Board and Train programs offer many benefits. They enable your dog to spend a dedicated period of time in the hands of a professional dog trainer. This approach ensures that undesirable behaviors can be rectified, and new ones can be learned and proofed. Trainers are able to structure sessions to maximize the effect and impact of the training.
For dog owners, a Board and Train program can be valuable if you have a busy schedule, are heading out of town on vacation, or are otherwise unable to commit to private lesson training in your home. Picking up a transformed pup just a few weeks after dropping them off may seem like a dream come true, but there are factors that will determine if that transformation remains in place – or if your dog will revert to their previous habits.
One misconception about Board and Train programs is that the owner has no involvement in the training. While that may be true when your dog is undertaking its training program, dog owners have a pivotal role to play when their dog returns home. If the training isn’t maintained, the dog will inevitably slip into its old behavioral habits. This causes frustration for the owner – who may be wondering why their dog hasn’t retained their knowledge. However, as with humans, if we don’t regularly reinforce what we learn, it becomes more difficult to retain the information.
Remember – dogs are not robots. They are sentient beings. We cannot simply program them to behave as we want, and even after a Board and Train, it will require work to maintain their newly learned skills. In this article, we’ll help you to understand how you can set yourself – and your dog – up for success after a Board and Train program.
1) Understand what your dog’s training actually included
The crucial first step to maintaining your dog’s training begins when you pick them up from the training facility after their program is complete.
When you initially decided to sign your dog up for training, it is likely that you had a specific goal in mind. For example, you may have been trying to rectify a frustrating behavioral problem, or you may have wanted your puppy to learn its basic obedience commands. When the program is complete, you obviously hope that the dog knows how to perform those behaviors – but just as importantly, as the dog’s owner, you should understand what you need to do to maintain it.
To do this, you need to speak with your dog trainer and understand what your dog actually learned – and how to maintain it. At Christian K-9 Academy, we consider this as the most important aspect of our Board and Train programs. We teach you how to work with your dog, and even help to identify how your behavior and mindset may need to change when it comes to handling your dog.
2) Create a maintenance program
Armed with the knowledge from speaking with your dog’s trainer, the next step is to actually implement the action points in the days, weeks and months to come. Reinforcing these behaviors correctly is critical to maintaining the items your dog learned in their Board and Train program.
Review any resources you received from your trainer when you picked your dog up, and make notes on the key learning points. From this, you can produce a maintenance plan which will help you to reinforce the behaviors your dog has learned. This will help to create a structure and enable your dog to maintain its new habits.
There are a couple of key factors to consider when creating your maintenance plan. Firstly, make sure it is achievable; if you can only dedicate 15 minutes per day to dog training, ensure your plan reflects that. Secondly, keep your training plan in a place where you (and your family) can easily view it. Consider writing up your notes, printing them out, and sticking them on the refrigerator so everyone in your home is aware of what needs to be done.
If you’re a Christian K-9 Academy client, be sure to look out for our monthly maintenance sessions!
3) Practice in public
As you move through your maintenance plan, you may wish to incorporate new challenges which allow your dog to demonstrate their behaviors in different environments. By performing the behaviors outside of the home, you are creating an expectation that this behavior is required anywhere and everywhere, regardless of location, distractions or other circumstances.
As one example, if your dog was struggling with reactivity to other dogs prior to their training program, try taking them out for walks in public places, where they will have to act calmly around other dogs.
More generally, socialization is a key component of a well-rounded, well-behaved dog. Understanding how to interact with dogs and humans in unfamiliar environments helps to create consistent, reliable behaviors. For this reason, we encourage every dog owner to try and expose their pup to the world around them.
4) Consider new training opportunities
Assuming that your maintenance plan is working as expected, you may wonder how to further challenge your dog. One way you can do this is to explore new training opportunities.
There is no shortage of ways to get your dog involved in new activities. You could take your dog to a ‘tune-up’ group class (if your dog trainer offers them), which provides you with a pulse check on your dog’s behavior by seeking feedback from your trainer. This is also a great way to work around other distractions and unfamiliar dogs.
Another option is to sign your dog up for a dog sport, such as nosework, agility or search and rescue. Providing a new outlet for your pup will not only challenge them physically, but will also provide them with vital mental stimulation. Consider speaking with a professional trainer on which new activity may be best suited for your dog, based on your pup’s temperament, breed characteristics, and energy level.
5) Ask your trainer if you have questions
If you run into difficulties with maintaining your dog’s behavior after a Board and Train program, often, the best thing you can do is reach out to your dog trainer for help. Attempting to troubleshoot problems on your own can often lead to further problems. An experienced dog trainer will likely be able to offer helpful guidance on how to navigate your issue.
Most professional dog trainers will offer follow-up training or support to those who have graduated from one of their programs. At Christian K-9 Academy, we offer follow-up training in your home (for owners on the west side of Columbus), and can help via telephone and email.