Do you NEED Board and Train?

When dogs come to see us that have major behaviour problems, it is very common they say they have been to a number of trainers before us and other board and train programs.

So, it stands to reason they may go to others after us, if their expectations are not met.

Sometimes when working with the dog and the issue is mild, we often transition the dog back to the owners local trainer, at the complete of the program to keep supporting the owner. They may be more convenient for the client to access due to location or availability.

This is more common than you may know and if their local trainer can discuss with us the dogs needs, they can keep supporting the owner and dog locally too.

I say this because we want to set the correct expectations on what we can achieve in what time frames so everyone is on the same page.

Sending a dog to us is not a quick fix, or a fix at all.

It is more intense therapy in a controlled environment, so that gains can be made to the dogs confidence, behaviours and actions.

We want to be able to experience what the dog is like to live with, approach, walk, feed, teach and train, so we can get a feel for what the owner is experiencing.

When you see before videos, they are rarely a shock to the owners, they have seen this behaviour many times, that’s why they sought help.

Before and after videos are to help people develop some hope that perhaps their dog can improve when they may not have found success in the past.

Once we are in a position of understanding, we begin bonding with the dog so the dog can develop trust in us, seek affection, guidance and reinforcement.

We can establish reward (reinforcement) expectations in the dog and start to motivate the dog to follow instructions and move forward. This of course is done in a very controlled and non distracting or stimulating environment.

We may have to go right back to just bringing the dog into our indoor facility and walking him or her around just to get the dog to feel safe.

A number more sessions may just be coming into room and eating food and leaving after some exploration.

Some dogs have arrived so distressed, it can take a week to get them into a routine of eating, sleeping and feeling calm, and this must be achieved before training can start.

If your dog has not been boarded before, we recommend having your dog just board with us for 2-3 nights boarding to acclimate them to the kennel. Boarding rates are much lower than rehabilitation rates so it is a wise choice to have the dog learn to be comfortable before the program.

This is why expectations are hard to pinpoint, each dog is unique in their behaviours, genetics, experiences, nerves and drives and they need to be given the respect they need for us to learn what makes them feel the way they do.

If we consider board and rehab a “component” of the dogs rehab, our goal becomes clear in what we need to focus on in the time we have the dog.

When we have a dog aggressive dog for example, regardless of what is driving the dog, be it fear, instinct, anxiety or habit, they can be very determined to keep doing what they are doing.

It has worked for them this long and been strengthened usually by negative reinforcement (pressure going away), so changing these behaviours is challenging at times, even for us.

When you couple that with a breed of dog that is known for very high levels of resilience, then the issue is compounded.
Genetics play a significant role in behaviour, so we often have our work cut out for us.

Most dogs lack resources to draw from when stressed. Very often tight leashes on fearful dogs have removed the flight option when frightened and they go hard core into fight.

Whilst fight – flight – freeze behaviours are not ideal, opening up a flight option for a dog can be a very big relief to start with.

Through the process of board and rehab the dogs really enjoy working with us and we transition them into environments more like the owners live in.

Rehearsing in the Main Street of local towns, walking past dogs, people and other stimulants whilst we monitor their state of mind, reinforcing good choices.

Throughout the process, it is very common that we may uncover some elements even the owner was not aware of or could not get a handle on.

Allergies and diets are one in particular that plague many dogs and the ones the come here are no different. We often work with the original vet or skin specialists or our staff here that are highly knowledgeable and highly invested in nutritional well being for dogs, set up a very clean and healthy diet.

We have the ability to monitor all toileting habits, stool quality and skin quality whilst the dog is in our care and most people feel the dogs condition is much improved when they pick up their dogs.

More muscle, due to previously impossible off leash exercise on our property, better quality, volume appropriate, grain free raw diets fed multiple times a day.

More serious health issues we work with our vet who can help us with medical treatment if needed.

Board and Train
Our AWESOME Vet, Michelle @ North Richmond Vet Hospital

We often come across old structural injuries that are causing some or part of the behaviour problems, pinched nerves, tight muscles, neck injuries etc are all common in dogs that lunge like crazy on the leash.

