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Thinking Of Sending A Dog Away For Training? Everything You Need To Know About Letting Someone Else Train Your Dog

thinking of sending dog away for training

A well-trained dog is a joy in the home, but training a dog takes time, so many of us may consider sending a dog away for training. But this is not a decision that can be made lightly, as our dogs are family members.

It’s vital to have the best equipment to safely train our dogs, such as a harness that prevents pulling or even a tactical dog harness. Good equipment can help us avoid leaning on cruel mechanisms like shock collars when getting a dog to walk politely on the leash. You can read more in our article on the types of dog harnesses.

You can also read more in our article on building a dog’s confidence to help the training process. But first, let’s address the issue of sending a dog away for training.

Should you send a dog away for training?

Most of the time, one should refrain from sending a dog away for training. Dogs and owners need to grow and train together for clear communication. Having a professional dog trainer oversees the process should develop a well-trained dog and an owner who understands how to communicate with their dog. 

Dog owners who argue they don’t have time to train their dogs should question if having a dog is right for them. Just like feeding and exercising a dog, training is one of the most fundamental aspects of caring for our canines. Before one gets a dog, one should always factor in the daily time one will need to spend on training. 

Think of crate training a puppy or potty training a German Shepherd. These are behaviors that a dog best learns in their home environment, close to their family. Sending a dog away for that kind of basic training means missing out on critical developmental milestones in a dog’s life. It also means missing essential opportunities to bond with your dog and build trust. 

There are only a few scenarios where a dog may need to be sent away for training.

1. Dogs with severe and dangerous behavior problems may need to be sent away for training

The most common reason a dog may have to be sent away for training is if the dog has a severe behavioral problem that the owner cannot manage. Often, owners and their dogs develop codependent problems. A common example is a nervous owner that has an extremely reactive dog. If an owner is too nervous or permissive, they often exacerbate their dog’s insecurity and bad behavior.

Reactive dogs may lunge on the leash at other dogs or strangers. They often show high levels of fear and aggression, and they may be unsafe in a home environment around children. Suppose an owner isn’t experienced in dealing with reactivity or the ways that their own emotions can contribute to a dog’s insecurity. In that case, the dog may need to be separated from the owner to learn coping skills and new behaviors.

However, even if dogs are separated from their owners for training and behavior modification, returning to the home environment usually causes the dog to fall back on old behaviors. 

This means that even if one finds a good and reliable trainer to take the dog for a while, the owner still needs to work extensively with the dog trainer or dog behaviorist to establish good communication and ensure the new behaviors stick.

2. Dogs who need a very high degree of training may need to be sent away to a trainer

Whenever somebody needs a dog for a very specific purpose, such as advanced protection training or guide dog training, the dog often goes away to professional trainers for periods. This is because these are high-level skills that need very specialized trainers to teach.

These schools typically offer dogs for sale as well as a variety of training programs. Usually, if you want a dog trained for protection work, it would be better to buy a dog that already has the basic training and then visit the school periodically to keep “leveling up” or maintenance training.

These dogs need to come from specialized bloodlines, and they are extremely expensive, often costing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is not viable to send the average pet dog away for this kind of training and to expect a fully capable and skilled dog to return. And, one should be skeptical of any trainer that claims they can turn your pet into a working dog.

The same goes for guide dogs and highly skilled service dogs. The average guide dog is usually chosen as a puppy from selected bloodlines, and a guide dog trainer needs to complete a three-year course. It can easily cost around $30 000 to create one adequately trained guide dog, even if the dog goes to their new owners for free. 

Reasons why dogs should not be sent away for training

So while there are valid reasons to send a dog away for training, there are more reasons not to. When a dog has a severe behavior issue, going away to a reliable school for help can be effective and can sometimes save a dog from needing to be euthanized or rehomed. Some people may also be willing to pay large sums for dogs trained in extremely specialized areas.

This means that there is a place and time for dogs to go away to be trained by somebody else. However, we need to issue a warning about this. The following are problems that can emerge from sending the average dog away for training.

