Category Archives: Uncategorized

All Ages Life Skills – Program Options

Our popular Life Skills program is now offered in multiple formats! This program is perfect for puppies, new dogs, adolescents, and new adoptions. We cover all “the basics” of manners training and easier living with your dog! You can find full content details on each program webpage.

Virtual Life Skills

Virtual Life Skills is perfect for pandemic safety, for those living outside of Guelph, and owners with hectic or unpredictable schedules! Get started on-demand and receive personal feedback on your training for the duration of the 8-week program.

In-Person Life Skills

In-Person Life Skills is great for those living in or near Guelph who enjoy the accountability that comes with a in-person, weekly interaction, and whose schedule allows for consecutive classes for this six-week program.

Puppy Party: Socialization & Play Group Drop-off

THIS is what you get to bring home from a Puppy Party!

A Puppy Party: Socialization & Play Drop-off is the ideal way to socialize your puppy while social distancing!

Drop your pup off at our door, and we’ll take your puppy for 90min of play, fun, socialization, confidence building and more. At the end of the Puppy Party, come back to our door for a no-contact pick up of your zonked out puppy.

Wondering about letting your 8wk old pup out to play? Check out this position statement from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour.

The Details:

  • For puppies to start between 8-18wks, until they age out of the program (dependant on size, development, and play skills)
  • Puppies must:
    • be up-to-date on age-appropriate vaccinations
    • be appropriately dewormed
    • have appropriate documentation, as outlined below
    • have been adopted/home at least 7 days prior to the Puppy Party

Important Health Requirement:

Before your puppy can attend her first Puppy Party, health documentation is STRICTLY required. The following must be in place:

  • Vaccination of at least ONE set of age appropriate vaccines, including Parvo-Distemper
  • Deworming

We can accept the following forms of documentation:

  • A clear photo or scan of your puppy’s vet papers, showing vaccination and deworming
  • An email from your local vet clinic stating that your puppy has received the above

Take note that if this isn’t received prior to your first Puppy Party, your puppy will not be able to attend and credit cannot be transferred.

Pricing

Standard Pricing: $30+HST per session

SPECIAL DISCOUNT for puppies in our training classes: $20+HST per session
Join the All-Ages Life Skills Program, or Private Training to access this discount! (Discounts cannot be applied retroactively)

Register Here!

Follow the below steps to register for Puppy Parties!

  1. Email the required Health Documentation (above) to the office.
  2. Book your Play Group below!
    If there are two groups available:
    – For SHY or SMALL puppies: Book the EARLY group
    – For BOLD or LARGE puppies: Book the LATER group
    Your puppy may need to be moved between groups depending on the other puppies present in each
    – If your group isn’t on the schedule, contact the office
  3. Send payment via email money transfer to complete registration. Your booking is tentative until payment is received.
  4. Check your email for instructions.

Book Your Puppy Party!

If a party is full contact the office to be put on the waitlist!

VIRTUAL All-Ages Life Skills

Dog training in the age of Social Distancing…
it CAN be done!

The COVID-19 pandemic has created lots of barriers in our lives, but luckily we can achieve the same great training results with the wonders of modern technology!

Virtual Life Skills is an all-ages manners and obedience program, appropriate for puppies and adult dogs alike – with the BONUS All Things Puppy Classroom for puppies under 6mo!

Who says learning can’t happen on the couch?

We will cover topics including:

  • Come when called
  • Settle and stay on a mat
  • Polite leash walking
  • Dealing with distractions
  • Polite greetings with people
  • Prevent running out the front door
  • Impulse control around food
  • Preventing “Counter surfing”
  • And more!

See what students say about virtual training!

How Does Virtual Training Work?

Using a virtual classroom called Google Classrooms, you will be guided through training exercises with video demonstrations, verbal descriptions and written instructions. You will also receive entirely personalized feedback on your training from your instructor! This is NOT just a video tutorial.

Each exercise is broken down into easy-to-follow steps, and you will receive personalized support and guidance as you train your dog.

