There have been several incidents recently in the rescue community of board and train trainers showing their true colors and harming dogs in their care. To the point of starvation and illness.
As a rescue, we have taken in dogs from CACC off of the euth list who were deemed to have “behavior issues”. In fact, we took 12 during our first pull from CACC.
When we asked around about boarding we were given a few of these trainers names to contact.
Having family and friends working as professional trainers, I knew better, my gut knew better. I adopted a dog who was starving himself and refusing to leave his kennel to the tune of -18lbs in a month, who was abandoned by his rescue at a board and train.
We needed an option, as we knew there were 4 dogs who we could not place in a foster home without getting to know them better. Being a new rescue, our fosters were not experienced with “problem” dogs and the risk of a mistake being made was way too high.
Instead, we made the decision to board the dogs with our vet hospital. The dogs would have social interaction with the staff, the vets were on hand to provide any medical care that would arise and it also gave them time to let the dogs acclimate to a new environment while vetting and altering them.
This particular hospital is a “green building”, the air is cleaned, the water filtered, the floors heated, windows let in the natural light, and the kennels came with beds and air conditioning. We added a CD player to pump music into the kennels playing CDs from the Through A Dog’s Ear series.
We had full access to our dogs, no questions asked. If I wanted to spend all day in the kennels and outside with our dogs, I could. I could call at any time and get an update on a dog(s). They were kept clean, well feed, fresh water, blankets, toys, and treats aplenty.
When we first began the relationship, we would drop in at all different hours of the day, during different staff shifts to check if the dogs were receiving the same treatment throughout the day.
We had two females who kept having reoccurring yeast infections since being in the shelter, the minute the staff noticed or we did, the vets were alerted and the dogs received treatment.
We began having our trainer go to the hospital and work with the dogs. She was able to use an empty exam room with no issues. Then we added weekly massages, same deal, empty room, use it for however long you needed. Volunteers would come and take the dogs on field trips to socialize them and work on basic manners in public.
Is boarding better than a home? Of course not, but when a home isn’t available and the choice is death or living in a country club of boarding; I vote for the boarding. And if you are going to board a dog, you be there every day, you feed the dog, bath the dog, exercise the dog, train the dog, cuddle the dog, you get to know the dog.
As a rescue, we took a beating on social media from rescue members and keyboard warriors for boarding dogs who had just left a shelter. Didn’t matter how well they were living, how quickly they were advancing in transitioning back to being dogs instead of “shelter dogs”. We were the bad people, calls for our rescue to be shut down, nastiness like I had never witnessed prior to any of the social work, community outreach I had done in my lifetime.
One by one the dogs moved into foster homes and then forever homes. Of the 12 dogs we pulled in those 4 days from CACC, 10 are well adjusted, healthy, loving family companions. It took time, patience, understanding, hard work on the dogs part and ours, a team of professionals who believed in the method and an “it’s all about the dogs” attitude to shield the hate shot our way.
Two dogs didn’t make it, after 8 and 10 months of working at it from all angles, the team made the heartbreaking decision it was time to say goodbye. The dogs continued to demonstrate aggressive behavior and in some instances bite humans and that’s not a risk we were not willing to take at expense of an innocent person who might become their bite victim.
I asked the question at the time, “What is the difference between placing a dog in boarding and placing a dog at a rescue’s shelter facility?” No one had the answer, just that we were doing it wrong. “You don’t board dogs. Period. Unless you are doing board & train”.
As I read these stories of abused rescue dogs, as well as owners dogs, left in the care of so-called trainers, which have turned out to be snakeskin oil salesman; I am glad we did it wrong. Our way benefitted the dogs and we knew exactly how they were being cared for because we were the ones doing it, hand in hand with the professionals we were paying. The 10 family’s who call those dogs their best friends, are pleased we stuck it out and did it our way.
We saved 85 lives and they are all in loving family’s in our first year using our vet hospital as if it was our own facility.
Never be afraid to cut your own path through the forest, if you are willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears, your view on the other side is going to be worth so much more.
Next goal. Build a facility where we can continue to do our work, but where rescues can board and take advantage of all that is offered in putting in the work with their dog.
We have to do better as a community, the dogs deserve it.