My most popular requests these days, are typically Long Beach CGC (AKC Canine Good Citizen) training or evaluation, or Long Beach dog aggression cases. I have always enjoyed training for the CGC, and especially after AKC decided that it would be an official title a dog could come away with, it has been especially fun for pet owners to set as a realistic training goal! The CGC Evaluation is challenging but attainable through solid, committed training. There are ten test items that include practical life skills, such as walking through a crowd and being examined by a stranger.
On the flip side of the fun, lighthearted CGC, there is the Long Beach board and train program. This is my most popular program and is boot camp style, where the pup stays with us in our training facility and goes through an intensive 3 week or longer daily training program. It is all inclusive, and is designed maintain success and easy transition home. So what could possibly go wrong with this awesome plan?
You. The owner. The handler. Yes, YOU.
Don’t get me wrong. You may have chosen an ineffective program for your dog. That DOES happen. That topic is a whole different ranty blog post. But for the most part, the board and train is great. Mine includes private lessons, and group classes to help transition the owner to a comfortable place in training to maintain all the behaviors the dog has learned in the program, for continued success. But if you don’t follow through, if you don’t complete the program, the training will not stick!
Because your dog is not a machine. Your dog is a living, breathing, thinking being with free will! This is not a car you drop off at a mechanic and when you pick back up, is done and thought free until something breaks again. And dog trainers are not magicians. There are no hidden unicorn dust, Harry Potter spells or witchcraft here! This is careful, repetitive behavior modification and training. It takes consistency and without it, the dog is and always will remain a very oportunistic animal!
So what can you do to help your dog entering a board and train program to succeed?
Set realistic goals and have realistic expectations. We cannot change DNA and we cannot make an apple an orange, even though they’re both fruit. So if you get a beagle and expect it to act like a german shepherd, everyone will fail and be sorely disappointed. An older, curmudgeonly dog that hates other dogs cannot be made to be a carefree, social butterfly. A nervous, anxious, insecure pup cannot suddenly turn into a brave, wanderlust, adventuring soul. Respect your dog and set realistic expectations for the dog you have.
Follow through with the training program. A good board and train program should be full of support! Take advantage of all that is available to you, whether it’s follow up private lessons, group class options, or just the ability to ask questions to your trainer. Even if your dog is doing wonderfully at home, more practice is kin to preventative maintenance! And being able to practice under a professional eye is always preferred, so that any minor signs of trouble can be nipped in the bud, before it turns into a real issue that requires more intensive training.
Listen to your trainer. Hopefully, you have chosen a trainer that you felt comfortable with in the first place. One who’s training philosophy and methodology sits well with you, so that when your dog comes home from their board and train, you are comfortable and willing to follow through with all training tools, rules, and objectives. Think of it this way – if you had a kid that was sent off to juvie for whatever offense, would you welcome him home by giving him your car keys, your credit card and a ‘see ya later’? No! You’d sit that kid down and set the ground rules to prevent her from getting into trouble or making a mistake, resulting in a possible stint in juvie again. Dropping them off at school. Picking them up from school. Dropping off at work. Picking them up from work. Always knowing their whereabouts. No extra cash in hand. No car priveleges. If that goes well for a couple months – you can reward them with a bit more freedom – maybe Saturdays with friends, but better be back by 9p! Same with your dog that has come home from a board and train. Lots of rules until you have both learned the routine, schedule, good habits. Then you can start with a couple of looser rules, and simply gauge the results over time. Kid messes up? No more Saturdays out. Dog messes up? Back to crating when unsupervised. Your dog is a growing, learning, evolving creature and most of dog training will come from trial and error.