Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
If you are looking for a fast way to train your dog and find you do not have the time or skill to commit, you may have stumbled upon some board and train programs. The advertisements can be really flashy, with alluring descriptions of how the dog trainer will do all the work for you. But do these programs really work? Let's take a look at how board and train works, what it entails, and the advantages and disadvantages.
What Is Board and Train?
Board and training is a service offered by a trainer where the dog is kept overnight at the trainer's facility or home for a certain period of time. The following are some types of board and training services provided by dog trainers.
2 Types of Board-and-Train Programs
- In-Home Board and Train: The dog is kept in the trainer's home and becomes a part of the family. This means the boarding is cage-less. Because a dog is kept in the home, he will learn the basics of indoor living such as not surfing counters, house training and respecting invisible boundaries. In the meanwhile, the dog can be taught basic manners, behavior modification and put on an exercise program with daily walks, playtime in a fenced area and socialization with other dogs. Many board and training programs require a 2-week minimum stay, but some offer one week if just a basic refresher course is needed.
- Kennel Board and Train: Unlike the home board and train, the kennel board and train keeps the dog outside in a kennel where most likely other dogs are boarded as well. The dog is generally kept in the kennel when not trained or taken out for exercise. While home board and train is preferable, kennel board and train is better than regular boarding where dogs are often kept inside the kennel all day long or perhaps given a 15 minute outing once a day (which requires a fee).
What Services Are Offered in Board-and-Train Programs?
- Basic Training: The most common services are obviously training. Dogs boarding are often taught basic commands such as sit, down, stay, heel, come and to watch me. Often, behavior issues are addressed and dogs are also taught how to stop jumping, stop pulling on the leash, running out the door, counter-surfing, etc. In certain circumstances, trainers toss in a few extra helpful commands such as leave it, drop it and even some tricks.
- Behavior Modification: Some dog training centers also address serious behavior issues such as aggression, anxiety and other problem behaviors. During the dog's stay the dog is typically exposed to the stimulus the dog is reactive towards, ideally at a low level of intensity (under the threshold). The dog's behavior is then changed using different behavior modification techniques (desensitization, counter-conditioning, Behavior Adjustment Training etc). Note: not all methods employed are good, some trainers may use flooding and other methods that can fix the problem temporarily or aggravate the issue. Some trainers resort to shock collars, prong collars, choke collars and use training methods based on coercion to obtain fast results, this is really wrong!
General Requirements for Boarding and Training
Many board-and-train programs require that dogs adhere to certain requirements. The following are some of the most important:
- Proof of vaccinations (rabies, DHLPP, kennel cough, heartworm preventive)
- Kennel cough needs to be given in advance before boarding
- Boarded dogs must have leash, collar, and appropriate tags
- Owner must provide food to prevent digestive stress
- A list and schedule of medications
- Feeding directions
- Signed contract and agreements
Advantages of Dog Board-and-Train Programs
- A Lot of Training Is Done for You: In board and train your dog is trained by a dog trainer that will take his time to train the dog for you. The dog is basically trained certain behaviors that may be basic obedience or custom tailored for your needs. Because the trainer is experienced, success rates should be higher than what the regular dog owner may attain. Most trainers have many techniques up their sleeves to ensure the dog learns, and if one method does not work, they may have another one as a back up. However, it is wrong to expect a perfectly trained dog delivered to your door; you also will have some work to do (see disadvantages).
- A Possible Solution When You Go on Vacation: Are you going on vacation and want your dog to learn some basic manners? A board and training facility offers a win-win situation because your dog gets a place to stay when you are out of town while learning something new. This is better than average boarding where the dog is given little or no attention for most of the day. So you get boarding and training all in one; just as getting two pigeons with one stone. Of course, expect board and training to be considerably more costly than regular boarding.
- Dog Is Open to Learning: Because the dog is in a new environment and with a new person, he may be more open to learning new habits -if he is not too anxious about being away from home-. Because dogs have a history of rehearsing behaviors with a certain person and in a certain place, a board and train program offers dogs a blank new slate to start from fresh. This takes some adjustments. For this reason, some trainers may recommend to not visit the dog during board and training as they fear the sight of the owner may cause the dog to regress in training or get a bout of separation anxiety.
Disadvantages of Dog Board and Train
Board and train programs of course have some disadvantages and it is very important for dog owners to be aware of them so to make a good choice.
- Dogs Have a Hard Time Generalizing: Because dogs are not that great in generalizing behaviors, there may be some challenges in transferring what the dog was taught from the trainer to the owner. Also, because the dog at the owner's home has a history of rehearsing bad behaviors there may be some initial extinction bursts (the behavior gets temporarily worse than better). To remedy this, it is crucial that the trainer give the owner a comprehensive briefing of behaviors taught before being picking up the dog and resuming normal activities in the home.
