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Your complete guide to choosing a positive, life-changing boarding and training experience for your dog.

Table of Contents

The Basics of Dog Boarding and Training

Is there really a “doggy boot camp” or “boarding school” for dogs?

Yes! Doggy boot camp or boarding school is a dog board and train program at the Bowen Island Dog Ranch. We have many obedience programs for adult dogs, teenage (adolescent) dogs, and we also offer a Puppy Boarding School, for puppies under 4 months, and a variety of board and train packages for puppies over 4 months.

What kinds of dogs are best suited for your dog board and train program?

We will take any dog older than 10 weeks, any breed and and any size, from Tea Cup Chihuahua to Great Dane. However, we do not train human or dog-aggressive dogs.

Small dog balances rock on her paw at Bowen Island Dog Ranch.

What is a Board and Train program or “dog bootcamp”?

Our board and train program invites your dog to stay overnight with us for several weeks or months and experience many methods of training multiple times each day. Board your dog at the Dog Ranch under the supervision of our head trainer, and our entire team provides training, enrichment, socialization and exercise during their stay.

Is it really necessary to board your dog over night to get the bootcamp results?

The Dog Ranch boarding and training programs are intensive and include several training sessions and handling each day. Having access to your dog 24/7 allows our trainers to work with your dog multiple times each day, creating an immersive environment to maximize learning and establish better habits.

Where do the dogs sleep at night?

Depending on the age and your dog’s needs and social skills, the Dog Ranch has a few great lodging options including “The Barn”, “The Lodge,” and the Dog Ranch House. The Dog Ranch house is typically reserved for puppies under 5 months, senior dogs, and boarding dogs with special needs and or medical conditions.

Four dogs ready for training at Bowen Island Dog Ranch.

Is Puppy Boarding School different than a Board and Train Program?

The two programs are very similar in terms of obedience learning. Both programs cover basic and/or specific obedience issues. The difference for the Puppy Boarding School is typically potty and crate training is added, and eliminating such nuisance behaviours like jumping on people, mouthing and puppy biting.

How do I choose the right Board and Train package for my dog?

Email to book a consultation call with Carey Bolduc, our Head Trainer.

Will my dog be able to listen to me, or just the Dog Ranch trainers?

Your dog will be trained by our team, lead by our Head Trainer, Carey Bolduc. Both Senior and Junior Trainers and Dog Handlers will also interact and spend time training your dog. This allows your dog to be exposed to various people with the same training methods.

The key to successful training is repetition and consistency over time. The Bowen Island Dog Ranch training team maximizes several training sessions each day, and the dogs get lots of extra socialization and exercise as needed, around their important nap, sleep and eating time.

Board and Train Package Options

What do dog Board and Train programs include?

At the Dog Ranch we create custom curriculum based on your specifications and your dog’s needs, or recommend an existing program that fits your criteria. Programs include everything from obedience training, manners around food, toys and people, confidence building, body handling, canine enrichment, learning games, socialization and daily exercise.

What is Canine Enrichment?

Canine Enrichment is the natural and instinctual activities that your dog enjoys. Enrichment improves and enhances your dog’s mental state using a range of activities designed to challenge and exercise their brains. These activities encourage your dog to problem solve, learn new skills and become more confident. During boarding and training programs, puzzles for seeking and finding games are used, as well as stuffed frozen Kongs and snuffle mats, to engage your dog mentally while eating.

Read all about Canine Enrichment and how it can transform your dog’s mental health.

What are Learning Games?

Learning games are activities that are not always related to a specific cue or command. That means that learning games are designed to be used for or with educational goals, but don’t require that the dog be successful at the game. There is no punishment for failing!

Learning games encourage engagement, focus and improve human dog trust, communication and over all relationship building. Games make learning fun while motivating the dog to try new things related to obedience training.

Smiling dog ready for a learning game at the Dog Ranch.

What is Confidence Building?

Confidence is essential for a puppy or dog to navigate the ever-changing human world. We use enthusiasm and praise to introduce board and train dogs to new items, objects, environments, surfaces and textures, creating a fun positive association. Using basic agility, balancing and investigating exercises and games, increase confidence and always earn praise.

To get an idea of the kind of training approaches we use every day, check out the Training Tips section on our blog.

What is Body Handling and Husbandry?

Conditioning your puppy or dog to being handled by humans is often overlooked in dog boarding and training. Animal husbandry is the care and welfare needed to have and keep an animal healthy. Husbandry is everything from checking ears, trimming nails, brushing teeth to full grooms, administering medication or injections to keeping a clean and healthy environment.

