Sending your beloved pooch to a doggy boot camp is a big choice for any pet parent. A boot camp, often referred to as a boarding school for dogs, is often used to change dog behavior, giving them the skills they need in order to be a loving, obedient, well-mannered pet. But are they effective? How safe are these dog training classes?
Here’s a close look at what a behavior boot camp is all about, so you can make a more informed choice as to whether this form of puppy training is right for your pet.
What Are Board & Train (Aka Doggie Boot Camp) Programs?
Doggy boot camps go by several different names. Some call this type of obedience training dog board and train boot camp, while others may know it as dog training camp. Behavior modification programs vary greatly in their approach.
One type of boot camp is a home board and train program. As the name implies, this is where you send your dog to a trainer’s home. The dog will usually stay there for at least two weeks, receiving private lessons on proper social interaction and basic manners. The dog will typically spend some time in a fenced area for socialization with other dogs.1
Another kind of boot camp is known as kennel board and train. The dog is confined most of the day, except for the times they’re let out for training and exercise.2
How Long Does A Dog Stay At A Doggie Boot Camp Program?
Again, the typical stay in a home board and train program is usually about two weeks. But that can vary. The amount of time your dog will need to stay can depend on several factors, such as the kinds of habits that need changing and whether they need specialized training. Make sure you communicate well with the trainer, so you’ll have a better idea of how long they think your dog will need to stay.3
What Kinds Of Training Methods Do Board & Train Programs Employ?
Different trainers have different methods of training. This is where you’ll need to do some digging to find out how your dog will be treated during their stay. The last thing you’ll want is for your dog to be punished, including being subjected to wearing a shock collar. Have a long talk with the trainers you’re considering before you send your pet anywhere.
These are some of the best training methods around. If you’re not 100 percent sure the boot camps you’re thinking about employ these methods, scratch them off your list.
This method involves the use of reward, rather than punishment, to reinforce good behavior. If you’ve ever seen a service dog at an airport or a shopping mall, they were probably trained using positive reinforcement. The principle is easy to understand. When a dog does what they’re supposed to do, they get a reward. When they don’t, the trainer withholds the reward until they do.4
The purpose of positive reinforcement training is for the dog to associate good behavior with the reward, whether it’s a toy, a treat, or affection.5
Scientific training is a very broad area, one that combines several different methods. This training method isn’t quite as straightforward as positive reinforcement. Some trainers will incorporate aspects of positive reinforcement, while others believe it’s important to promote good behavior without using rewards. Professionals who take this approach do a lot of research, so they can stay abreast of the latest methods.6
Clicker training is a different approach than positive reinforcement, but the end goal is the same – to reward good behavior and to make it easy for a dog to associate that good behavior with something positive. In fact, clicker training is often considered a subset of positive reinforcement.7
It basically works like this: The trainer uses a device that makes a clicking noise in order to tell the dog when they perform a certain type of good behavior. This could mean they stay when they’re supposed to, stayed in place when commanded, or something else. The device signifies the exact second when the dog does what they’re supposed to do. It’s good for learning new behavior — but it’s not particularly great for curbing bad behavior.8
How To Choose A Doggy Boot Camp
As you can see, you’ll want to put forth some serious effort to determine what train boot camp is best for your dog. After all, this is a member of your family. Even if you’re frustrated with the way they’re acting, you still want the best for them.
So, with that in mind, here are a few suggestions on how to choose the right dog training camp for your pooch.
Have a specific goal in mind – What do you want the boot camp to achieve when it comes to your dog’s behavior? That’s the question you’ll need to answer before you even start looking for a behavior boot camp. Is your dog overly aggressive? Does their body language make it seem like they could bite you at any minute? Do they bark all the time? You may want to look for trainers who specialize in certain issues.9
Know what kinds of training methods they use – This can’t be stressed enough. Talk to the trainers who work at the boot camps you’re considering. Make sure they’re not going to punish your dog or force them to wear a pinch collar. There are plenty of gentle training methods that are not only effective but can actually be fun. Ask for details – or better yet, see if you can sit in on a training session to see how they work.10
How do the trainers treat you personally? – This may give you a good feel for how they’re going to treat your dog. If they’re warm and welcoming, that’s likely a great sign. If not, remove them from your list, and move on to someone else.
How Old Should A Puppy Be For Training?
Some pet owners will send a pooch for dog boarding and training because they just can’t get their dog to behave the way they want. They may have had the dog for a couple of years and they’re fed up and have no other alternative – other than surrendering that dog to a shelter.
Others want to get a head start on training, sending their puppy to a boot camp nearly as soon as they bring them home. But how early is too early when it comes to puppies and training?
Some experts believe puppies can receive training as soon as their eyes open. A puppy, they say, can learn simple commands, such as “stay” and “sit,” before they’re even two months old. Waiting too long may result in missed chances to mold a dog’s behavior – and may even necessitate changing that behavior when bad habits take hold.11
If you’re not sure whether your puppy is ready for training, talk to your vet. They’ll be able to give you an idea of what’s best.
So, What’s The Final Verdict?
As long as you thoroughly – really thoroughly – check the boot camp facility out, it should be a safe, effective way to help change your dog’s behavior for the better. Your pooch will receive regular exercise so they can avoid weight gain while they’re gone, and they should be able to learn good habits that can help make them a loving member of your family for years to come.
Ask your vet if they have recommendations on a good boot camp, one that has the critical infrastructure in place to ensure your dog will be treated well.
But you also need to remember that a boot camp is temporary. You might have a better-behaved dog when they return home, but that won’t be the end of their training. Be prepared for your dog to go through a continuing education program of sorts as you reinforce what the trainers taught. Your dog will very likely need to continue their learning curve for months to come.
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