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  • Courteous K9

Why we don't often recommend Board & Train programs

Updated: Mar 26

I always say that I am a bad business owner as I actively encourage people to save their money and refer people to cheaper programs if I feel they will get the same or similar results. This is often the case when it comes to our Board & Train program. 

Other options to consider before deciding on a Board & Train program: 

If you are not in need of boarding (due to a vacation or business trip or you live far away) and there aren't many home-specific behaviors you are struggling with (mostly just want improved basic obedience skills), consider a Day Training program instead. You will often save money and get a similar amount of training. If you invested the same amount of money into a Day Training program, your dog will be in a program even longer and therefor will likely see better long-term results.

I always recommend that people do Group Classes or Private Lessons as well so THEY become better educated. Often times our dog's behaviors are due, in part, to how we are raising them. When you learn how to manage, train, and maintain the training, you will benefit from long-term results (and will likely have a better understanding of what goes into training and be less frustrated too). 

If you do go the Board & Train route: How to pick out a good program for you and your dog:

If you've decided you want to pursue a Board & Train program, think about the length of the program. Consider what you are wanting to address: Do you have a puppy that is a fresh slate and just want some basic obedience skills taught? Does your dog have some engrained unwanted behaviors? Do you want your dog to be off-leash trained as well? Any behavior modification such as fear and aggression? All of these will affect the timeline that is recommended. In general, the longer the program the better. Don't forget that dogs often need time to adjust to the new environment, get comfortable and build a relationship with the trainer(s), and learn the routine. Progress in training skills is unlikely until the dog has settled in. 

Dog with suitcases

Try and avoid programs that guarantee results. When training is put on a timeline and the results are guaranteed, this often translates to more pressure being used on the dog to learn the designated skills in the specified timeline. No two dogs are the same. Naturally, the time it takes to achieve the desired results will fluctuate based on a variety of factors, to attend a program where they say this is not the case is often going to use excessive force to achieve the desired results in the designated timeframe. 

Regardless of what program you choose there should be an educational component for the human end of the leash. Look at what they are offering for the owners education. If you do not learn or change how you are interacting with your dog, it will often be a detriment to the training they have received. You won't see the dogs full potential, or a lot of their training may disappear. It is crucial that you, the owner, learns how to maintain the training. We like our Monday-Friday Board & Train program as it is a good way to give the owner homework each weekend and increases the communication between trainer and client as to any questions or struggles they are having each week. A private lesson where the trainer goes over a variety of information, demonstrates the skills and has you practice the skills is crucial. Hands on practice where you are getting critiqued is very beneficial since you likely aren't training dogs every day, the timing and mechanics often won't be as natural to you. In addition, the ability to ask questions after your program is over is important, or at least having an online resource with all the information is good for reviewing after the fact.

Another thing I look for is videos of the dogs that are being trained. Do the majority of dogs look excited to do the skills? Or do they see seem nervous? Do they perform the skills well? 

Things to do BEFORE a Board & Train: 

If your dog isn't already working for their food or heavily food driven (eating their whole meal within a minute or so) you should be working on increasing their food motivation. This helps you get the most bang for your buck out of the Board & Train program. There are two ways to train a dog, we can use reinforcers (food) to reinforce behavior. This only works if the dog actually values the reinforcer (such as food) more than the distractions, nervousness being in a new environment, etc. If your dog is highly food motivated, they will often become more comfortable much faster in a Board & Train program as they are having fun and excited to work for their food. If reinforcers are unable to be used, then the other way to train is through pressure and the release of pressure. Although we believe this is an important skill and has value, we prefer to do the majority of our training through positive reinforcement. Because of this, we strongly urge people to build their dogs food motivation. With a highly food motivated dog they will often progress much faster in their skills and will be less stressed and less prone to illness. 

If the facility has a Day Training program, bring your dog at least a few times prior to a Board & Train. This will help your dog transition faster (and be more comfortable), thus allowing the trainer to jump right into the training.

What to do AFTER a Board & Train: 

One nice thing about Board & Train programs is that they can often be like a reset button. A Boot Camp, where the dog's routine drastically changes, meaning they are more heavily managed so they aren't practicing as many unwanted behaviors and are on a more strict program to learn and practice more appropriate behaviors instead. 

However, it is crucial that you follow through with the homework as soon as they are back home! They likely have a learned history of behaviors you dislike and will likely try to do those behaviors again when they are brought back into your home environment. Again, if you do not change how you interact with your dog, some of the training is likely to disappear. Dogs need leadership and guidance, just like children. There are rules and expectations that need to be followed and if you don't maintain those expectations they will learn they can get away with the same behaviors they did pre-board & train.

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