We expect our dogs to love being touched by anyone, including being poked and prodded at the vet without complaint when they haven’t been trained to do so. At the Dog Ranch we provide healthy checks daily with body handling, all done with the dog’s consent. We use food and often teach the dog cues, so they know that they are being handled are tolerate it, and even learn to enjoy it.

Dog sits calmly ready for Carey's training signal.

Our Training Methods

What are the boarding and training principles at the Dog Ranch?

  1. #WeSpeakDog – respect, communicate and give positive feedback
  2. Fun and frustration-free
  3. Reward calmness
  4. Reward focus
  5. Reward engagement
  6. Reward patience and impulse control

What dog training methods are used?

At the Dog Ranch we use food, affection, praise, toys and play to rewards. Our mission is to keep dogs in the best learning space with little to no stress.

Marker Training:

We use “Marker Training” in conjunction with lure, shaping and capturing training methods. The timing of using a word, sounds or click of a clicker along with rewards to signal the dog that they have achieved the desired behaviour. We use the marker YES! at the Dog Ranch.


“Shaping” is the process by which you can gradually teach your dog a new action or behavior by rewarding the dog during each step of the process while learning that behavior.


The “capturing” or “mark” method requires patience when you teach your dog to perform a natural behaviour on cue. You simply wait for your dog to perform the behaviour without any prompting or guidance from you, and mark and reward them immediately afterwards.

Lure Reward:

“Lure Reward” is easiest and involves enticing the dog to move into a specific position with a lure (food or toy) and then rewarding the behaviour with the food/toy lure once that position is achieved.


“Conditioning” refers to learning by association and involves the conditioning of innate bodily reflexes with new stimuli. A stimulus is any feature of the environment that affects behaviour. The simplest example is using food to create a positive response to the stimulant.

Counter Conditioning:

“Counter conditioning” is the process of getting rid of an unwanted response. In counter conditioning, the unwanted response does not just disappear; it is replaced by a new, wanted response.

Why don’t you use an e-collar or punishment?

Typically off leash board and train programs are often associated with e-collar training. We DO NOT use e-collars or shock collars. We do not use e-collars or adverse methods commonly known as punishment to create avoidance behaviour, because it is stressful and painful. The punishment is uncomfortable or painful enough to cause the dog to avoid the nuisance behaviour.

Behaviour science has proven that punishment methods may show an immediate avoidance however over time you will need to increase the intensity of the punishment. Punishment causes avoidance and a flight or fight response. Behaviour science has also proven that being uncomfortable or in pain, causes avoidance or “fight or flight” response in animals, and they are not able to learn and retain information (just like us).

Can you have a well-behaved dog without punishment? Will force-free methods make my dog spoiled and only listen if I only offer treats or food?

Your dog will be better behaved without punishment. We condition engagement and focus and make these two behaviours the most rewarding for your dog. After your board and train, you will find that when your dog offers you eye contact all the time, their default behaviour is to sit or lay down, and that their nuisance behaviours have been greatly reduced.

Black dog holds a Frisbee in his mouth.

Once my dog is trained, will my dog lose their playful personality?

This is a question we are often asked, and the answer is no – never.

We use positive reinforcement and do not use adverse methods putting your dog in an avoidance or ‘fight or flight’ response, so you dog will love to train, and will still have the fun playful personality that you love and enjoy.

Your Dog’s Special Needs

What if my dog is not food motivated?

If your dog eats, they are food motivated. We use the dogs daily kibble to train with. The dogs receive much more stimulation and exercise at the Dog Ranch, and have an increase in appetite when they are here due to the mental stimulation and lots of outdoor time in the fresh air of Bowen Island.

What if my dog is fed raw food or has food allergies?

All owners provide their own dogs food and treats according to their own dogs individual diet.

If your dog has allergies, we will only use the food and treats provided by you to train your dog. We may offer high value treats when training, and always refer to the dog’s dietary restrictions before giving the Dog Ranch’s treats or snacks. If your dog has allergies, extra high value treats may need to be provided,.

If your dog eats raw food, we ask that your dog arrives with the equivalent freeze dried raw food, as it will be used to train your dog instead of fresh raw food. It is considered a high value treat more than food, as it typically has a lot of flavour.

What if you miss your dog?

We update you by email the first 24 hours, 72 hours after that, and every 7 days after that.

