

Extended Post-Program Support

A training company that’s truly invested in your dog’s success won’t just stop at the end of the program. Look for programs that provide continued support to ensure the training sticks. This might manifest as lifetime assistance, group training classes for a specified duration, or even unlimited follow-up private lessons. Some of these programs offer testing for the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC), which often excites pet parents to do more with their dogs. Such offerings underscore a company’s commitment to your pet’s long-term well-being and development.

The Company Does NOT Guarantee Results

Counterintuitively, a company that refrains from offering guarantees showcases a deeper understanding of the complexities involved in dog training. Recognizing that every dog, owner, and environment is distinct, they appreciate that the training’s outcome is shaped by various factors. Such a company emphasizes genuine training results over superficial sales pitches. Always remember: true dog training success is an amalgamation of efforts between the trainer, the owner, the dog’s inherent nature, and its environment.

Group of dogs during training. Pets learning waiting in a row on meadow. Selective focus on Czech mountain dog.
Image Credit: Chalabala

Frequently Asked Questions

Board and Train programs can often be effective for aggressive dogs, providing them with consistent training and the opportunity to address their behavioral challenges. However, it’s essential to understand that aggression cannot always be entirely trained away. Sometimes, underlying genetic factors play a role, and no amount of training can change your dog’s DNA. Before enrolling your dog, having an in-person consultation with a potential trainer is wise. This can offer insights into the potential outcomes and set realistic expectations. Yet, it’s crucial to remember that while training can make a significant difference, no outcome is set in stone!

Absolutely not. Dogs, unlike machines, don’t come with a ‘reset’ button. Their behavior is shaped by patience, dedication, and consistent reinforcement over time. While Board and Training can lay a strong foundation, the work continues at home. Without your active involvement and persistence in reinforcing the training, there’s a good chance your dog could revert to previous behaviors. The success of the training is as much about the owner’s commitment as it is about the initial program.

That decision rests with you and your specific needs. If you lean towards having a professional, lay the initial groundwork for your puppy, or if your own schedule is tight, a Board and Train can be an excellent kickoff. However, it’s crucial to understand that these puppy programs aren’t about drilling strict obedience. Instead, they focus on instilling fundamental skills and building a foundation for more advanced training as the puppy matures. Think of puppy training as sending your child to kindergarten: it’s about setting the stage for future learning and growth.

In Conclusion

Dedicating time to thorough research can make all the difference when choosing a Board and Train program, potentially transforming your relationship with your canine companion. Whether your aim is basic training, advanced skills, or addressing specific behaviors, these programs can offer immense value. But always remember that enrolling in a program is just part of the journey. The success hinges on your dedication and ongoing commitment to reinforcing and nurturing the training.

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