The Residential Dog Training Debate

The phrase ‘residential training’ comes with a stigma attached. A quick Google search brings up numerous articles stating all the disadvantages and the ‘why-nots’. I’ll be the first to admit residential training isn’t suitable for every dog or every owner. It does have pros and cons, and it’s by no means a ‘quick fix’, nor should it ever claim to be. However, it can work if it’s done right!

Quick Fix

There seems to be a perception that people who choose residential training are looking for a quick-fix without having to do any work themselves. Like they don’t want any role in their dog’s training. “Send him away and he’ll come back fully trained”.

The reality is, that’s not how it works. In my experience very few people actually use it for this, most people are fully prepared to play an active role in their dog’s training, but they have individual reasons for choosing the residential route.

Educated Trainers

If you do decide to choose residential then it’s vital you choose the right place. Dog training is an unregulated minefield and residential trainers are included in this. A reputation has to come from somewhere and it’s no secret that residential training involves its fair share of ‘old-school’ trainers who predominately use aversive, punishment-based methods, but these trainers are everywhere, they aren’t exclusive to the residential segment!

You must do your research, make sure the trainer is fully qualified and guarantees to use force-free, reward-based methods. Admittedly, it’s difficult to know what people do behind closed doors but qualifications based solely in force-free methods and a clear history free from punishment or aversives should indicate a trustworthy trainer.

You’re Not on Your Own

One of the major criticisms of residential training is that there is little or no owner training, which is of course hugely important. Afterall it’s often said ‘it’s not about training the dog, it’s about training the owner’. Absolutely true.

However, training the dog first and getting the foundations in place is a good place from which to educate the owner. There’s nothing to stop you being taught from step 1 even if your dog is now on step 5!

You must take the time to find a trainer who guarantees post-training help for as long as needed.

Residential training is ineffective if owner training isn’t completed. You may have a perfectly trained dog, but if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing then your dog may as well have never been trained.

This is another reason why it’s not a quick-fix or a lazy option. You must commit to training your dog at the end of a residential stay as much as you would if you opted for classes or 1-2-1 sessions. 

Intensive Training

One of the biggest benefits of residential training is the intensity of it. Your dog should receive several hours of training every day, focused on the behaviours you want worked on.

This means your dog is learning good habits and behaviours every day, and just as importantly, he shouldn’t be having the opportunity to practice the unwanted behaviours.

Say you attend a group class once a week, sure you and your dog learn some new things, but how effectively can you maintain this the rest of the week? Likewise, if you have a 1-2-1 session every fortnight with a trainer, you learn a lot during this, but it’s only an hour or two long and it’s then up to you to keep up the work until your next session. That’s hard work.

A Solid Foundation

Yes residential training requires continued work once your dog returns home, but he should have a solid foundation from which to continue. You should now be living with a dog who has a good understanding of what you expect and you should also have learnt how to progress and maintain his training.