Should you send your Labrador away to be trained?

should you send your dog away for training

I understand how tempting it can be,  especially if you are struggling with your Labrador, to send them away to ‘boarding school’ and let someone else solve your problem for you.

For most people sending the dog away to be trained is not a decision they take lightly. And people who ask my advice on making that decision have often been wrestling with it for some time.

We love our dogs, and being separated from them for several weeks can be very upsetting. And of course, residential training does not  come cheap.  So is it an option worth considering for to help with your Lab’s behavior?  Is it something I would recommend? Or something to be avoided at all costs?

To help you make this decision, I’ll look at why many pet parents find dog training a struggle, and at some of the problems and benefits of residential training.

Is it you or the dog?

When a dog is failing to obey simple commands, there is a problem. And the problem is that the dog is controlling the consequences of its own actions. Dogs learn through the consequences of their behavior and the secret to controlling a dog, lies in controlling those consequences. Fortunately this is a skill that can be learnt. 

One problem with residential training is that it doesn’t teach the dog’s owner anything. It teaches the dog to respond to the trainer, but it doesn’t teach the dog to respond to their owner. I think its important to be aware that the transfer of training from one person to another can be challenging, especially if the person taking over the dog doesn’t share the skills of the trainer.

Can you trust your dog to this trainer?

Sending a dog away into another person’s care for several weeks, is a huge leap of faith. You need to have complete trust in that person. You need to be sure that they will treat your dog as you would want them to be treated.  And that they will use methods that you would want them to use.

One woman I talked to about her experience of sending her dog away for training, was devastated to find at the end of her dog’s four week recall course, that he had been ‘trained’  with an electric collar.

Not only had her dog been electrocuted,  but at the end of the course she was expected to fork out a not inconsiderable sum of money to purchase an electric collar in order to retain some control over her dog.

While a dog can learn a lot in four weeks, you cannot expect a fully trained dog after just a month of training, no matter how intense that training is. There is a limit to how much you or I can teach a dog in any given day.

Dog training is unregulated

Bear in mind that in much of the world there is no regulation of dog trainers. You do not need any qualification to set yourself up as a dog trainer. Anyone, absolutely anyone, can do this.

And whilst there are many wonderful dog trainers around,  there are some poor ones too.  There are dog trainers still in the dark ages as far as training methods are concerned. There are dog trainers that have absolutely no understanding of canine behaviour or psychology at all. Dog trainers that do a lot of harm.

At least if you are attending classes with your dog,  you can walk away if he or she is incompetent.

If you must send your dog away, I suggest you question your prospective trainer closely,  find out what their methods are, ask for testimonials or references.  Don’t take it on trust, you owe your dog that much.

No quick fixes

A dog trainer in a residential establishment is under pressure to make a satisfactory amount of progress in a limited space of time.  The temptation in this situation is to use quick fixes.

And for most serious problems quick fixes are a myth. They don’t exist except under very controlled conditions.  Another temptation when time is short is to use punitive techniques as these can sometimes get faster results, even though those results may not be sustainable. Is this what you want for your dog?

What about specialist training?

There are exceptions where I might occasionally recommend residential training. Some sporting dogs for example will benefit by being sent away to ‘finish’ off their training as hunting companions. The reason for this is simply that advanced retriever training requires facilities that many of us do not have access to on a regular basis.  Various types of water for example,  and game. But in my view, for the most part, and for most dogs, residential training is not the solution to your problems

A false assumption

Sending a dog away for training assumes that the dog is the problem. This is a false assumption. Dogs are controlled by the consequences of their actions. While a dog is in residential training, someone else is controlling those consequences. When the dog comes home you are going to have to take over this job.  But how are you going to do that if no-one has shown you how?

A twenty minute demonstration when you collect your dog is not sufficient to enable you to understand to control a dog.  Especially a dog that has been sent away with a serious and complex problem.

Do yourself and your dog a favor and get help on a regular basis from a reputable local trainer. Take an online course if there is no-one local to help you, and get yourself acquainted with the basic principles of modern dog training. The time you invest will be worth it in the long run.

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. I like how you said that dog training continues throughout a dog’s life. I have never had a dog before and I want it to be as trained as possible. I’ll be sure to teach them new tricks as often as possible despite their age.

  2. I am considering board and train now, but as a last resort for my aggressive/reactive dog. She has now chased and nipped people multiple times. Some dogs had terrible early life experiences and combined with breed (she is a shepard bullmastiff mix), that are beyond most lay people’s experience. We’ve worked with multiple in-home trainers and she knows all of her basic commands. I agree board and train is not the “go to” or primary method, but for some people and dogs, it is necessary to re-wire the dog.

  3. I am trying to rescue a 14 month chocolate lab. I went to a meet and greet and he bit me. I have 2 other labs and a kitty at home and I would not trust this dog around my others. The current owner has a special needs child do her hands are full and has had no time to train this dog. I want to help but I cannot bring him in to my home until he has some manners. He knows nothing at this point.

  4. Wow. Why would you do that?! I find it inconceivable! I also find the term puppy/ dog training an odd one, especially if they have an inexperienced owner.

    I’ve had dogs in my life from 4 years old. In my experience training classes are as much about training the owner as the dog. They show you ways to teach your dog commands, how to use rewards to get the results you want and helping owners to understand how not to reward ‘wrong’ behaviours. (How many people make a fuss of a dog that jumps up at them- thus teaching this will be rewarded??!!) A good class will also teach people how to care for their animals properly!

    By sending a dog away for training, you are not solving the problem, simply because we, as their human, are most likely the issue. Without guidence incorrect human actions cannot be corrected and then developed. I like to think of training as a joint effort. You’ll only get out of your dog what you’re prepared to put in!

  5. I’m owning two dogs for last six year and within six year i found that there are two ways of training either by punishment or by reward method, but i always prefer by reward method because by method of punishment for every mistake dogs become dull or sometimes angry so that is may be harmful for dog owner and if it is about sending your dog away from you for training then i will never prefer this because if a person want to establish a life time bond with his pet then he or she must take part in training of his pet because that is the best way to know about your dog and same for your dog.