You can also watch the Dog Ranch’s Facebook and Instagram stories to see how your dog is progressing. Stories are updated every day or so. We can also schedule Facetime sessions where we review the training to date, and answer questions. This is a big hit for families with children that are missing their furry friend.

What to Expect from a Board and Train Experience

Can you guarantee training results?

We are committed to creating better dogs. Dog owners are provided videos of the training that was completed, so you can see what your dog is capable of. We offer ongoing support over the phone or Zoom/Facetime. There is never a guarantee with animals, and we do not have an official training guarantee, however we have never had a disappointed board and train client. We are committed to results and our dog board and train programs works.

What should you expect when your dog returns home?

At the end of the boarding/training period, your trainer will review what was achieved and how you can continue the reinforcement at home. They’ll teach you the cues they put in place and how to stay consistent back in the real world.

Why would someone do a board and train program, and not just train their dog themselves?

Searching for dog training on the internet is opening a floodgate of contradicting information that is overwhelming. Board and Train programs are for people who want the absolute best experience for their dog, and do not want to make any mistakes on their way to creating a polite, happy, well-mannered and well-adjusted dog.

From first time dog owners to busy professionals, business owners and active families, the board and training has many benefits. Life happens! Starting a new family, trying to manage over excited dynamics of an existing one or if you are raising a new puppy on your own board and train programs help get your hyper dog or young puppy under control.

You can all find peace in your home, enjoy walking your dog, and trust them to recall at local dog parks and off leash trails.

What are the Pros and Cons of Board and Train Programs?

As with anything, board and train programs for puppies and dogs have pros and cons that are relative to each individual household.

The Dog Ranch trains in multiple settings and distractions. From one on one, group class settings, on local trails, in our local village, and on the Dog Ranch property with the distractions of other dogs and our team of staff.


You will not be learning alongside your dog.

Depending on your dog’s training problems and the outcome you are looking for, you will be away from your pup for several weeks.


Your dog receives intensive training from a skilled professional. We do the “heavy lifting” of repetition and consistency from a variety of trainers. If you choose the right facility, like the Dog Ranch board and train program, we can deliver exactly what we promise – an obedient, professionally trained dog.

You do not have to go through the time and stress of multiple training classes or have daily homework, which may take you away from other commitments. In addition to the time, training can be stressful and frustrating. Our programs allow dog owners to regroup while our team does the majority of the work.

Zoom or online training sessions may not be the ideal for your household. However during the present pandemic, trainers cannot safely train your dog in your home.

Sleep! Having a new puppy can be sleep depriving and very disruptive to the entire home.

Life happens – you can focus on life changes and emergencies in your life knowing that you dog is going to come home a better dog.

Socialization – dog socialization is provided at the Dog Ranch that is positive, rewarding and builds confidence for your dog or puppy.

Board and train programs can be a wonderful option when you choose the right trainers and facility, and are able to remain consistent with your dog’s commands when they return home.

Why choose the Bowen Island Dog Ranch for a Board and Train Program?

The Bowen Island Dog Ranch is an magical outdoor facility on five acres of forest in the valley of Bowen Island. We are more than a dog board and train facility, we are a wellness resort for dogs. We have created the perfect curriculum to meet all of your dog’s need so they can learn faster and perform better. A unique balance of exercise, social time, enrichment, games, body handling and confidence building.

Because “We Speak Dog”, we can create better dogs so you can enjoy your dog frustration-free, and have the peace of mind and therefore freedom, to take them more places safely.

Got A Question We Haven’t Answered Here?

Contact us today to tell us about your dog and we’d be happy to give you advice on how our board and train program will help you transform your dog into a happy, healthy, well-behaved canine.

The Bowen Dog Ranch has been in operation since 2007, and has proven to be an extensive and successful training and boarding operation.

Karen Munro

AvatarKaren founded and built the Dog Ranch in 2007, and now as managing director she is responsible for overseeing the general Ranch operations and all canine and human satisfaction. She can jump into almost any role, and works tirelessly to ensure the Dog Ranch delivers the highest quality, totally dog-centered, force-free training and boarding services in Greater Vancouver and on Bowen Island.

Published by Karen Munro

Karen founded and built the Dog Ranch in 2007, and now as managing director she is responsible for overseeing the general Ranch operations and all canine and human satisfaction. She can jump into almost any role, and works tirelessly to ensure the Dog Ranch delivers the highest quality, totally dog-centered, force-free training and boarding services in Greater Vancouver and on Bowen Island.

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