Dog boot camp or other options

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!


Member Since
Barked: Tue Apr 30, '13 7:23pm PST 
We are considering dog boot camp for our lab, Jake. I am also open to any other suggestions you have for dealing with a problematic dog.

Jake is a sweet dog, when we are home with him and there are no stimuli to get him worked up. He is very good with our toddler - he puts up with being hit and stepped on with no problem.

We rescued Jake 3 years ago when he was about 5 years old and don't know anything about his history. We took several obedience classes with him when we first adopted him and he seemed to be making some progress.

After we had him for 8 months, and around the time I found out I was pregnant, he started having separation anxiety. We immediately started working with a trainer but were not able to keep him from destroying the house while we were gone. The trainer recommended taking him to doggie day care during the day until we got the issue under control.

And unfortunately - 2 years later, he still goes to doggie day care every day. Evenings and weekends aren't much better for us. My husband and I have to take turns staying home with him.

He is on high doses of clomipramine and prozac. We have tried crating him, but he has managed to escape every time because he bends the metal bars with his teeth. We have tried leaving him in the back yard, which is fenced, but he has destroyed 2 screen doors and taken siding off the house.

In addition to the separation anxiety, he is aggressive towards our neighbors, our guests, and people walking by the front of the house. He gets so worked up, its like he completely loses control. He has never bitten anyone, but I worry he might someday.

One thing to note is that he is calmer when he is around other dogs. We don't have other dogs, but our trainer actually recommended we get another dog to keep him company. (Bad idea, since we can barely handle 1.)

I feel it is unfair to our son that we can never go anywhere as a family because of the dog. Plus, his entire college fund is now going to vet bills and doggie day care. We have decided that we can't continue to live like this. We've asked our family and friends if they want him, but they have all heard too many horror stories about him. We have inquired at shelters, but with his problems, the shelters do not consider him adoptable.

This is how we started considering dog boot camp. We have done some training, but given that we both work full time, and with the baby, there isn't much time left.

Does anyone know anything about dog boot camp? Do you think they could solve his problems? I don't want to spend $2000 and still have problems. I have heard stories about dogs getting abused in these situations.

We are desperate. Any ideas?

Spooky Mulder
Barked: Tue Apr 30, '13 7:59pm PST 
Think about this logically.

What do you hope to achieve by sending your dog off to someone else for a few weeks, without being able to see what is being done to the dog nor doing any work in the area (your home) that is most problematic to you?

The vast majority of "doggy boot camps" are horrid scams. It doesn't matter if your dog can be trained to listen to some stranger at a training facility... the dog needs to be able to work with YOU. You aren't going to get that by sending him off.

Furthermore, you have no control in those situations. Beat the dog in the head with a baseball bat? Who knows. You wont be there to see it either way. Speaking personally as someone who's dog WAS abused in a similar "leave to train" type situation, you have little to gain.

Granted, your issue is a particular one, one that should probably be reviewed by an actual behaviorist (not just a "trainer", someone with a degree in applied animal behavior), preferably some sort of certified veterinary behaviorist, and move from there. I would be curious to know if some of the drugs he's on aren't part of his aggression issues- certain drugs can have pretty nasty adverse reactions with some dogs. When was the last time you had a complete physical on him? A blood panel and a thyroid test?

Edited by author Tue Apr 30, '13 8:00pm PST

Shayne CGC,- RL2

Shayne- Disc Doggin in- the 'Burgh!
Barked: Wed May 1, '13 8:42am PST 
Like Mulder said, boot camp is probably not going to fix your problems. They will not be able to work on separation anxiety at all since the training will not be happening in your home where the problem occurs nor will it involve you. Plus, like Mulder said, there are serious risks involved with many of the "boot camp" programs because you have no idea what they are doing to your dog. Just last year a "well respected" trainer in OH killed 1 boot camp dog and 4 more were pulled from his property emaciated and near death.

I would try to find a board certified veterinary behaviorist ( Click here to search). If your dog is on high doses of prozac and clomipramine and you aren't seeing results, it's probably not the right medication or the right mix or the right dosage or may not be addressing the root problem. A board certified veterinary behaviorist will be able to help you make sure the behaviors are not being caused by some sort of underlying medical condition and then will be able to help find the right medication, dosage, or mix of medications to help reduce the behavior problems you are seeing while also giving sound training advice. With complicated cases, it's not just about prescribing medications... it's about finding the right dosage, finding the RIGHT medications, and really documenting the process so you know what's working and what's not--not all dogs will respond to clomipramine... not all respond to prozac.... there are a lot of other safe medications that one can try to help reduce separation anxiety (once a medical cause of the behavior has been ruled out).

