Dog boarding and training is a popular option that many people seek, because the internet has convinced them that it will solve a whole host of problems without any effort on their part.
Nothing could be further from the truth…
There may be valid reasons to choose dog boarding and training, and there are many more reasons to consider other options. How this affects a particular outcome is largely determined by the dog, the type of training expected, the degree of training expected, the timeline with which the trainer is tasked with delivering the training, and what constitutes measurable accomplishment of that goal.
As a trainer that offers dog boarding and training, some of the reasons we extend the offer to owners that have commitments to time-consuming travel for work, have family obligations that preclude their ability to make the time to train themselves, or are so lost in the miasma of poorly researched internet trope, they throw up their hands in despair and assume they are unable to do it themselves.
People enjoy convenience, and many think that dog boarding and training is some form of absolution for their particular issues. What generally happens in these scenarios, is the dog goes home and within a fairly short period of time, starts to revert back to its old behaviors because the owner was not given adequate training to augment the things the dog was ostensibly taught.
I see this every day, and I have since 1979.
As a dog boarding and training provider, I am selective on the type of dog I will accept as a boarding and training prospect.
Yes, it it true, I no longer accept dogs with anger issues in my boarding and training programs for several reasons:
- I am within eyesight of retirement age and I have had stranger’s dogs in my care for over 40 years.
- I have transcended the point in my career where I need to prove to anybody that I can “handle” dangerous dogs. I did for decades. Although I am still smarter, I am no longer as strong or as fast, and if I get hurt, I don’t work, and if I don’t work, we don’t eat.
- The vast majority of dogs with anger issues were made that way by owners who, although well-intended, did the wrong things at the wrong times and the dog was heavily reinforced for thinking/acting/being a certain way Since ownership is usually the problem, they really need to learn how to be the solution.
- Dogs with anger issues require additional time and resources and that makes it difficult to take ‘other’ work. I don’t charge enough to have one dog consume all of my time and resources, and there are many arms to my business model that make handling dogs with anger issues a time burden I no longer wish to assume.
Recently adopted and rescue dogs are also not great candidates for dog boarding and training either, simply because the fastest way to that elusive “relationship” that everyone talks about, starts with not giving your freshly acquired dog over to a complete stranger to develop that relationship with. You want the “relationship?” Then you have to put in the time and resources to develop that.
Private training is a superior option in many scenarios simply because it requires owner participation. It is often longer and more difficult to train two species simultaneously, but TBH, if the one thing most people complain about is how their dog doesn’t listen to them, there is no better way to make that happen than by actually ,aking owners part of the learning process. A stranger may be able to lay the foundation, but the owner still needs to put in the time to learn how to communicate effectively.
There are certainly candidates for dog boarding and training that make it a viable option, but that depends solely on the after-care and support provided for ownership once the dog goes home. Follow-up support should specifically address behaviors/skills the trainer has worked on/introduced during the limited amount of time the dog was enrolled in the training program.
We specialize in puppies with a program I created, which not only addresses the usually obnoxious problems of baby puppies (housebreaking, crate training, mouthing, chewing, etc.), but imprints future behaviors that if owners just practice during the commission of their daily lives, the dog will grow up to be a pleasant, mannerly companion without a lot of additional effort.
We have dogs shipped to us directly from their breeders from all over the country because of this program, and because puppies learn rapidly, we are able to impress meaningful, durable work, and convey these tactics to their new owners fairly seamlessly.
People love puppies, but they hate the effort it takes to get the youngster from screaming all night and pooping all over itself, to sleeping comfortably in it’s crate for at least 6 hours without making a mess. If they don’t want to be inconvenienced by doing it themselves, or don’t know how, I will gladly accept suitable compensation for losing sleep and having my life disrupted by doing it for them.
Puppies are time consuming. They require effort to turn them into mannerly adults.
As long as I am made aware of any issues before Rome burns, I am generally able to talk the owner through any problem that may arise, once the dog goes home. It is not an inconvenience for me to field a phone call or write an email, or even schedule follow-up private lessons (in-person or virtual, for out-of-area clients), if the owner is experiencing difficulty with managing their dog. Training takes practice, which is why it is often more beneficial to have the owners accompany the dog through the entire process.
What becomes an inconvenience is when the owner complains even though they never followed up, and now somehow it’s the trainers’ fault the dog “isn’t trained.” Training is a process. It requires maintenance.
