Board and Train – Good idea?

One of the most common questions I get is, “Can I just leave my dog with you to train?”  The concept seems to be that if you leave your dog with a trainer, they will magically “fix” all the problems your dog has and return him to you “good as new.”  This is a great idea, however, your dog is not a car and there are no “broken parts to replace.”

Sending your dog off to be trained by someone has its upsides and downsides.  The odds weight heavy on the downsides.  Remember, someone who has your dog to train has a limited amount of time to get your dog in line and probably has many other dogs there that need to be “fixed” as well.  How he will train your dog will be something that you have no clue on and no control over either.

I would never leave my dog with someone that I didn’t know and hope that the referral from a friend was a good one.  There are countless stories that you can find on the internet about poor practices by boarding facilities.  Remember, your dog has no voice, so he can’t complain to you about the bad stuff that possibly happened when he was away at camp.  Teaching a dog a behavior is something that is generally based on a relationship with the person asking.  Read my article on building relationships before training.  This takes time.  Time is not something that someone has that is taking your dog in for training.

Furthermore, there is a whole different issue to address and that is how dogs think.  One common notion is that dogs that are aggressive can be sent away to someone that will fix the aggression and then return them to the person who couldn’t control them before.  So let’s get this straight.  You have a dog that is aggressive, you can’t control him and the dog obviously is aware of this.  So you send him away to someone who can control him and does (by any means necessary).  This person then “fixes” your dog and teaches him that he shouldn’t be aggressive, and then returns this dog to you – the person that couldn’t get the dog to not be aggressive.

What are the chances that the dog had a magic switch thrown in his brain that wiped away the desire to stop being aggressive.  The chances are one in a million.  More than likely what happened is this:
The trainer taught your dog not to be aggressive and showed him that he can not get away with being aggressive in his (the trainers) presence…  (not necessarily a bad thing)
The trainer returns the dog to you and while in both of your presence the dog understands that he cannot get away with anything, so he doesn’t try.
UNTIL the trainer is gone and the dog sees that he is in the same place as before and actually CAN get away with it -and does.

Dog training is based on relationship only.  Sending a dog away to teach him some basic obedience stuff like sit, stay and come is fine, but also something that you can so easily do yourself.  However, complex behaviors that are hard-wired in the dog’s brain need to be addressed a bit differently.  The dog needs to see a change in the way he is acting and there needs to be repercussions for his actions.  Whoever delivers those repercussions will win the dog’s respect.

Remember, repercussions don’t necessarily mean being hit, it means repercussions.  Some dogs needs corrections in the line of withholding rewards, others need more.  This is something to discuss with a qualified trainer or behaviorist.  The best recommendation that I can give you is to build a solid and fair relationship with your dog and be certain that your dog understands what it is you ask of him and what it is you will not accept from him.

Once a dog understands the rules and he sees that the rules are fair, he will comply.  Save your money on sending your dog away.  If you don’t have the time to train your dog yourself, you probably won’t have the time to take care of the dog the way he needs to be taken care of – it might be best for a person like that to not get a dog in the first place.  It takes 5-10 minutes – 2x a day to train a dog.  Probably less time than you spend on reading email.

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