What exactly is a “Board and Train” for dogs?
With a board and train program, you leave your dog for a set period of time to stay at a dog training facility or a dog trainer’s house. Your dog’s day is spent developing new skills or addressing other behavioral problems. A professional dog trainer does the repetitions (generally daily, but every company is different) and then helps you learn how to maintain the skills once your dog graduates from the program.
What Is the Duration of a Dog Board and Train?
Depending on the behaviors you want to address, and the trainer’s service options, the length of your dog’s board and train will vary. Most boards and trains have a duration of two to five weeks. Some dog trainers will offer shorter board and train programs for learning fundamental skills, while others may be longer for dealing with difficult behavioral problems (aggression, lunging and barking at dogs or people, high levels of anxiety, separation anxiety, phobias, or otherwise).
While your dog is enrolled in a board and train program, you could be required to regularly attend lessons so you can become familiar with the human side of the training equation. Other programs might choose to forego this, and the owner education piece comes in when your dog graduates from the training program. At Dog Dynamix Ohio, we provide regular video updates that keep you up to speed on the program and send you a PDF packet of training homework to study while your dog is in training. Then, you have private lessons to utilize, beginning the day you pick up your dog, where you learn how to keep up with the skills at home, how to use any prescribed dog training equipment, and how to begin introducing your dog to more difficult situations/distractions using the new training skills. The owner coaching portion of a board and train program is critical, and you should only consider programs that put a heavy emphasis on training you as well as they train your dog.
What is the price of board and train?
The price of a board and train program varies depending on where you live and how long your dog will be staying. Costs each week could range from $500 to more than $2000. This cost takes into consideration daily boarding, regular obedience training on site and on field trips, behavioral modification if the dog is having issues, follow up lessons, dog training equipment, and the general daily care such as feeding, brushing, exercising, and rotating to potty. Dog board and train programs involve way more than just dog-sitting with some training if you’re working with a reputable dog training company. Reputable board and train programs should include daily exercise, enrichment, and playtime in addition to providing a safe environment around-the-clock to prevent the rehearsing of undesirable behaviors and decrease physical risk to the dog.
CHOOSING A BOARD AND TRAIN PROGRAM
Regrettably, a high price tag does not always mean that a board and train program is being offered by licensed or morally upright professional dog trainers. Anyone can use the title “dog trainer” and offer board and train. When enrolling your dog in a board and train program with a prospective dog trainer or training facility, it is crucial that you conduct a thorough background check on them to avoid becoming one of the tragic stories of dogs being abused, stolen, or lost during a board and train program. You should do your research thoroughly by checking google reviews, visiting social media pages, and touring the training facility whenever possible prior to enrolling in a program. You’ll want to ask the dog trainer what their qualifications are, what continued education they pursue, and what methods and techniques they use to train dogs. Make sure you are comfortable with what methods and tools are used with your dog.
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a board and train facility. Does your dog stay in a kennel or dog run when not training? Or do they stay in a home environment? Is the facility or home clean and safe? Are proper cleaning products used to lower the risk of illness transmission? Are there any potential dangers present that indicate an area is not fully dog-proofed (proper containment areas, etc.)? Are dogs required to be up to date on vaccinations and on flea and tick preventatives? If board and train staff notice your dog not eating or losing weight, what do they do to combat that problem? How many dogs can enroll in a program at one time? How is barking controlled? How much human interaction will your dog get every day? What types of enrichment and exercise does your dog get each day? Will there be any playtime with other dogs (if appropriate) or with people?
Board and Train Programs: Benefits and Disadvantages
Convenience is a major benefit of a board-and-train program. It takes a lot of work to train a dog. Your schedule might not provide much time for training because of your work schedule, kids activities, travel plans, or other obligations. For busy folks who simply do not have the time to get in the necessary training repetitions required to teach new skills, a board and train option can be an excellent option.
Your dog will receive a lot of repetitions for training skills with a daily training schedule, and those repetitions will be performed by a dog trainer who has better timing, a deeper understanding of dog behavior, and sharper training skills than you do. Faster learning results from quality, repetitive practice. A good board and train program will also provide an atmosphere where your dog won’t engage in naughty habits that can impede their training, such as pulling on the leash in between training sessions, jumping on the counter, getting into the trash, or practicing aggressive behavior.
Board and train programs change the dog’s environment, which can make learning easier. There are instances when a dog’s environment at home naturally causes undesirable behaviors, and it can be challenging to alter the environment to stop the behavior from happening. For example, it is difficult to get a dog to stop counter surfing, jumping on guests at your front door, or from chasing joggers down the fence line if those triggers exist in your daily environment. At a dog training facility, the environment is easier to control and dog trainers can introduce those types of distractions strategically without them being practiced during “Downtime” outside of training. Environmental management and prevention of poor behaviors are essential for accelerating learning! It can be beneficial to take a dog to a different Nonetheless, home follow-up instruction and upkeep are crucial for long-term success.
