YOU want to do WHAT?
I imagine this is the response many people get when they suggest to their significant other or family members that they want to send the dog away for training. For some people it is simply inconceivable. The idea of sending their dog away for weeks and months at a time for training seems preposterous. But are there times when you should consider this option? I believe there is.
Debating the pros and cons of sending your dog away for training
I understand how tough it is to make the decision to send your lab away for training. Dogs are an integral part of our families and our lives. For many, dogs are family members, albeit the furry kind. So, I don’t take lightly the decision to send a dog away for training. As adults, unfortunately, we often must make the hard decisions for our children, both the human and the furry kind. And sometimes the right decision is to send your dog away for training. Often this is the best decision not only for your dog, but also for you and your family.
Why should I send my dog away for training?
Why would anyone want to send their dog away for training? Here are some very good reasons.
Lack of time
For some people it is simply a resource problem. If you do not have the time or energy to train your dog, you might need some help. Or, if a dog is very set in his/her ways, sending your dog to a professional trainer may be the best option. Consistency is very important for dog training and a professional knows what to teach the dog, in what order and how to be consistent with the training.
Too many big issues
If your dog has been allowed to get away with a lot of bad behaviors for a long time, you may need professional help to fix those problems. Once the problems have been addressed, the professional can then help you maintain the training which is much easier than doing the training in the first place.
If your dog is a working dog and needs specialized training, sending the dog away for that training is often necessary. If you want to hunt or compete your dog, there is a lot of very specialized training that must take place. And the training often requires many tools and resources that the average person does not have access to. In addition, there is specialized knowledge that is needed to train a dog to this level, and it often just makes good time and financial sense to pay someone to do that training.
Does it work sending dog away for training?
If you are considering sending your dog away for training, you may wonder if it works? Does sending your dog away for training really help me at all once the dog gets home? The short answer is yes, it does. Especially if the trainer includes training for you also! Here at Otter Tail Kennels, we call this a transition. All our programs include a 2–3-hour transition where we teach the dog owner what the dog has learned in training and how to maintain it for the long term. This is very important for both you, the owner, and the dog. Without this step, you may see little to no improvement from sending your dog away.
Will my dog forget me?
We get this question all the time. People are often afraid that if they send their dog away for training, the dog will forget all about them. But this is not true. In fact, the dog will remember you and be excited to see you when you come to pick them up. The bigger problem is that the dog will remember exactly what it was like before you sent him/her to training. So, if they jumped on you before training, they will think they can jump on you after training. Therefore, the transition, or owner training, is so important. You need to learn what the dog learned and how to maintain that training!
Will the training stick after he/she comes home?
There is really no purpose in sending your dog to training if the training will not stick after he/she comes home. But the reality is, if you, the dog owner, do not enforce the training at home, then, no, the training will not stick, and the time spent away from you will be a complete loss.
You will need to maintain the training once the dog gets home. But the good news is that maintenance does not take nearly the time or energy that the actual training requires. You can often maintain a dogs training in only a few minutes of obedience work each day. But you do have to be willing to enforce the training.
Learn more in How to maintain my dog’s professional training.
When doesn’t it work?
Sending your dog away for training will not work if you are not willing to learn how to maintain the training. If you refuse to enforce commands or believe that it is not right to enforce a command, then no training will work for your dog.
Dogs are not robots. You cannot program them to be a perfect, obedient dog and then expect that everyday they will be that perfect dog. It doesn’t work that way. Dogs are living, breathing animals. They think, test, and challenge you each day. This is what makes them so special, but it is also what makes it necessary to set up boundaries and rules and enforce those rules. If you are not willing to say NO, or make your dog SIT when you say SIT, or teach your dog to not jump on you and enforce that, then no amount of training will help you.
How long does it take to train my Lab?
It really depends on what you are sending your dog away to be trained for. Basic obedience training can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, or longer for some dogs. In most cases, the longer your dog is with a trainer the better trained he/she will be for the long term.
Hunting training can vary greatly. Some hunting programs are 10-12 weeks long, others are 4-6 months. It is dependent on the actual training that is being done and the level of training you desire for your dog. Learn more in How long does it take to train a hunting (gun) dog?
How much does it cost to send my dog to training?
The cost of sending your dog away for training varies widely. It can vary depending on the skill and experience of the trainer. It can also vary on the different training. For instance, basic obedience training may often be priced lower than hunting training. And hunting training may have additional costs such as live bird costs.
Some trainers price themselves by month, others by week. As a gauge, I know some trainers that are as low as $500/month for hunting training and others that are more than $300/week. You will need to check around because it can also vary by location.
The best bet is to look for a trainer that trains your breed of dog and does the type of training you are needing, and then call them up, or better yet, set up a visit to talk with them. The cost really shouldn’t be the final factor. Make sure that the trainer has a legitimate business, a place to do the training, the right equipment to do that training and the skill needed to do the training. If possible, watch the trainer do a training session with one or more dogs. If you have two or more candidates that meet your requirements, then you could use cost as a determiner.
What are the pros for sending my dog away for training?
Many people like to create pro and con lists when making difficult decisions, and I am no different. Here are some of the “pros” for sending your dog to training.
Dog learns more than you can teach at home
Professional dog trainers generally have a lot of experience with problem solving. In addition, they have developed a training plan that is very comprehensive and effective. So, sending your dog to a professional trainer could enable your dog to learn more than you are able to teach him/her at home on your own. Also, they may be able to learn quicker.