We have our Osteopath, Sam, come to our facility and investigate the issues and provide treatment to reset and relieve structural issues.

Some dogs who are aggressive have not been to vets for years, the dog is simply too aggressive and the owner will not put the vet at that level of risk.

If this is a high priority for the dogs owners, we will take the dog to our vet and have examinations and blood work done to insure the dog is healthy and can cope with a vet visit.

So, trying to lay out what we will do when your dog is here is not straightforward at all.

When it is time to go home, we start with a handover so that we can explain where the dog is at, behaviourally, and what we needed to do so as to generate these results.

We know the dog now and when assessing the owners skills, size, the size of their dog, the environment they live in, the extent of the problem their dog came in with and the level at which the dog is at, we set up a program that we can teach the owners to try and bridge the gap between their dogs needs and their ability.

At the completion of your dogs stay, we run a course for YOU, the dogs owner. These range from 2, 6 and 10 hours spread over a period of a week or so.

Some owners with very challenging dogs may need to work with in an ongoing capacity. We run follow up lessons as part of the original program and we can run more if the owner needs us to on specific issues they may be having.

There is a lot of information provided on how to handle their dog, how to develop their relationship into one that the dog can feel secure within, what to feed, how to walk etc etc etc.

This is followed up with email / phone / zoom / Skype sessions as well, as the service with us does not end when the dog leaves the facility.

We have clients that email about dogs we helped them with over a decade ago.

Board and Train
This older girl was in a lot of pain in her back, Osteo treatment taking place.

But, as many trainers will tell you, the human component can be less predictable.

We have had some amazing clients, in fact we are lucky that the majority of the clients we have are excellent, motivated, optimistic and willing to change or do what ever is needed to make this relationship work.

When they go home they read the programs, they plan how to put them into place gradually so not to overwhelm the dog and give themselves a chance to develop the skills they need to help their dog move forward.

They send updates and if there is a problem they ask what they can do to overcome it.

These people almost unanimously have incredible success.

There are those that struggle though, and I have had colleagues label them a a waste of time and not worth the trouble. Advising them that they will never get their dog under control and they should put the dog to sleep.

First I want to say, no one actually knows if someone can or can’t do something until they try, and sometimes try again, and sometimes try a different approach, but telling someone they will never do it, sometimes simply means they won’t try.

No try, no chance.

Lucky he never quit, we would be in the dark

We have worked with people who have failed and lost confidence, and they have improved with us and beyond, some have not improved and not had success.

Even here we have our limits.

If you are thinking of board and rehab with us, or anyone, understand that you may need to make changes to the way that you: –

  • Live with your dog
  • Communicate with your dog
  • Manage your dog
  • Motivate your dog
  • Train your dog
  • Include your dog
  • Lead your dog
  • House your dog
  • Feed your dog
  • And the list goes on…

Changing the way the dog behaves within the relationship means that you will need to adjust the behaviour of all parties within the relationship.

You also need to understand that there are no magic pills, magic wands or magic trainers, there will be a process of therapy applied to your dog when here. Your dog will determine how much change is made in what time frame and this will be based on everything from genetics, imprinting, social skills, trauma, experience, training, rules and boundaries, health and diet.

We can get your dog on the right track, then transition your dog back to you, then teach you then work with you.

Setting Expectations

Knowing what the goals are and aiming at those is the best way to proceed. In the first diagram, we are highlighting how false expectations can look.

Board and Train

Below is a more realistic rehab model in which the time line represents an other than perfect progress.

Board and Train


You have a problem dog, get help, work with your trainer in the best way for you.

Keep going, keep working, do what ever it takes to help your dog… 

Board and Train


You have a problem dog, get help, work with your trainer in the best way for you.

Keep going, keep working, do what ever it takes to help your dog… 

It is going to be a team effort, you control 2/3 of the team…

About SteveK9Pro

Steve Courtney is a Nationally Accredited Canine Behaviour Specialist, Obedience Trainer, Law Enforcement Dog Trainer and ANKC Breeder. Steve has been training dogs all his life and in these articles he shares with you his experience...

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One comment

  1. Have so much respect for what you do here..being able to outline the many problems that some owners experience and the solutions we face..thanks a mil

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