What is residential dog training and when is it worth it?
That’s what we’ll find out today.
We’ll start by discussing exactly what it is (because it may not be what you’re thinking).
Then, we’ll go over the pros, cons, and whether it’s ever worth trying.
Sound like a plan?
Good, let’s get started!
What is Residential Dog Training?
The term “residential dog training” brings up visions of, well, training your dog in your residence, right?
Actually, it couldn’t be more different than what you’re picturing. Instead, it involves sending your dog away to be trained by someone else entirely.
Some have compared it to puppy boarding school. I guess if that boarding school was actually a military academy, it would be an accurate description. It’s a lot more like boot camp for dogs.
The idea is that you send your unruly pooch off to school and he comes back a whole new (and obedient) dog.
At first, it sounds super tempting, especially if you’re having major issues training your dog on your own.
However, for every pro of residential dog training, there’s at least one con. Let’s take a look, then find out when, if ever, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
Benefits of Residential Dog Training
Let’s start with the benefits of residential dog training. Keep in mind, though, that each pro depends entirely on the academy that you choose.
Professional hands-on training for your dog
Let’s be honest, very few of us could call ourselves professional dog trainers, right?
I’ve been training my own dogs for over two decades, yet I’d never be presumptuous enough to call myself a pro!
The trainers at doggy boot camp, though, are typically professionals. Or, at least they feel confident enough to call themselves experts.
That said, there are some caveats to this “pro,” which we’ll see in the cons.
Dogs get exposed to different training environments
As I’m sure you know, dogs react differently to commands depending on where they are and what’s around them.
My girl follows commands flawlessly most of the time but toss a squirrel into the mix outside and it’s a whole new ballgame.
A good school will train your dog in multiple different environments and with increasing levels of distraction.
For example, inside a home, outdoors, in or near shopping centers, and even with squirrels taunting them.
Personalized training lessons
Unlike regular dog training classes where all dogs follow the same syllabus, residential training programs are typically tailored to your dog. Not always, but usually.
That means they’ll work on what your dog needs to learn most rather than just following a generic regimen.
Follow-up lessons usually included
Since residential dog training only works if you’re willing to follow through at home, most schools offer follow-up lessons as part of the fee. Some will even come to your house
Can help you keep a dog that you would otherwise have to rehome
No one adopts a dog thinking, “Well, if he doesn’t behave, I’ll just give him back.” At least no one worthy of having a dog, anyway.
Sometimes, though, despite all our best efforts, we reach the point where rehoming becomes a very real possibility.
Maybe your dog is aggressive. Perhaps he’s barking so much that your landlord is threatening to evict you. Maybe he’s escaped and gotten injured so many times that you feel like he’d just plain be safer elsewhere.
Whatever the reason, residential dog training just might be what you and your dog need to ensure that you don’t have to lose each other permanently.
Cons of Sending Your Dog Away for Training
As I mentioned above, for every “pro” there’s at least one “con.” Again, some of them do depend on the school that you choose. Let’s take a look.
You’re not really involved until after the fact
Let’s start with the biggest drawback to residential dog training- the fact that you have little to no role until after the fact.
While you may be thinking, “Well, yeah, that’s what I like about it,” consider this- training isn’t just about teaching your dog to behave. It’s also about bonding.
During your sessions, you’re building a trusting relationship between you and your dog. You’re teaching him what he can expect from you and vice-versa.
If you hand this job off to someone else entirely, you lose that bonding opportunity.
Even worse, your dog may not even listen to you when he gets back. After all, you’re not the one who taught him how to behave.
In fact, one of the training schools I used for research even lists “your dog will return to his previous behavior” as a con.
Training methods are often less than ideal
I researched about two dozen different facilities to get an idea of how they work. Nearly all of them use dominance training, remote collars (a nicer word for shock collars), and other aversion-based negative methods.
As for the others, well, they simply didn’t say which training strategies they use.
I’m not saying every single one uses negative methods, but you’ll have to look really hard for one that’s all about positive training.
Trainers aren’t always “experts” in any real sense
So, here’s the thing about “expert” and “professional” dog trainers. They’re not always what they claim to be.
Now, I’m not saying they’re liars. Really, I’m not. However, literally anyone can call themselves a pro. Seriously, it’s legal.
As the Animal Humane Society explains, “At this time no federal or state certification is required to be a dog trainer, although certification is available.”
Unfortunately, this also means that there’s very little oversight. Dog boot camps are treated pretty much like boarding kennels in the eyes of the law.
While they have some laws governing space & cleanliness, as long as the school can obtain the permits needed, they don’t need much else.
What’s worse, most states still view dogs as property. So, if your dog dies under the school’s care, your only real recourse is to sue them in civil court.
They can cause more problems than they solve
All too often, owners send their dog away to boot camp to solve one issue only to find themselves dealing with a whole slew of new issues upon return.
Separation anxiety tops the list of problems. Remember, you’re sending your dog off to a stranger and won’t see him for weeks (sometimes even months).
However, it’s not even the worst potential problem. Harsh training methods, like the shock collar that many schools use, can actually make your dog more aggressive.
Last (but far from least for those on a tight budget), residential training programs are expensive.
I’m not just talking, “Wow, $100 is a lot for a pair of shoes” expensive. I’m talking “I paid less for a cruise for two” expensive. The average appears to be about $2,500 for a non-aggressive dog.
Unfortunately, as you can see, there are far more cons to sending your puppy away to school than there are pros.
So, is it ever really worth it? Let’s discuss.
When is Residential Dog Training Worth It?
In my opinion, residential dog training is only ever worth it as a 100% last-ditch effort to train a dog that has MAJOR behavioral issues.
For example, if your dog is aggressive and you’ve literally tried every single other option. If it comes down to giving him up or sending him to school, it’s worth a try.
It’s absolutely not worth it if you just want to train your puppy to do the basics.
If you do decide to go the residential dog training route, please (triple please) spend a lot of time researching the right place.
Ask about their training methods. Ask to see certifications. Make them show you where your dog will be staying. Ask for recommendations, referrals.
In short, be 100% sure that they’re going to care for your dog as much as you do.
Then, and only then, should you consider sending your dog away to school.