Why I started Offering Board & Train Packages:
Traditionally force free trainers take a step back and cringe when someone mentions sending their dog to a board & train. The reason for that is that for decades the only people who offered such a thing were supposed trainers who would use any number of highly problematic, aversive methods on a dog to force their compliance. And they did so with out witnesses. I would feel this pit in my stomach form when a client would tell me their dog went board and train when they were young. But I realized this was a service people wanted, more importantly it was a service that we could do force free, and benefit dogs! So I made up my mind to start offering board and train options for dog training.
But what was that going to look like in a force free way? Not like the traditional expectation on boarding and training for dogs, in which dogs are subjected to heave handed measures to subdue, control and suppress their behavior. Instead it was going to look a lot like how I integrate and introduce foster dogs to my home. It was going to be designed to be a reset in learning, introducing positive reinforcement training practices and providing a foundational beginning for dogs to continue learning, and loving learning, going forward.
In order to do those things though I needed to address why people choose board and train options for their dogs. The easy thing to recognize was that people were wanting their dog’s to be trained. But I think it goes deeper than that, I think they want their dog trained but are some what lost in how to start that off. People want to use board and train options when their lives are chaotic and they are struggling to get those initial steps in living with a dog started. And I think people like the idea of their dog going away to ‘camp’ to learn to be a good dog.
In force free dog training we are not magicians. We can’t magically make everything better, but we can help. And for a lot of dogs who are struggling with some bigger issues, things like resource guarding, or a lack of impulse control, or the all encompassing but fairly vague “aggression”; a reset button in a new location with an experienced teacher can work wonders. So my goal with offering board and train options was that I would serve as the IT Crowd solution; turning it off and back on again. And in doing it force free I could help dogs transition into a new learning paradigm, or maintain one already started, and either build or keep momentum while their guardians were unavailable. It was important to me to set up a program that managed expectations. (I won’t return a fully trained dog, but I will return a happier, more engaged one.) And to design a learning system that would be easy for guardians to replicate and that promoted quick new skills development in dogs going forward. And that the process be as low stress and anxiety free as possible for the dogs and their humans.
So who benefits from board and train? Mostly the dogs. But by extension the guardians do as well. When we are struggling with difficult behaviors, and behavior challenges, sometimes that break from the same old same old helps everyone come back to the table refreshed and ready to work together. But for dogs who are perhaps new to a force free learning paradigm a force free board and train can smooth that transition, reduce their frustration in learning new rules, and speed their new skills acquisition. For owners this can be the break they needed from a frustrating situation, and to have their dog returned with a solid understanding of how to engage in learning with out causing everyone to feel their hair turning prematurely gray.
What does my program look like? It is done in 7 day spurts, with packages available both short and long term. I only allow one dog at a time in the program, to ensure I can devote as much time as possible to helping them learn. The first couple of days are about getting to know one another, figuring out the things each individual dog finds more reinforcing, and building some very basic foundation skills to help the dog understand how learning was going to take shape. Then it’s short sessions multiple times a day working through building skills determined by primary need from a guardian’s intake form. We work on things like leash skills, reactivity, engagement, and building confidence in shy or fearful dogs. Socializing with other humans and dogs is done in a controlled, and systematic fashion to ensure no one has hurt feelings or experiences too much emotional overload. At the end of the series guardians have a free session to learn transfer skills in person, and two virtual sessions that are 30 minutes each to be used at any time to help ease transition. I do recommend for major issues we commit to at least three weeks, but for guardians who are looking to just enhance their dog’s boarding experience while traveling out of the area with out them a week is a great kick off point.
Have you ever thought of board and train options for your dog? Are you surprised to learn it can be done force free with great benefits to both guardians and dogs? Wanna chat about signing up? Email me!
*If you are out of my area you can still sign up! We can arrange transport for your dog to and from based on what is most convenient for all.