It’s not about the training, it’s about the relationship

Every now and then I get a request for a board and train. Board and train is a common practice in the dog training industry where people send their dogs to a dog trainer for generally several weeks, and the trainer trains their dog while it is with them. This practice is not very common in the science-based and force free communities. From being in this industry for nearly 10 years, it is the practice most associated with scandals of “trainers” giving dogs back in poor condition, often physically and mentally. In fact several of the dogs I have worked with were for issues that came up after a board and train.

So why don’t I or others committed to the welfare of the dog offer this service (there are some welfare focused board and trains, more on that at the end)? For me, it misses the point of why I teach others.

When you start on a dog training journey with your dog, a magical thing will happen. Your relationship will change and grow. When you’re starting to train your dog, you’re learning a whole new skillset while also learning how to understand what your dog is communicating. Your dog is going through the same thing at the very same time. They are watching you, learning how to earn their rewards, learning what works, refining their interpretations of what you’re asking of them, and most importantly, having fun WITH YOU.

I could have a lot of fun with board and train clients. I love training new dogs. But the dog would spend all that time learning how I teach, learning what works for me, and bonding with me. Your relationship with your dog is the most important thing between the two of you. If your relationship isn’t strong, all the training in the world won’t matter when distractions show up. If your relationship isn’t strong, if that bond isn’t there, then you’ll never connect fully with your dog and that’s not something I wish for anyone with a dog.

Training your dog can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s worth putting in the time yourself. You won’t become a pro overnight. But you will learn to work with your dog and your dog will learn to work with you and that will turn into a beautiful relationship based on trust, love and fun.

Finally, I know some people require board and train programs to help them due to personal limitations. There are some good board and train options out there and good trainers will take good care of your dog and will ensure you get all the training you need at pick up time as well. They will be open with you about where your dog will be staying, how they will work with your dog, what your dog will be doing when not actively trained and they will provide regular updates. Do your research, ask for client referrals and trust your gut if you send your dog to a board and train.

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