Dog trainers provide an unusual service that is unlike most (all?) other service providers. When most people call a plumber or get their hair cut, they don’t want to know how to fix their own plumbing or cut their own hair. And yet, when dog owners call us for help with training their dogs, we don’t train their dogs, we train the owners to train their own dogs.
There are exceptions, but the best-known form of dog training service has a bad name in many circles: Board and Train. With board and train, the trainer has the dog live with them full time for some period of time and trains the dog themselves. Many trainers associate this type of service with compulsion-based training (or worse), and certainly with the owner not present, it is possible for poor treatment to result – something that is reprehensible and should not be allowed. However, there is nothing about the concept of board and train that compels the use of any training method, and in our view, there are tremendous opportunities being wasted when R+ trainers reject direct training out of hand.
In fact, there are many examples of board and train type services provided by R+ trainers that are successful for pets, their owners, and the trainers. For example, day training, (like board and train but without the overnight stay) has been a successful business model for many trainers. Whether the owners drop off the dog, or the trainers picks them up, whether for a full day or several hours, day training can allow an experienced trainer to quickly teach the needed skills to the dog, creating satisfied customers all around.
There are some considerations that R+ trainers need to pay attention to. Because the comfort of the animal is important, some dogs will require an adjustment period to a new environment or a new handler. For fearful or aggressive dogs, the acclimation time may make the process slower than having the owner do the training themselves. Also, all behaviors require maintenance, so the owners do still also have to be trained on how to maintain the behaviors. Regular transfer sessions or other sessions where the owner is present are vital to the dog’s success. And a related point is that extra effort has to be made to communicate with the owners when they are not present. REgular updates, photos, videos and/transfer sessions are – again – key.
Despite these considerations, board and train/ day training can jump-start a dog’s training, and really give your clients the help they are looking for. When unwanted behaviors from a dog have started to sour a relationship, sometime seeing their dog being “good” can go a long way to repairing that relationship and showing the owner that with some knowledge and work, their pet can become the beloved family member they were meant to be.