Send Your Kid to Dog Training Camp

Have you considered sending your child or other young relative to a dog training summer camp? If not, camp attendee Justin might sway your decision. He attended Camp ARF in California last year and had a blast playing with, training and otherwise helping his assigned dog, a homeless stray named Bali that was up for adoption. Justin had the time of his life, and a week after camp ended, Bali -- a little one-eyed Chihuahua that no one previously wanted to adopt -- found his forever home.

“Shortly after the program ended, Justin came back to visit us and announced that he wanted to learn more about training dogs,” says Bobbe Bartlett, development director at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation, which runs Camp ARF. “The camp helps so many.”

Kid-friendly dog training camps and classes are popping up all over the country, so Justin’s positive review is one of thousands. Here’s what you can expect from such camps.

Dog Training Camps -- by Day and Night
Depending on the camp, either day sessions or overnight stays are offered. At Camp ARF, attendees spend the day at the camp in Walnut Creek, Calif., and then go home every evening. At some other camps, such as Summer Camp for Kids and Dogs at Shadow Hill Farm and Kennel in Jackson Springs, N.C., kids participate in three-day overnight visits, which can be extended. The cost at either type of camp is comparable to other summer programs for kids.

“Some kids stay for one or more weeks,” says Jane Hammett Bright, owner and operator of Shadow Hill. “I offer a reduced rate if they want to stay for extra weeks. Some kids do dog shows on the weekends and come back or stay over.”

From Doggy Dancing to Veterinary Training
Activities widely vary at dog training camps, again depending on the particular camp and the target age level. Camp ARF currently offers summer camps for multiple age groups, says Bartlett. For example, a special Vet Camp gives fourth- and fifth-graders a thorough look at what it takes to be a veterinarian. “Students observe a live spay/neuter surgery in ARF’s clinic, work in teams on real-life animal case studies, analyze X-rays, examine slides under the microscope, practice suture and injection techniques, and perform basic pet first aid,” says Bartlett.

Justin went through Camp ARF’s Junior Dog Trainer program for young teens. “Each camper was assigned their own ARF dog for the week and learned about reward-based dog training, why it is so important for pet dogs and how to get the best results,” says Bartlett. “At the end of the week, campers showed off their hard work at our graduation talent show. Most importantly, the participants gave these dogs a paw up on finding their forever home!”

Dog Training Camp: A Week Your Child Will Never Forget
At Shadow Hill, participants wake up at 6 a.m. to a delicious breakfast. “Our meals are incredible, with fresh-off-the-farm ingredients and no processed foods,” says Hammett Bright. “A lot of kids come home and their parents are shocked at how fit, toned and healthy their children look. Staying busy, getting enough rest and eating right is the reason.”

Shadow Hill campers can bring their own dogs, which they take to agility training at 6:30 a.m. From then on, a typical day might include tracking or herding training, a refreshing swim to give the dogs and kids a break, and nighttime games designed to promote further learning and good social interaction. A few tips:

  • Dog training camps for kids are very popular, so be sure to make arrangements well in advance.
  • Take time to thoroughly read each camp’s website or written materials to understand the rules and regulations.
  • If your child can bring the family dog, its temperament “is the most important factor,” according to Hammett Bright. “Your dog has to be friendly. He or she can be shy, but not aggressive toward strangers.” In fact, shy dogs tend to leave the camp “much happier and confident,” she says.
Dog training camps can provide a good time for all, but they might also set your child off on a lifelong rewarding career or hobby. A future veterinarian could emerge from Camp ARF, and several dog training champions have emerged from Shadow Hill. “We had a kid from Singapore who stayed for two weeks,” says Hammett Bright. “We’ve now learned that he has a champion dog for his age group in Singapore, so we are very proud about how our camp can make a positive difference in the lives of both kids and dogs.”
by Jennifer Viegas