  • Train at your own pace and on your own schedule
  • Join class any time
  • Eight weeks access to dynamic content and personal guidance and training support
  • Access to the handy reference manual after your program is completed which includes written and video instructions for all training exercises

Technology requirements are:

  • A basic understanding of computer/internet use, including recording a video
  • Internet capacity that allows for watching and uploading videos
  • A computer, phone or tablet that:
    • Has a microphone
    • Has a camera
    • Can connect to the internet

Read the FAQ for more important details

The All Things Puppy Classroom!

Puppy students get a special discount on Puppy Parties: Socialization and Play Group Drop-off! Click the link for more info!

Puppy students receive FREE access to the All Things Puppy Classroom for information on socialization and problem prevention that is specific to puppies – including guidance on nipping, house training, crate training and more!

Want to try out Google Classroom?

You’re welcome to access the test classroom and familiarize yourself with how the platform works. Simply:

Watch this demo of Virtual Life Skills!
(Note: the platform and content is the same, however now you can progress through at your own pace. This video will be updated to reflect this shortly!)

Register for Virtual Life Skills!

This program is not interchangeable with the in-person Life Skills Program. You cannot transfer between programs after registration.

$239+HST

Start on demand!

IN-PERSON All-Ages Life Skills

Life Skills is an all-ages manners and obedience program, appropriate for puppies, adolescents and adult dogs alike.

We will cover topics such as:

  • Come when called
  • Settle and stay on a mat
  • Polite leash walking
  • Dealing with distractions
  • Polite greetings with people
  • Prevent running out the front door
  • Impulse control around food
  • Prevent “Counter surfing”
  • And more!

What you get…

  • Orientation Webinar to watch before getting started
  • Six weekly group classes with a flexible start date
  • Life Skills Online Reference Classroom including videos of training exercises and bonus material
  • If there is a COVID related closure, illness or quarantine, you will be transferred directly to Virtual Life Skills to seamlessly complete the program!

Puppies! You get all of the above PLUS:

  • Access to the All Things Puppy Classroom for quick answers on common puppy issues, such as house training, nipping, crate training and more
  • Puppy Play & Socialization A 30% discount on the Puppy Party: Socialization and Play Drop-off

Flexible Start Date

You can start class any time space is available!

  1. Submit the registration form below and specify your preferred class day
  2. Once your start date is selected, submit payment within 24hrs to confirm your spot
  3. Attend SIX consecutive weeks of in-person training classes with your dog

COVID-19 Precautions

  • Masks that cover the nose/mouth and without vents are strictly mandatory when indoors and sanitizer is provided, as directed by WDG Public Health. Please no vented masks or bandanas.
  • Small group class size and limited attendance
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection of the premises
  • Social/Physical Distancing in effect at all times
  • Puppy Party Drop-offs prevent contact between owners while maintaining socialization benefits for your puppy. Drop off your pup, play and socialization will be managed by your trainer, and you bring home a tired puppy!
  • In the event of a COVID-related closure, illness, or quarantine that prevents either the running or attendance of in-person classes, all students will immediately transition seamlessly into the Virtual Life Skills Program to complete their program in an online format including personal feedback and guidance.

What you need to know:

For more information, read the Group Class FAQs:

  • Masks are mandatory, and must cover the nose and mouth, no vents or bandanas. Virtual or private training is the best option for those who are uncomfortable in or unable to wear a mask.
  • One handler per dog is permitted in the facility in order to allow for distancing. Family members may switch off each class.
  • In case of any COVID-related closure or absence, including illness, quarantine or isolation, all students will transfer to the Virtual Life Skills Program to complete the remainder of the program, and receive a bonus 30min ZOOM coaching session. No refund, credit or other service will be provided in this circumstance.
  • Your program will run for six consecutive weeks from the confirmed start date (save for clearly stated holidays/cancellations). Make up classes are not available, however you will have access to class instructions in order to keep up.
  • Your new dog/puppy must be living with you for at least 7 days prior to your first class.
  • Documentation of vaccination (Parvo/Distemper, Rabies if applicable) is required for ALL dogs.
  • Because COVID symptoms mimic regular cold and flu, should your instructor become ill class will be cancelled and run an extra week in length. Please leave an extra week of availability after your program to accommodate possibility of this safety procedure.