- Owners Have to Commit to Follow-Through: To make a dog board and training program successful, the owner must commit to follow through. This means, after being briefed on what commands the dog has learned and how to implement them, it is up to the owner to maintain those behaviors consistently and help the dog generalize to another environment.
- There Are No Guarantees: Because of the fact that dogs learn at different rates and the fact that part of success depends also on the owner's commitment, no dog training guarantees can be made on the outcome of the board and training program. A good trainer should always be a phone call away for follow up questions and to provide assistance for help in generalizing the behaviors taught. Some offer free follow-up sessions as needed.
- You Do Not See What Happens: One of the biggest disadvantages in relying on board and train programs is that you have no clue how the dog is treated in your absence. There are have been reports of trainers abusing dogs in their care. Be wary of trainers using shock collars, prong collar and choke collars and suggesting "dominance based" training or "alpha" training. Also, consider that some trainers may slack off for the most part of your dog's stay only to train your dog the last days for quick results. Important: look for a reputable positive reinforcement trainer that has good reviews. Ask for references. Do your home work to pick the shiny gems out of all the bad apples.
Is Board and Train Worth It?
If you are extremely busy and need some extra help, a board-and-train program may be helpful. Just don't have too many expectations. Your dog cannot realistically be returned to you and start baking cookies! I emphasize this before having any client sign up. I also prepare a DVD on how I trained the dog so the owners can see how it can be done and print out handouts for each command taught. This helps owners realize that training their untrainable dog is actually possible and often gives them encouragement and motivation. I also give free follow up sessions as needed.
The truth is, most dogs can be virtually trained, but it is ultimately up to the owner to continue implementing the training so to maintain all the work done. And remember: just as with regular boarding, it may be difficult for your dog the very first days, so consider the pros and cons very carefully.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 07, 2019:
Ch, there is a lot wrong with prong collars and even veterinarians are starting to point the physical and mental damage they can do.
Kim Ray on May 01, 2019:
If there’s nothing wrong with a prong collar, why don’t you give it a try...they’re barbaric!
ch on July 30, 2018:
There is nothing wrong with prong collars. Stop being so ignorant.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 04, 2012:
thanks for stopping by bodylevive, good to hear your dogs were easy to train!
BODYLEVIVE from Alabama, USA on December 04, 2012:
voted up useful. I enjoyed the hub and you made some very important points. Personally, I trained my own dogs the way I want them to be. I have two dogs, Eragon is a pit bull and Squeaky a lab. They weren't hard to train at all.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 14, 2012:
Dogs that are trained as service dogs and for other tasks are often trained by different people and change "hands" frequently before being delivered to their final handler. Several are trained through "board and train" programs. Dogs sent to board and train go through the same emotions than any dog that is boarded when the owner goes on vacation, with the extra advantage of getting attention and care. It may cause some adjustment and stress in the dog the very first days because of the new environment, but better a board and train than a dog risking being relinquished to a shelter.
Lawrence Da-vid on June 02, 2012:
Having dealt with dog's that were raised and trained for protection or obedience, consider the animal. It has become accustomed, no matter how slight, to its immediate environment and people. To train then return the pet, or working dog to the owner, leaves a bad effect on the animal. Once used to one so called "leader of the pack," then to be re-introduced to another pack (family) causes a grief separation for a time. I have taken over attack trained animals, and had their acquired possessiveness of the prior owner/trainer changed, leaves confusion in the dog. I would much rather, and have been directly involved in the training. When the dog creates its possessive attitude and is trained by the possessor, that creates loyalty and a super protective nature. My Shepherd, raised by our family and trained with us, responds accordingly.
Cholee Clay from Wisconsin on June 02, 2012:
You make some really great pros and cons for training programs, personally I think if someone is going to buy or get a puppy or even an older dog that they should make the time to train the puppy themselves.
Like you said learning is not universal and you could end up with the same problems or more problems when the puppy comes back.
For example I do all the training of my puppy at my house and so when I take her to my fiance's house she is not as well behaved because we do not do much training at his house.
However, I think training programs can be beneficial in helping people start training their puppy especially if they are new pet owners. But it's always best to be involved in your pets learning and to keep teaching them new things. Great informative hub! Voted up and useful!
Donna Cosmato from USA on June 02, 2012:
I've never heard of this type of training, but it sounds intriguing. You've done an excellent job of pointing out the pros and cons to help readers make an informed decision. Voted up!