After loosing my two beloved demo dogs, Boss and Charlie just two months apart I decided to open my home to board and train dogs. I decided I would have one dog at my house at a time for a week-3 weeks and work on behaviors that owners found to challenging to address in their home.
Having a fully trained dog that fetches the remote, heel backwards and could down stay all day can allow you to forget what it’s like to struggle with loose leash walking, barking at the window, bolting through doors, stealing socks, jumping fences and biting your friends. I worked with dogs like these everyday for the last 12 years, but an hour once a week is far different then sharing your life and home with them.
When I didn’t have a board and train clients I would foster a dog from the shelter. All of my fosters had a bite history and my very patient boyfriend never complained, even when a chihuahua held him hostage while I was away. I did this for about a year and six months. It was an incredible experience and me to truly empathize and better understand my clients and their needs.
Here are somethings that my experiences taught me;
Tethering to you, learn to earn and hand feeding are an absolute pain in the butt. I did it with my mastiffs. They were so far along it was second nature to them, they didn’t think about bolting through a door and if you forgot to release them they wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t 10 minutes of waiting at the door for a sit, like a dog that was new to the program. One of my board and trains I had to leave for every appointment like 20 minutes early to work on door manners at every single door we got to. She would have rather just pushed me out of the way instead of sitting politely and waiting, but by the end of the first week she WOULD politely sit and wait. She would also ask to go out by sitting politely at the leash instead of body slamming the door while barking.
I got attached to a lot of the dogs; actually all of the dogs I worked with. I got one board and train with a multiple human bite history. When I first met with the owners they had labeled him as “Protective” and “Aggressive”. After less than a day and watching the 145 pound dog hiding behind my parking at a parked motorcycle, bolting for his life away from a little lawn marker flag and watching him literally spook at his own shadow I realized just how misunderstood the dog was in his own home. I became so attached I checked up on him more then normal once he was back home, kind of hoping that it wasn’t working out and they would want to rehome him. Unfortunately, he was doing great and they report only the most positive feedback.
Board and trains absolutely translate to the dog owner’s home, but their management of the behaviors don’t always. I would come up with a training plan that addressed the owners top three goals and then teach new behaviors. I would practice the behaviors at home, at the park, at the store and then have other people practice, by the time they got home they could do the behaviors easily even if the owner was royally messing it up. The biggest challenge I saw was them forgetting that they had behavior dogs all together. An example would be a dog with two prior bites to the family and they decided to have a children’s birthday party at their house without putting the dog away. Even though they were sent home with a detailed plan that explicated said that when kids come over put the dog away and when adults come over leash the dog. When I talked further, she explained, but she’s been doing so good with guests. It’s hard for owners to keep cautious when their dogs aren’t being naughty.
The best part about doing board and trains was it helped me heal from loosing my two mastiffs. I remember the first time I fostered a dog after loosing my last dog. My dog’s favorite trick was picking up dropped objects for you, especially car keys. I was walking the foster dog and dropped my keys, momentarily I looked expectantly at him, forgetting this isn’t something all dogs do and he stared back up at me like. “What?”. Fostering and board and trains allowed me the ability to regain realistic expectations of owning a dog.