December 29, 2021

“Is ‘board and train’ a good idea?” “Can I send my dog away for training?” “Is ‘board and train’ good for aggressive dogs?” Some dog guardians are asking these questions, and the only answer that matters is one PETA’s given before: “Board and train” programs are a terrible idea and tend to exacerbate, not fix, any perceived problems. Take it from these horrified guardians who learned this lesson in the worst way possible.

November 2021

After picking Odie up in November from a three-week stint at In Touch Dog Training & Rehabilitation in Wisconsin, Luke Janssen, Odie’s guardian, said that the dog “had bruising on his chest that was explained to [him] as a result of sleeping on the ground in the kennels.” Forcing a dog to sleep on concrete for even one day is cruel enough, but a witness (apparently Shaunna Herrick, a staff member who’s since resigned from In Touch) also sent the security camera footage below to Janssen:

(Warning: Graphic content)

Janssen described how in the footage, the trainer “picks up Odie by the leash and essentially hangs him for a period of time and also from that position slams him to the ground for sure one occasion, maybe multiple.” The out of touch trainer lifts Odie by the leash so that all four of his paws are off the ground for roughly seven seconds. The dog’s alleged abuser also drops what appears to be a shock collar remote, picking it up from the ground after hanging the dog by the neck and leash again.

“If someone saw something like that happening to my dog I would want to know,” said Herrick, who also spoke with the local sheriff’s office, which on December 21 confirmed that it was actively investigating the incident.

Janssen shared his and Odie’s story, including on Reddit and Facebook, so that other guardians will stay far away from places like In Touch:

I wanted to put it out there and generate some interest because I want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else’s [canine companion] and obviously no other innocent dogs are harmed.

Odie may not have been this facility’s only alleged victim—since Janssen shared his story, other guardians have come forward alleging abuse, too. “My dog was also injured here,” one said. “[My Lab] came home with fur off her front elbows and to this day growls and attacks if you touch her hind feet,” said another.

A second video is reportedly being reviewed by local law-enforcement officials, too—according to WBAY—an ABC affiliate in Green Bay—a second video showing In Touch’s owner allegedly abusing another dog (6-month-old Ace) has since surfaced.

“Ace was underneath the table and you could see that [the company’s owner] was trying to do something with him,” said Ace’s guardian, Jenni Wright. “Ace was scared, he wouldn’t come out so [the company’s owner] grabbed him by the leash and yanked him across the floor and he probably slid about ten to fifteen feet across the floor.”

July 2021

When a tree crushed Graciela Rodriguez’s New Mexico home during a storm and she had to evacuate, she decided to board her canine companion Thor at April’s K911 Academy—a nearby facility owned by April Nastasi that claims to offer obedience training and apparently boarded dogs, too—for a few days. The decision seemingly almost cost Thor his life.

On the same day that Rodriguez dropped him off, Nastasi reportedly texted her to say that Thor had been in a fight but was unharmed. At Rodriguez’s request, Nastasi apparently texted her photos of Thor as the days went on, and Rodriguez said she grew more concerned. According to Yahoo! News, when Rodriguez tried to picked Thor up (a day early), Nastasi refused to let her take him because he’d sustained “injuries from the fight a few days prior” and was “being treated for a puncture wound and hematoma.” Rodriguez reportedly called local law enforcement, and Nastasi was forced to return Thor to his guardian. He “was covered in bandages and was wincing in pain” and “was transported to an El Paso animal hospital.” Nastasi—who apparently was licensed to train dogs but not to board them—reportedly had shocked Thor with a cattle prong six times.

“Once the dog fight ended, Nastasi said she put Thor in a kennel outside for two days while she attended to other matters,” Yahoo! News reported. She said that she later noticed an odor “of rotting flesh from the kennel.” Nastasi—apparently not a licensed veterinary professional of any kind—reportedly then administered antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drugs to Thor herself. The El Paso animal hospital veterinarian reportedly called Nastasi’s bandage job “makeshift” and described Thor’s wounds as “severely infected,” “neglected for multiple days,” and “‘horrifying.’” Thor apparently required multiple surgeries, but he is “hanging in there.”

Why ‘Board and Train’ Is Bad

We all need time to learn something new, and dogs are no different. The best part about interacting positively with your dog is that it’s a great way to help you understand what your best friend is trying to communicate. But to do so, your participation and dedication are a must. This is why a good dog trainer will be training you—and under no circumstances should your dog be trained unless you are present.

PETA’s own undercover investigation into Inghram’s Sit ’N Stay Dog Academy, which claimed to use “humane and caring methods,” revealed that at the Tampa, Florida, training and boarding kennel, dogs were confined to cages for hours on end, sometimes without water or shade, even as temperatures rose into the mid-90s.

Dogs sometimes escaped from the cages and got into fights. Instead of comforting a dog who was bleeding from a serious wound sustained in an attack by another dog, a manager repeatedly yanked on her collar and roughly attempted to tie her mouth shut with a leash.

To learn more about the reasons why positive reinforcement and force-free training work, why aversive training methods don’t, what to do if your canine friend becomes frustrated or anxious when left alone at home, and why the best person to train your dog is you, check out PETA’s comprehensive “How to Choose a Dog Trainer” guide.

Written by Katherine Sullivan