Can a 1-2 Week Board and Train Transform Your Dog?
As a consumer trying to make the best decision on which dog training program to choose, it can get quite overwhelming to sort through all the details. A common question I hear from inquiring clients is, “Why are your training programs at The Doghouse three weeks? Other trainers offer one or two-week packages.”
This observation is a reasonable question, especially in today’s culture, when convenience and instant results are the expected norms. I am certainly guilty of this way of life. Why would I haul both of my young toddlers into the car, fight traffic, and struggle to find parking at the store when I can order off Amazon Prime and receive a package in two days? It’s natural to think that because someone claims they can provide results in a shorter amount of time, they are the better option. I am here to tell you that it is far from the truth in the field of dog training. Just like weight loss, when it comes to successful results, there is simply no such thing as instant gratification or cutting corners. Not if you want the outcome to last.
I have been running my Full-Service training program for 18 years. During this time, I have continually practiced and perfected my craft, including experimenting with different lengths of training programs. Thanks to my years of experience, I feel confident in stating that lasting obedience can’t be obtained successfully in just one-two weeks, and here’s why:
1 Week Programs: Don’t expect a fully trained dog after only one week. Instead, you should expect to continue the teaching process with them as opposed to merely reinforcing what they learned. A fully trained dog can understand and perform the commands that you give, no matter the environment or the distractions. It is unlikely that this will happen after just one week. Many dogs won’t even have fully shown their personality and individual quirks until they have adapted to the changes around them. Put yourself in your dog’s shoes; you brought them to a new place; they spent a week with a new person and had hardly any time to acclimate. All this occurs as they are being expedited basic commands because of a time-line (often relying on the use of training tools to make reliability rather than the obedience itself). In these cases, your dog may be able to perform the basic commands on video with the trainer or even when you arrive to pick them up on location. Still, as soon as they switch the environment, or there are different distractions, it’s as if the information is no longer in the right context.
Instead of being able to bring your dog home and reinforce the obedience taught and methods used, you will have to completely re-train them to understand the commands in your home environment. There is not enough generalization of the obedience commands taught for the dog’s training to reliably transfer. Besides, you must also understand how to use the training tools correctly, or you and your dog will be lost. A lot of these one-week programs only offer a 2-hour one-time transfer lesson, and you leave right after with your dog. That is a crash course for you, and it doesn’t set you or the dog up for success. The press of an electric collar button shouldn’t determine if the dog performs their obedience skills.
2 Week Programs: Even with a two-week program, expect your dog to have some confusion during the transition. Two weeks is just barely enough time for the dog to adjust to the new routine and start understanding the commands. Still, even at this point, they are just becoming ready to practice their learned skill set in various environments (such as dog parks and around town). The dog is still likely to be reliant on training tools or rewards used by the trainer. You should expect to continue a strict training regime when your dog returns home, so they don’t lose anything they learned. Even after two weeks, you are likely to run into some of the same problems when you return home as you would after the one-week program options. If you have proper go-home training instructions, a good handler can maintain what was learned and continue to build on it.
Even as a dog sport competitor, I would never imagine that I could purchase a dog thoroughly trained and titled for competitions and expect to enter a trial and win. It wouldn’t matter if the dog had won titles with the previous trainer, and I had video proof, even with my experience of being a seasoned dog handler. The dog might not follow the commands when given by me because maybe their previous trainer never had them practice taking commands from others. Perhaps they only trained in the same field. It could even be something as simple as it rained on the day I competed, and the dog did not practice in the rain with their previous owner.
Here are the fundamental reasons why short-term training doesn’t work:
- Dog training is dynamic, and dogs are not robots! Just teaching them the basic commands is not enough. Dogs are very situational. They learn in pictures. If even one condition within their environment changes compared to the picture that they learned, they might not know how to respond. Short term training programs won’t work because it takes repetition, time, and patience to introduce your dog to a variety of environmental factors. This process helps to ensure a smoother transition once they return home to you.
- Your “good” relationship with your dog might not be as good as you think. Yes, our dogs are part of our families. However, they don’t comprehend things the same way that we do as humans. What you may interpret as showing them love, they might interpret as proof that they are in control as opposed to you. Love doesn’t always translate to respect. At The Doghouse LLC, we thoroughly teach you how to earn your dog’s respect through healthy leadership and by understanding their genetic needs. This step will have lifelong benefits within your relationship.
- Short term programs can’t generalize the obedience taught. There’s not enough time! For example, my definition of heeling means to walk on the left side and don’t pull on the leash. If I stop walking, then the dog is to sit next to me automatically. This concept can be picked up quickly by the dog, especially when I am balancing the training with the use of rewards and correction. That is only the beginning. I then have to take that same dog and walk them in multiple other situations; at the park, by bicycles, by other dogs, in a pet store, in Home Depot, over food on the ground, in a field of grass, on the sidewalk, up and downstairs, and at a hiking trail. If the dog can perform my definition of the heel command in all those variations (without help from the training tools), then I would say that the dog understands its job. Now do the above sequence for the other five obedience commands you want to teach that dog. (Oh yeah, and do it in 1-2 weeks!)
So what do I recommend?
To get your pet to the level of mastery described above, I need approximately three solid weeks with the average dog. In these three weeks, we will teach your dog the desired commands and behaviors in multiple scenarios and environments, with a variety of distractors. They will be handled by two trainers, ensuring that their new skills will transfer when you begin giving the same commands at home. We also fully recognize that it isn’t just your dog that needs training. When your family welcomes them back into your home, you will need to be prepared to ensure that the training transfers. It takes my training clients an average of 3 lessons with a trainer BEFORE their dogs go home with them. We work as a team, and the most important member is you!
Again, your dog doesn’t go home until the training completely transfers back to you, and when you are confident in handling them.
Yes, your dog might still test you when they get home. However, it is no different than when a child returns from being at Grandma’s, or when students have a substitute teacher in their classroom. By attending those final sessions with us, we prepare you for this period of reintegration. Then you will have the confidence to react accordingly to your dog’s behaviors. You will become comfortable with the learned commands as well as any training tools that will guide you during the transition. We also make an exit strategy for those tools. When you sign your dog up for training at the Doghouse, we know that you are looking for life-long results and not just quick fixes. After your dog has fully graduated the program, you will be invited back to 3 group lessons taught at the facility. These classes are for the trainers to access your handling and continue to challenge you and your dog.
When selecting a trainer and their programs, always do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask for training videos. Access the dog’s in the videos and see if they are happy and eager to learn. Ask for a tour of the facility. I believe there is a trainer out there for every dog. As you begin the process of deciding who will work with the four-legged member of your family, take the time to research the different training beliefs and methodologies that exist. Don’t rush into any program, and don’t buy into “quick fix” advertisements.
We offer training programs for dogs 6 months and older. Training a puppy younger than that through a board and train is like sending your toddler to preschool to learn calculus. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stimulate your puppy and teach them how fun it is to learn. It also doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be inhibiting undesired behaviors. There is a time to prepare reliability within your training, and it’s not during the puppy stage of development. Have fun bonding and showing your puppy manners at this stage.
Thank you for considering The Doghouse, LLC, with something so important to you and your family. Thank you for giving us the privilege and opportunity to improve your life, your dog’s life, and your relationship. It is a responsibility that we do not take lightly.
To set up a meet/greet at The Doghouse, call us at 727-201-9790