Stress can be a big disadvantage of a board-and-train program. Many dogs find traveling away from home to stay somewhere new to be distressing. They don’t have a trusting relationship with the new folks running the show, the routine is different, and the setting can be a lot to take in. A dog must adjust to a new environment and routine for at least a few days to a week; tense or fearful dogs may take longer. The acclimatization period, often known as the transition time, is important. Learning is not facilitated by stress. So, sending a dog to board and train means that, at minimum, the first few days are focused on acclimating a dog to their new environment and building a relationship with the trainer. This is why we do not offer programs shorter than two weeks at Dog Dynamix Ohio — we want dogs to have a few days to settle in before the training begins.
Dogs are not very good at generalizing. It is crucial to train them to respond to cues in various contexts. A trainer’s home or a board and train facility will be set up in a way to prevent unwanted behaviors from happening. It can be challenging to transfer this to your house without consistent follow up and owner education. Your dog has a learned history of what works in their home environment and a different learned history in the board and train environment. It is important that any board and train program you enroll your dog into takes their in-training dogs on regular field trips to new spaces so that they can generalize the behaviors around a lot of distractions, including new people, dogs, and environmental distractions (cars, bikes, joggers, stores, trails, etc.).
We cannot emphasize this enough: in a board and train, your dog will be learning and practicing with a professional trainer or training staff — not you. You are the one who will be living with your dog full-time. The way you communicate with your dog — how you move, how you give cues, how you reward, and how you respond to undesired behaviors — is what affects their training and behavior the most. You are one of the most important antecedents in the dog training equation! If you don’t put in the effort to learn how to maintain the training at home (or you do not have a dog trainer who is willing to take the time to teach you how to act like a dog trainer) your dog will soon revert back to what they used to do. This can be frustrating for people who did not get the proper follow up instruction after investing in a board and train. They see how well their dog performs for the trainer, but then feel like it didn’t “stick” or that somehow they’ve failed. Owner instruction has to happen for long term success.
Board and Train for Puppies
If you have a new puppy in your life, it can be overwhelming to make sure they get lots of positive experiences in a variety of environments during their critical socialization period. A board and train program can be ideal to provide appropriate socialization to different people, other dogs, and other important experiences. This requires a dog trainer who knows how to raise a confident puppy, because bad experiences during this socialization window can have lifelong effects on a developing brain.
While a board and train can be very helpful for socialization with appropriate dogs, people, and places the average dog owner doesn’t have access to (or time to access), a Board and Train Program for a puppy isn’t generally that helpful for potty training. Housetraining is probably one of the most exhausting parts of raising a puppy. And while you might feel that passing this task off to a trainer at a board and train program sounds like a good idea, it doesn’t tend to help much. Potty training is incredibly location-specific for young puppies. They may be housetrained quickly at a board and train where the routine and the potty spot are consistent, but once they return home, they have to relearn where they are supposed to go potty. It might not be starting at square one due to physical maturity that takes place during a training program, but it certainly won’t be done.
Board and Train for Aggressive Dogs
There are different types of aggression in dogs, and a board and train for aggressive dogs will not cure aggression (nor will any other type of dog training program). Management and safety are key components for addressing a dog’s aggression and requires the dog owner to learn proactive and defensive handling, dog body language, and how to effectively manage their dog’s environment.
A board and train will benefit a dog struggling with leash reactivity, as your trainer will be able to quickly teach the reactive dog obedience skills (leash walking, coming when called, bed stay) and then expose the dog to a lot of new dogs, people, places, and things to help move the process forward as a faster pace than they would be able to with an inexperienced dog handler. Then, just like a regular board and train, the dog trainer will coach the dog owner how to be successful at home.
Aggressive behavior can either exacerbated or suppressed in an unfamiliar environment with a new handler (the dog trainer). A dog may shut down in the new environment, or they may exhibit more aggressive behavior than usual. Either way, the aggressive dog needs time to unwind and settle in as stress makes it difficult to practice counter conditioning methods (which is used to help change a negative emotional response to a positive one).
Are Board and Train Programs Worth It?
Sending your dog off to a board and train near you is worth it if your expectations match what’s actually possible in a short time period. While three weeks seems like a long time to be away from your dog, it is a very short time in the grand scheme of things. Dog trainers are not magicians and a board and train program still requires intensive owner commitment, daily repetitions to upkeep behavior, and a long-term dog training plan. Behavior change does not happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in one or two weeks. Training your dog is a lifelong commitment. A board and train program can certainly jumpstart your dog’s learning and get where you want to be faster than group classes or private lessons, but you need to be committed to the training program for the long haul.
Overall, board and train programs for dogs can be a good option for those dog owners who are committed to continuing training for long after the program ends. Because a board and train can be a major financial investment, it’s important to make sure you’re choosing the right program to meet the needs of you and your dog.