There is a crate that I have personally seen used twice for dogs with extreme SA. Dogs who destroyed crate after crate after crate (airline, metal wire, metal wire crate rigged using zip ties, metal ties, caribeeners, etc). For one dog it worked wonderfully, the other dog was so anxious that he hurt himself trying to escape by rubbing his nose completely raw trying to bend bars/doors (though he was unable to escape) so the owners stopped using it because they were concerned for his safety. Clicky link for the crate. It's not cheap but it saved the life of the dog who had destroyed crate after crate (while on medications)... they were considering rehoming/euthanizing him because they didn't know what else they could do but the crate keeps him contained and he has learned he can't escape so he just relaxes.

(totally off topic, it's annoying that dogster doesn't allow the generic name for prozac... i spent 30 minutes trying to figure out what word in my post could POSSIBLY be not "G rated" and it turns out apparently that word isn't okay)

Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Wed May 1, '13 11:47am PST 
They don't allow "spec + ialist" either. I am not sure it has as much to do with the "P" word....I mean, I can say Lithium, right?, as much as something very glitchy going on confused

Agreeing on the bootcamp thing. Only in rare examples is that a good thing to do, and you are utterly unable to be your dog's guardian during the process. Sometimes a trainer offers that to an existing client where they already have a relationship and that is less funky, but otherwise I'd practice extreme caution, and at any rate even were all solid, SA may be hard to address without the primary bond (you and your family) involved.

Def follow the advice re a veterinary behaviorist.
Jake Earned- his wings- 10.02.15

I am Murphy's- Law Embodied! <3- Me!
Barked: Wed May 1, '13 3:33pm PST 
i'd recommend a behaviorist. It will probably cost you the same amount except the behaviorist will work with you and your dog to get to the root issues.

That's what saved my relationship with my trouble some beagle Jake big grin

also drugs don't usually work. Nothing chemical ever worked on my Jake. it took a secnod dog. 2 (2mile) walks a way, at least 1 trip to doggy daycare a week. and then lots of toys to evne make a dent in Jake's issues.

Shayne CGC,- RL2

Shayne- Disc Doggin in- the 'Burgh!
Barked: Wed May 1, '13 6:52pm PST 
I'm sorry, i'm going to have to seriously disagree. Medications, when they are warranted, can be extremely beneficial and make huge differences int he lives of dogs and their humans. Not all medications will work on a given dog (just like not all medications work for humans) and some dogs won't show changes on a medication (if a dog doesn't have a serotonin issue and is given an SSRI, they probably won't show much change).

Even within the same drug class, some dogs are helped by some drugs and not others (a dog may show no change with Fluoxe-tine but may have drastic change with Sertraline). Sometimes you have to try an entirely different class of drugs to find one that addresses the issues (or more than one)--maybe the dog needs a Benzodiazepine and an SSRI.

It's also not about popp'n pills... there is a lot of work that often goes along with medication. Medication gets the dog in a mental place where learning can happen.

A vet can prescribe these meds, but a veterinary behaviorist (board certified) or a vet that is VERY well versed in behavior mod and psychopharmaceuticals can help really customize and guide a dog/handler to find the RIGHT most effective medication or cocktail available.

Meds are not always the answer and they are certainly not right for every dog, in every situation...but to say they don't work in general is absolutely inaccurate.

Member Since
Barked: Wed May 1, '13 7:03pm PST 
Thanks for the suggestions. We will look into a behaviorist. A few things to clarify... he was not always on the high dose of drugs. For 2 years we have tried various different drugs and dosages. He has had blood work done and he did have hypothyroidism, which is now being treated. I like the idea of the heavy duty crate, but Jake is the type of dog that would injure himself attempting to get out.

Black dogs rock!
Barked: Thu May 2, '13 2:49am PST 
In addition to the wonderful advice given above, I have 2 other suggestions. I haven't tried either one of these things myself, although the second one I am going to try soonsmile I have heard good things about Rescue Remedy ( in a diffuser, I believe) and the Thundershirt. Both of these things can be used with the suggestions above and if they don't help, well, they can't hurtsmile