As I age, my clients age right along with me, and I am more than willing to help them get a leg up on training their dogs. People always start out well-intended until they finally realize they are not the same young person that raised and trained every dog they ever owned, from when they were in college, before they were married, when the kids were still small, or after they became empty nesters. It’s ok to need help, and a dog boarding and training program may be a good call for them.
We see a decent percentage of folks with major surgeries looming in their immediate futures and will require a boarding and training option while they recover, or new moms just getting their new mom legs under them. There are justifiable reasons to choose a board and training option, but concentrate on what the benefits really are when you choose someone else to train the dog.
If it boils down to a matter of convenience, or absolution, it’s never going to be the right choice.
I avoid all of that, by making the owner part of the process. They have to be. Although I have yet to meet a dog that didn’t benefit from training, nor have I ever possessed a dog that wasn’t manageable in my tightly controlled, heavily managed environment, that doesn’t mean the owner is not capable of acquiring the same results with a little planning and effort.
Taking a dog for a boarding and training program is a huge responsibility and requires a high degree of commitment to honesty, transparency and communication, because doing it well is a trainers’ commitment to making time and making effort.
The Elephant in the room isn’t actually the training at all. It’s the care the dog receives while it is in the custody of someone not the owner.
This is where the problems arise.
There are thousands of people claiming to be dog trainers, but very few of them even attempt to adhere to the basic tenets of professional conduct. A trainer may not need a degree, certificate, or license to train a dog, but they certainly need appropriate zoning and license to board a dog, whether they board and train from their residence, or operate a stand-alone facility.
The basic tenets of professional conduct dictate some form of consumer protection, which should include proof of insurance, and the knowledge that their care provider is operating legally in the community in which they reside. If this information is not made available to prospective owners who ask, or that may be considering dog boarding and training as an option, I have to wonder why. These basic things transcend any “certifications” if they have any, or their membership in whatever organization they claim to be a part of.
Many ‘trainers’ have been encouraged by a variety of sources to aggressively promote dog boarding and training as the pathway to financial success, often assuming the burden of more dogs than they can adequately care for and handle.
A lot of newer trainers think boarding and training are a great way to make money and not have to deal with people. Unfortunately, what they eventually need to figure out, is the dog isn’t the one with the credit card. If they are incapable of communicating clearly to the owner, their prognosis for success in this business is fairly short-lived.
Even institutional dog trainers (those that operate kennels and day cares, with multiple employees) overburden themselves by taking on more dogs than they can reasonably train and supervise the care of, appropriately.
The potential for more money is an attractive draw, and social media has made it lucrative. Owners of ‘big’ dog training companies do not really vet their employees well, and often recruit ‘trainers’ that may have run through their in-house group classes or private training programs, because it is easier to curate an employee that doesn’t really know what they don’t know. And if they don’t work out, well… there’s an entire pool of likely candidates available.
Good trainers aren’t cheap, and generally tend to prefer autonomy.
These business models attract a certain type of individual, and I have to say, it’s becoming an alarming trend. It is not uncommon to see young-ish types, self-described ‘operators’, with the requisite working breed of dog (made popular since the death of a certain terrorist and the popularity of several movies depicting the dogs’ prowess as a dog of war), military/LEO style of dress, and other tacti-cool tropes that make me nauseous, but attract naive owners that couldn’t possibly know any better.
In a culture when image has more impact than character or skill, we have a fundamental problem.
And the dogs are the ones that pay.
There are currently no requirements that establish someone as a dog trainer, and there are no demands to prove that one is capable of training a dog. The internet has made us lazy, and we have always been a gullible species.
If it looks slick, it must be good. Advertisements are designed to appeal to our sense of self and how we envision ourselves.
Sexy sells. It sells to dog owners too, even though I doubt the average doodle dreams of being one of Halle Berry’s dogs in John Wick III, I can see why that imagery has it’s allure… for owners that want to insert themselves into that type of fantasy dreamscape.
What they fail to realize is the years it took to train those dogs, and the months it took Berry to learn how to handle them.
What folks forget is that if advertising has to stoop to gratuitous violence or sex to convince you, it’s likely they are promising way more than they are able to deliver.
Like the last few seasons of Game of Thrones. You can tell where the writers ran out of ideas.
Dog training is really no different.
Folks really need to do more research than the sponsored ads that appear ‘above the fold’ on the first page return of a Google search, because if you’re paying for dog training, be sure you’re paying for knowledge, substance and experience, not the evocative fiction useless images create.
You should be paying for results, not ambiance.