  1. Bad or unreliable dog schools are common. This means that dogs can suffer extensively in situations where they are punished or harshly treated if their owner is not there to advocate for them. In some cases, dog schools have been known to accept large sums of money and deliver dogs where the core problems are not treated. 
  2. Dogs are not generalized learners. This means that what they learn to do with one person and in one environment does not always transfer to a different person or different environment. Dogs who learn to work with one trainer at one school often don’t recognize the commands or understand how to behave when they come home and need to follow their owner’s orders.
  3. Owners need to learn effective communication with their dogs. Suppose you do find a good trainer who teaches your dog good behavior and new skills. This is still only one side of the equation. It would be best if you still learned how to interact, communicate, and have a healthy relationship with your dog for the training to be effective.

Too often, owners send their dogs away to be trained by somebody else for a couple of weeks. Whether the trainer is good and effective or not, the dog may return to their old environment where nothing has changed. The dog may struggle with not understanding their owner, feeling frustrated from a lack of exercise or routine, or having high levels of anxiety from a stressful household.

In these situations, the training usually does not “stick,” causing the owner to feel scammed or to blame the dog for being untrainable. Think of kids who are struggling in an environment and who are sent away to schools when their parents can’t cope with them. Sadly, they often “relapse” into old patterns once they come back home, where the same environment triggers old patterns.

For most dogs, the most effective training happens when their owners are willing to put in 30 minutes a day. When owners and dogs learn together and establish a calm and healthy environment, they learn effective communication. This is the best way for 99% of dogs to learn.

Will my dog forget me if I send him to training?

Your dog will not forget you if they go away for training. A more common issue is dogs relapse into old behaviors as soon as they return to their owner. If a dog is sent away, it’s vital that owners also take courses to learn how to reinforce their dog’s new training.

How to pick the right school for your dog’s training

How to pick the right school for your dog's training

If it is completely unavoidable that a dog is sent away for training, make sure to do due diligence and investigate where your dog is going. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Visit the school for as long as possible and watch their training methods. Positive reinforcement training is best, but balanced training is needed in specific circumstances. Remember that punishment should be extremely rare. 99% of dog training does not need force to be effective, so avoid any trainer that seems to rely on e-collars or similar devices to teach dogs. 
  • Inspect the kennels where the dog will stay and ensure it is safe, not too hot or cold, and hygienic.
  • Visit other people who have sent their dogs away to the same school. Assess their dog’s behavior and level of training. Don’t send your dog away if the dog seems aggressive, shut down, fearful, or still misbehaves. 
  • Ask about the procedure for returning your dog to you. A good school will take time to teach you the best way to handle your dog. This should be a prolonged process. 
  • Ask for the credentials of the trainer. Each trainer should be properly certified in their area of expertise.

Perhaps the most important part is seeing other dogs from the same school. Do not rely on claims the school or the trainer makes themselves without seeing the results of their training. 

Can a dog be trained in two weeks?

Dogs can learn a few minimal skills in two weeks, but generally, more than two weeks is needed for a dog to be fully trained. Simple skills like sit, down, or staying for short periods can be taught in two weeks. More advanced work like heeling off leash and a completely reliable recall will usually take much longer than two weeks and will need consistent positive reinforcement at home.

Behavior needs to be shaped consistently throughout a dog’s life. Two weeks of a stable training environment generally means little compared to years of training that is inconsistent and unclear. Training involving punishment is also linked to increased behavior issues, so this training is also essential. 

Some behavior problems, such as resource guarding, can be addressed in two weeks. But these issues will only stay fixed at home if the dog owner consistently reinforces the new good behavior. 

Send away dog training cost

Sending your dog away for training typically costs around $1000 per week or $4000 per month. Costs vary depending on the reputation of the trainer and what the dog needs to be trained in. Be skeptical of cheaper options.

Final Thoughts

In general, training your dog at home and attending weekly sessions with a dog trainer is the best way to build a well-trained dog. There are some cases where sending a dog away may be necessary, but these are fairly rare. Shaping a dog’s behavior typically means a commitment to life-long training with invested and engaged owners willing to work with their dog as long as it takes.

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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