Friday, November 23, 2012

Board and Train- Worth the Money or Just a Fad?

Miles the Olde English Bulldogge

The one aspect of dog training that I am most often questioned about is the Board and Train.  For 1 or 2 weeks, I take a dog into my home to train them in a much more intensive way than can be achieved at their own home.  After that time, I bring them home, run through everything with their owners, and return in a week to check their progress.

Magic?  Many people doubt it.  For a long time, so did I.

Any client who considers a board and train with me will inevitably ask, "is it worth it?"  This is the most expensive training package (on paper at least) that I offer.  How do they know I'll put in the time?  More importantly, will it matter if they are well behaved with me once they go home?

The answer, like so many, isn't simple.  What I can say is that people overestimate the importance of owner presence in training.  Many training issues are dependent on the dog learning a new behavior, although the human certainly has their own learning to do.  In so many aspects of training, things go more smoothly if I can focus entirely on the dog, then entirely on the owner.  An unsure owner attempting to teach an unsure dog can make progress slow and frustration high.

Instead, I am able to spend my entire day building up the behaviors I want and reducing the behaviors I don't.  In one week I can cover at least 8 private lessons.  I can teach the stubborn bulldog (above) how to be off leash at the park.  Or teach the beagle puppy not to guard his food bowl.  Or just teach the newly adopted dog their basic manners. 

Think about dogs in shelters and rescues.  Is the work that trainers and volunteers put into a dog eliminated when they go to a new home?  Possibly, but it is far more likely that the learning will carry over.  My little Tater Tot has overcome many fears that luckily do not return when he visits potential adopters.

Winslow overcoming aggression

But you do have to bridge the gap, so to speak, between the training house and normal life.  A board and train dog goes home with a whole lot of information.  I give their owner a flash drive containing videos and documents about their dog's training plan.  I outline what we did in terms of vocabulary to use, exercises they should try at home, and what to do if __________ happens. 

We spend an hour together doing a typical training session, which allows me to guide the owner on how to progress from here.  In a week or two, I come back to troubleshoot or clarify anything that the owners aren't understanding.  Depending on the to do list, there may be more sessions at the house.  Often, though, I am able to accomplish everything they wanted and our work is done.

Lucy the wild woman

I have to say, this type of training has become my favorite.  I can bypass owner frustration, I don't need to rely on them to practice between sessions, and I really get to see the dog excel.  I've found, at least in my area, that owners are more concerned with results than relationship.  Oddly enough, by providing results I am boosting the relationship between owner and dog in the future, again by eliminating frustration.

Are board and trains the best course for every dog and issue?  Certainly not.  For Parker and Skye's sake, I won't take a dog with aggression toward other dogs, among other things.  Because I know Parker would find a way to release that dog into the wild.  Sneaky schnauzer...

Is Parker a giant, or is Skye shrinking?

Side note-

Thanks for all the helpful suggestions for my photo issue!  I  have no clue how Google+ is special, but I'm using it!


  1. I believe that like any training program that the follow through on the owners part is most important

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  2. As stated above, a lot is about the owner, but getting a dog with some of the basics can help boost owner confidence. I am always amazed at how much I play into Dexter's bad habits during training and walks. The main reason I still go to obedience classes on and off is to remind myself how to behave.

    Mango Momma

  3. I've always found it odd that people do this. I think that the most important thing in training is the relationship you have with your dog and I think the learning process is the best thing about training. I love seeing my dog and how good she does at her training because of what I've done. But I also know the majority of dog owners just want their dog to have good manners and don't care how they get there which is why the alpha trainers are so popular. But I love that your a possitive trainer and are using your talents to prove that you can have a well behaved dog without using punishment/alpha roles as the predominant training tool. Keep up the good work!

  4. This is really interesting. I had assumed board and train was an old-fashioned style of training not really in use by modern trainers. But your arguments make sense.

    Our local trainer was thinking about a board and train model for reactive dogs. The primary idea was providing a safe place for people to bard their dogs while on vacation with an experienced trainer.

  5. Board and train is intriguing. I feel that many people here like the idea because they think they can send their dog off and come to have a perfect dog at home without any effort! I know when Madden spent several days with a trainer the progress she made with him absolutely did not transfer over in our house. That's because she respected the trainer so much, and she LOVED us so much but we hadn't done the best job of developing that respect relationship. Loving foster I am, perfect authority figure I am not. (I am learning.)
    I have a friend who sent her dog to a board and train and came back with a "broken down" fearful dog. However that place has a horrible reputation.
    I'd love to send my pups to you, though! I can tell you do a fantastic job! Are there a lot of people in your area who do similar trianing?

  6. How effective it is probably has more to do with who the real problem is. At my house, Kol is a great learner. the Daddy? Not so much. Can I send him to you for a board & train?

  7. Interesting.

    I would imagine that the value of board and train depends on your goals. Is it imperative that your dog learn how to behave STAT? If so, then for sure a trainer can get that result more quickly. What I really got out of dog training, though, was a much better bond with my dog. I'm sure for some people the dog's behavior is an *obstacle* to bonding, but there is a certain magic in helping your dog understand something that can work wonders, aside from the behavior.

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