DURHAM, N.C. — After dropping her dog off for two weeks of boarding and training, Heather Doughty was surprised to see the results.
Doughty said her dog, Abbie, was filthy and had numerous bite marks, including ones down her right side and one on the back of one hip.
“She had open wounds on her neck. She had about four or five different sores about an inch apart on her neck,” Doughty said.
Doughty paid $500 for Abbie, who is less than a year old, to be boarded and trained at the Durham-based Dog Academy of N.C., owned by Michael Ward.
“He convinced me she'd come back a new dog,” Doughty said.
Ward said he uses “traditional” or punishment-based training methods.
“I’m not here to look pretty. I’m not here to be fancy. I’m just here to train your dog,” Ward said.
Ward, a graduate of The Tom Rose School of professional dog training in High Ridge, Mo., operates his academy out of his home.
Doughty said her dog also had an ear infection, had lost 10 pounds and acted very skittish. Doughty took Abbie to her veterinarian.
“As a veterinarian, I felt that there was some negligence or something done inappropriate with this dog,” Dr. John Dick said.
Dick said he was most concerned about Abbie's weight loss and demeanor.
“When she first came to us, she was a very happy puppy, and this visit … she was very anxious, I guess you could say. She was nervous from being handled, skittish about being restrained, just not normal behavior I would expect from a young puppy,” Dick said.
When Ward refused to refund any money, Doughty called 5 on Your Side.
Ward claimed Abbie arrived with the ear infection and said he pointed it out to Doughty.
As for the training, Ward said Abbie “was skittish when she came here.”
“The training they paid for is the training that I gave the dog. It's them who refused to be trained themselves in order to keep the level of training up,” Ward said.
Another dog owner who boarded her dog at the Academy in July said her Chihuahua escaped and wasn't found.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture requires boarding facilities be licensed. A 5 on Your Side investigation showed Ward’s facility is not licensed.
An inspector checked it out and noted some violations. Ward was given 30 days to make improvements to his facility and get a license.
As for dog training, different methods are available.
Experts recommend dog owners research training programs because the methods are often as important as the result.
One way to be sure the trainer is using methods you are comfortable with is to participate in the training with your dog, experts say.