Have you ever wanted to ship your dog off for a “boot camp” training situation, where someone does all of the work for you and returns a perfectly mannered dog? It’s a tempting scenario, particularly if you’re at the end of your rope with your dog. The knowledgeable trainer works her magic while you get a blissful week or two off from dealing with the barking, peeing, leash pulling or whatever it is that drove you to seek out a trainer in the first place. Though it sounds like a dream, the results can be anything but.
One of the most worrying aspects of boot camp dog training is that you don’t know what’s happening to your dog when you’re not there. Though the trainer might describe the training technique to be used in vague but reassuring terms, unless you’re there to witness it, you have no idea exactly how your dog is going to be handled. For example, one of my new customers dropped his dog off at a local boot camp facility while he was on travel and returned to discover that the trainer had used both a choke collar and a shock collar on his dog. He immediately noticed that his normally exuberant dog seemed suppressed, even prior to the post-camp training demonstration with the trainer. Unfortunately, my customer didn’t think that the facility would use such heavy handed techniques for basic obedience training.
Worse yet, sometimes the boot camp scenario takes a horrifying turn when the trainer injures, or worse yet, kills the dog in his or her care. It’s shocking, but it happens, as these articles illustrate.
I’m not suggesting that all boot camp training will result in a dog abuse. I know of quite a few excellent trainers who offer “board and train” options (which is a much nicer name than “boot camp”) in addition to group classes. I’m sure the dogs in their care end up with some cool new tricks in their repertoire, but I still feel … conflicted about the scenario.
Training isn’t just about ending up with a good dog. Indeed, that’s a huge part of it, but training also helps you develop a stronger bond with your dog. Working through training exercises as a team creates a sense of accomplishment and adds a new layer to your relationship. You learn to read your dog more accurately, listen to what he has to say, and respond accordingly. Those experiences often happen during the minutia of dog training, where an advance during a daily practice session turns into a reason to celebrate. That said, I know that I’m being naive in assuming that everyone takes as much interest in training as I do.
Though I understand the allure of sending an untrained dog away like clothing to be dry cleaned, I feel that it’s so important to be a part of the training process, no matter how challenging the dog might be. Training can be frustrating, annoying, exhausting and at times, seemingly fruitless, but it’s a necessary rite of passage that every dog guardian should experience firsthand.
It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.