Trained from a proven program
If the trainer you select to send your dog to has been at it for a while and has a lot of experience, it is likely that the trainer’s program is proven. This is a very important element. Many people try to train their dog at home using YouTube videos, and there can be some really good information out there on YouTube. However, if the training is not done in the right order, using the right commands, it can be less effective and can cause problems for further training down the line.
Teaches your dog to learn, so they can learn more over time
All training does this. So, even if you train your dog at home, you get this benefit.
Long term advice and support
Not all trainers offer this, but many trainers offer ongoing support for you and your dog after you take him/her home. This means essentially, that you have a professional trainer on speed-dial for any problems or issues that arise after your dog goes through the training program. This can be most valuable because dogs are constantly testing the limits and new issues can arise down the line.
Makes it easier for you to enforce the training
If your dog is with a trainer for 8-weeks or more, your dog learns to be consistent on obedience and other training. This is one reason why training programs need to be so long. Shorter programs often lack the time necessary to get the dog consistent. Consistency at the training location means your dog understands the rules of behavior. So, while this doesn’t mean your dog won’t test you when you get home, it does mean that your dog will likely conform quickly when you enforce the commands.
Your dog gets experiences you may not be able to give him/her
This is especially true when it comes to hunting or competition training, but even with obedience training your dog is going to be exposed to experiences and situations you may be unable to duplicate at home.
We always laugh when someone drops off their dog for training at our facility and says that their dog is going to boot camp. The reality is that most retrievers consider our training program Disney World, not boot camp. Every day is filled with retrieving, something they LOVE to do. Our dogs are happy and excited to work while they are here.
No surprises, training is introduced at the right time and in the right way
If the professional trainer you select is good at what he/she does, you can be confident that the training will be done at the right time and in the right way so that there won’t be any surprises. A professional should have a proven program for things like gun introduction, so that you do not end up with a gun-shy dog. And the likelihood of your dog suffering bad experiences from things done wrong is minimized.
Training done in many locations so dog learns to obey everywhere
The key to making training stick is to put the dog in as many situations and locations as possible and consistently enforce the training. This is another reason that sending your dog to a professional trainer is so valuable. For our training programs, we only train at our kennel one or two days a week. The remainder of the time we travel with the dogs and train on other fields we lease. This makes the dog’s training even more well-rounded because they learn to listen and obey at every location, not just one.
Encourages dog to become the best he/she can be?
You probably think your dog is awesome! And he/she is. But a professional trainer can identify potential in your dog. If your dog is capable of being a Master Hunter, wouldn’t you like to know that? Who doesn’t want their dog to become the best dog they can?
What are the cons for sending my dog away for training?
Here are some of the “cons”.
Dog will be away for many weeks or months
This is the big one, right. And often this is a hurdle some people just cannot or will not agree to. But the time away will be necessary to effectively complete the training to a high standard.
Sending your dog away to a trainer will not be cheap. But unless you are going to train your dog yourself, other means of training will also have a cost. In fact, even training the dog yourself has a cost, but that cost might be time and effort instead of dollars.
Learning process for you and the dog
Sending your dog away for training is not a miracle cure for dog behavior problems. So, even through a professional will doing the brunt of the work, you will be required to learn and enforce the training in the long term. This means you and your dog have some learning to do.
You must trust the trainer
This can be hard. It is hard to leave your child at school on the first day of kindergarten and it is hard to leave your dog at a trainer that you really don’t know personally. You have no control over what will happen during training. It can be difficult to bridge that gap and put complete trust in the trainer.
Learn more in How to choose a professional hunting dog trainer.
Will the training change my dog’s personality?
No. Your dog will be the same fun-loving dog you dropped off at the trainer, with one caveat. Not all dog trainers are good at what they do. Some are impatient and heavy handed. A trainer that mistreats your dog can cause your dog’s personality to change. That is why you must be very selective when choosing a trainer. You want to select a trainer that will love and treat your dog just like the dog is his/her own.
Will the training change how my dog reacts to me?
No. And this can be both good and bad. The dog will remember you. He/she will remember you personally, and he/she will also remember what life was like with you prior to coming to training. They will remember what you allowed or didn’t allow. And you will see those same behaviors when you pick him/her up from training. This is why you need to pick a trainer that teaches you what your dog has learned and how to maintain the training long term.
At what age do I send them to the trainer?
For hunting and competition training, most trainers require the dog to have his/her adult teeth in. This usually happens around 5-6 months old. The reason is that when training retrievers, we don’t want there to be any pain associated with the act of retrieving.
For obedience training, it will depend greatly on the trainer you select.
What if I choose to do it myself?
You may decide that sending your dog away for training is just not for you. And that is fine. Some people can devote time to studying and learning how to train their dog. And they can learn while training their own dog. And that is great. There are a lot of benefits to training your own dog. But if you find that you are not able to get the success you want or your progress is painfully slow, don’t be afraid to look for help. There are other training options besides sending your dog away. You just need to find the training that works for you.
Final thoughts on should I send my Lab away for training?
Sending your dog to training can be a difficult decision, but it is a great option for many people. Just be sure the trainer you select has your dog’s best interest in mind and that the trainer provides ongoing training support so that you can maintain your dog’s training long term.
Remember, if you really want your retriever to grow and progress in his/her hunting or competition this year but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I’m here to help! You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time happy retrieving.