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The Truth of Board & Train and How to Choose

Isn't the idea of a board and train great! I mean you drop off your dog, he gets trained, and then you pick him up. Magical! But in truth, leaving your family member with a stranger is scary. You have a million thoughts, how do you know your pet will be cared for? How do you know they are safe? How much is this going to cost? Will it really work? How long do you have to leave your pet? How do you know you aren't going to be one of the horrific news making stories?


I'd like to provide you with some insights and truths about board & train programs to help you make an informed decision. Here's what board and trains can and can't do:

  1. Not a one stop shop: If your dog is presenting with a behavior that is specific to your home or a specific person in their life, sending them to training camp isn't the answer. You'll need to address the problem where it is occurring. Barking at your fence line, chewing the windowsill when you leave, or running from your visitors are all things for private in home training.

  2. Know your dog: If your dog is stressed with other dogs around sending them into a kennel environment will only make them more stressed. If they are scared of being alone, isolation in a kennel will be a nightmare for them.

  3. Start, Restart, Refresh: While a board and train can help to get you on the right path, give you a head start, or adjust an unwanted behavior. Board and train programs cannot to the work for you once you get home. You will need to follow up with the training methods taught and maintain what the dog has learned.

  4. Save time & money: You love your dog, and you can maintain what they know, but you just don't have the extra time you need to address the training goals you have. Board and train is for you! You know if you don't have time to follow through with daily (or even weekly) training, so let someone else get you to the finish line.

Aspects to consider when looking at board and train programs:

  1. Price does not equal quality: Never choose ANY dog training by price. There is no industry standard and professionals can charge whatever they want. When looking at training the first thing to consider is QUALITY. It's essential to recognize that not all board and train programs are of the same quality. There is a wide range in the expertise and methods used by trainers. Some trainers employ outdated or harsh training techniques. Your choice of trainer will significantly impact your dog's experience and outcomes, so it's crucial to choose wisely.

  2. Your Involvement Matters: While your dog is training, it's equally important that you, as the dog parent, receive training too. Upon picking up your dog there should be a formal transfer of training. You must know how to maintain and reinforce the behaviors your dog has learned during their stay. YOUR consistency and follow-through will make the difference in the long run.

  3. Customized Training: Each dog is unique, and their training needs will vary. Your dog should have a customized training plan tailored its specific goals and you should feel confident and comfortable with the plan. Having something personalized ensure your dog is getting its individual needs met.

  4. Transparency and Communication: Once a day updates are not enough anymore. Board and train programs have to be transparent throughout the training process and the dogs stay. Regular video updates, pictures, or even visits during your dogs stay. You need to know if your dog is eating, drinking, and eliminating regularly. You should be made aware if your dog is struggling to settle in, or stressed in a new environment.

  5. Duration Realism: Fast training is a red flag! Guaranteed results is a red flag! Learning or changing behavior (or emotions) takes time. In good, safe, quality training the dog sets the pace. Be realistic about the time needed for lasting results and be patient with your dog's progress.

  6. Follow-up Support: It is important to know how your trainer will help you when your dog comes home. One hands on session at pick up is not enough. What support extends to you beyond the board and train program. Are there follow-up sessions and guidance, available to ensure your results. Question a board and train that does frequent "refresher" training.

  7. Ethical Training Practices: I prioritize the use of humane and ethical training methods. I do not rely on punishment-based techniques or equipment that can harm your dog. Your dog's well-being and comfort are my top priorities. This is my personal stance, your option may differ, but this would be something I personally would want to know.

You've decided board and train is right for you, now how do you choose a board and train program:

  1. Ratio: Before you look at anything else, find out how many dogs does the trainer "train" at once. How many are in their care at a time and how much time is a trainer actually spending with your dog? Do they have six dogs out at once "training" when actually your dog is simply laying on "place" for three hours a day? Do they have one room with multiple kennels or a lager space for your dog? What does you trainer to dog ratio actually look like?

  2. Research Carefully: Look for trainers who align with your values and training philosophy. Seek recommendations from friends, veterinarians, or online communities. Read reviews and check references. Any good trainer will put their work up online and show both good and bad training sessions. Watch how they interact with their own dogs to see if it aligns with you.

  3. Cost: Consider the level of training your dog needs. A new trainer may be less expensive because they are practicing their skills and building their experience. If you comfortable with that it may be a more budget friendly option. However, if you want a trainer who is more specialized you should expect to pay more. Like most professional service industries, you aren't paying for time, but for experience, skills, and knowledge. Again this is a fine balance because price doesn't always equal quality.

  4. Visit the facility: Can you visit the space where your dog will stay and train? Do they have cameras where you can see your dog? If you were to stop by unannounced would you be turned away? Are other people around when your dog is being trained or is it all behind closed doors? Do they put their work online for public viewing?

  5. Ask Questions: Interview the trainer! Ask any questions you may have about methods, experience, and the results you can expect. If a trainer seems short or irritated to answer your questions it could be a red flag. Never feel rushed in making the decision. If a trainer says they only have an immediate opening, and you feel pressured to take the spot, maybe that spot wasn't right for you.

  6. References Available: Can the trainer provide references from previous clients who can share their experiences with the training program you are considering. Do they have references from other trainers? Veterinarians or rescue staff?

  7. Review the Contract: Carefully review the training contract, ensuring that you understand everything and again ask questions for anything that you are unsure of. You need to be fully aware of any hidden clause or language. If a training program is offering something too good to be true, there is probably a special circumstance voiding them from following through.

Hopefully this article, "The Truth of Board & Train and How to Choose" has helped you to decide not only if a board and train program is right for your dog, but also things you should look for (our out for) when choosing your training environment.

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