In light of recent events in the dog training industry (namely, more dogs being mistreated while in the care of “professionals”), we wanted to talk about best practices when choosing a board and train program for your dog.
Choosing a dog trainer should be something done with care. Dog training is an unregulated industry, meaning anyone can go to a weekend seminar, get some business and training advice, go home and open an LLC and start taking clients. In fact, it happens all. the. time. Inexperienced dog trainers opening their own businesses is a huge problem in the industry. Without having a team to depend on and a mentor to guide them through best practices, the quality of training and dog care can be VERY questionable.
When looking for your dog’s trainer, our first recommendation is to research the company as a whole. How long has the owner of the business been in the training industry? How long has their business been operational? Did they work for other training companies prior to starting their own, and for how long? A qualified business owner should be transparent about their professional experience and happy to talk to you about it. You should also ask about the trainers that work underneath the business owner, as often facilities have other trainers doing a lot of the training. If all of the other trainers have only been there a month or two, that might speak to a difficult work environment. We’re very proud of Our Team of Professional Dog Trainers and we make sure they are well-trained and mentored prior to working with training dogs, and require that they continue their education via seminars, workshops, competition, and hands on coaching throughout their career.
We think it is SO important for dog trainers to compete in dog sports with their own dogs. Certifications done online can show a lot of book knowledge but being judged in person by a non-biased third party on a set criterion, in a new environment WITHOUT the use of rewards or corrections, really shows you what a dog trainer can do. While your goal likely isn’t competition, a dog trainer who is able to compete with their dogs (and do well) shows competency in marker training, reward placement, fading rewards, teaching advanced training skills, and more.
Find out the methodologies and training techniques used by the training company. Dog trainers should be upfront and honest about what tools they use and recommend, whether or not they are included with the training program, and if you’ll be required to use them at home. While we are HUGE advocates for e-collar training and balanced training methodologies, we prefer having honest, educational discussions about dog owners who are on the fence about them, and will not take a dog in for training unless the owner trusts us and our methods, and are willing to continue the training techniques at home.
What is being promised in the program, and on what timeline? Many trainers promise off leash reliability in two weeks (or less!!), and we want dog owners to ask themselves how that is getting done. What if the dog isn’t food motivated, or can be fearful, or has high prey drive, or is stressed in a new environment, or bolts when they’re nervous? We no longer offer promised training commands in our programs. Why? Because every dog is an individual with varying levels of motivation for food/toys/praise, with their own wants and needs… and same with their owner! We recommend working with a company who will put your dog, and their emotions, first. A dog trainer should be up front with you about what your dog is capable of doing, rather than treat them unfairly in the name of “promised skills on a timeline”. If a training facility promises to *CURE AGGRESSION IN 3 WEEKS* or *GET YOUR DOG 100% OFF LEASH IN 14 DAYS* we recommend you look elsewhere.
Can you see the space your dog will be staying in? Some dog trainers work out of their homes, so it makes sense that they expect a higher level of privacy… but you should still be able to ask for photos and videos of where your dog will be staying. Facilities should be willing to show you the space prior to you leaving your dog. When you arrive, take note of how the facility smells, and the noise level. It’s totally normal for dogs to bark at new people, but if you walk in and it sounds like a dog shelter and you can barely get a word in, it’s probably not going to be a very quiet learning environment.
Will you be updated on progress? We provide regular photo and video updates of dogs while they’re in training, weekly written reports that are honest about where the dog is doing well and where they need more work, AND weekly weight reports. If your dog is being sent off to an unknown location and you won’t receive regular photos and videos (that show their body condition, overall health, AND their attitude), we recommend moving on.
What kind of follow up does the training program come with? You won’t be a dog trainer after a one hour graduation session. Board and train programs are most successful if there is a heavy emphasis on owner follow up training and continued support.
Above all else, don’t let a training company pressure you into enrollment. We always encourage looking around at other options, reading reviews online, checking out social media pages, and asking a lot of questions. We aren’t for everybody, and everybody isn’t for us. We want to be a cohesive team working towards the same goal, and sometimes personalities just don’t align. Do your research and be educated. Just because someone can get your dog in immediately doesn’t mean they’re going to get good results. It’s worth protecting your investment and choosing the RIGHT trainer, the FIRST time.
If you’re in Colorado and looking for help with your dog, check out our training options, here: https://dogdynamix.com/boardandtrainprograms/. We pride ourselves in offering safe, quality Denver Boarding and Training options that prioritize the health and emotional well-being of your dog.