The Weekly Q&A: Ask Way of Life™ Dog Training

Board and Train

Q: Hello! Your website and training approach intrigued us. We are looking for a possible board-and-train option while we’re away for three weeks in June. Our 5-year-old Schnoodle mix could use a refresh on some issues with barking, jumping, and general impulsive behaviors. Curious about your rates and drop-off location.

A: Thank you for contacting us about your Schnoodle. We’re happy to hear that you were intrigued by our different and counter-culture approach to working with dogs, particularly those exhibiting behavioral issues such as the ones you mention.

Board-and-train programs have been rising in popularity. Many of my colleagues in the business charge premium rates to take on dogs, train them, and return them to their owners all shiny and new. I am often asked whether I provide such services and my short answer is that I don’t, simply because I don’t buy into their underlying logic.

The idea with board-and-train is that it is possible to pay someone to train our dogs for us. If we were talking about learning particular skills such as service work or scent detection, for example, I could potentially get behind a program like that. However, people request board-and-train services predominantly to deal with behavioral issues, thinking that they can outsource to someone the work of turning an ill-behaved dog into a well-behaved one. 

Unfortunately, this reflects the belief in the wider culture that getting dogs to behave is simply a matter of teaching them commands and reinforcing their compliance with such commands. Since it is only a matter of training as opposed to raising dogs to behave differently, we can simply ask someone to do this for us. We drop off our dog, go on vacation, and come back home to pick up our dog that’s been all fixed up now, no different than dropping off a computer for a hard drive reformat or leaving our car at the mechanic’s. 

We think (and are told) that our refurbished dog will behave with us exactly as it did for the trainer. Yet, dogs aren’t machines that perform the same for whomever happens to be handling them. That’s not how dogs work. They are thinking and living creatures that act differently according to whom they’re with. 

Healthy behavior in dogs is not a matter of training, as many believe. Rather, it is a matter of rearing. It is about cultivating a sound attitude and outlook in our dog, based on trust in healthy and consistent relationships. Thinking we can outsource that job to someone underestimates our dogs’ deeply relational nature. 

Our approach focuses on building a deep bond between human and dog by comprehensively addressing all the elements in a dog’s way of life. Ultimately, the dogs can only be as healthy as their way of life allows. We therefore recommend you find a trainer who understands that and will coach you in developing that great relationship with your dog – the only real guarantee of stability and good behavior.