Read the FAQ here.

Register for Life Skills Here!

Schedule:
– Tuesdays at 6pm
– Tuesdays at 7:15
– Wednesdays at 6pm
Each class runs 50-60min in length

Start any time space is available and attend six consecutive weeks of class. Your start date will be confirmed upon registration, or contact the office for availability.

Pricing: $269+HST
Payment and vaccination documentation must be received within 24hrs in order to confirm the time slot offered to you

Read the FAQ here.

Private Training and Behaviour Consulting

Private training and behaviour consultations are currently running in both virtual and in-person formats, depending on the nature of the issue addressed in the session. Initial sessions will continue to take place in a virtual format, and follow-ups will be decided on a case-by-case basis. For example, resource guarding in the home may be addressed in a virtual format, and outdoor reactivity sessions may be addressed in-person. We cannot guarantee that a request to meet in-person can be granted. Due to health and safety implications, availability of in-person sessions is not based solely on client preference.

Read the Virtual Training FAQs to fully understand what technology you need in order to get the most out of your private training sessions.

We do not offer service dog training.

See what students in virtual training say:


Emily Fisher, an IAABC-certified dog behaviour consultant, will guide you through the resolution of your dog’s problem behaviours. Consults include discussion, visuals, demonstration and “hands-on” work with your dog, a personalized training plan, and resources.

Private Training Services and Pricing

• Initial Session 2hr session 

$185+HST

This is always the first session for Private Training, which is in a virtual format. This session must be used within 90 days of purchase. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.

• Package of Five – 5hr total 

$450+HST (Save $50!)
After the Initial Session you may continue with the Package of Five at a discount.  All five sessions must be completed within six months of payment. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.

• Single session 60min

$100+HST

After the Initial Session you may continue with Single Sessions. This session must be used within 90 days of purchase. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.


Behaviour Consultation and Private Training Booking

Complete these steps (or contact us with questions any time!):

  1. Read Policy and Virtual Training FAQ and Private Training FAQ
  2. Contact the office for the behaviour questionnaire and additional information/instructions
  3. Fill out this form and review the email that is sent to you
  4. Payment can be made by EMT on receipt of your invoice in order to reserve your session time
  5. Schedule your appointment directly with the office

Virtual Training Set-Up and Prep

Set up your training space ahead of your lesson in order to make best use of your session time. Take a look at the below information.

Read the FAQ here.

Private Training Students

Do this BEFORE your private session:

  • Take your dog out to pee
  • Put down a yoga mat or rug if the floor is slippery
  • Have all equipment and props ready in your training space
  • Chop up your treats BEFORE your lesson. This is important!
  • Set your device on a stable surface with good visibility of your training space. You may receive additional specific instructions private training.
  • Set up your camera in a landscape position – wider than tall.
  • Put other household dogs into another room, and let your family know that you need quiet time.
  • You’ll see best video quality if you close other programs on your computer, and ask others in the home not to stream during your session time.
  • Download ZOOM and test the program prior to your first session, ensuring the both your camera and microphone work. Visit the ZOOM website for details.
  • Haven’t started class yet? Click here to see what ZOOM is like!
  • Sign into ZOOM at the specified session time by clicking on the link in your session reminder email.
  • Contact your instructor by email (not phone) immediately if you are having tech problems!

Have these items ready for your private session:

  • Treat pouch A fanny pack or a rock climbing chalk pouch will work fine. This makes your job easier!
  • Clicker 
  • Moist or semi-moist treats – About 300pcs. Cut all treats to about the size of a large pea, or smaller for smaller dogs. Chop treats prior to class, not during your session.
    • Store-bought treats: Rollover logs, dehydrated organ meats, Ziwi Peak, etc.
    • Cook and chop meat from the grocery, such as: chicken breast, steak, pork chop, chicken hearts/gizzard, beef/pork heart, pre-cooked hot dogs, cheese, ham, etc. 
  • 4-6ft leash – no flexi leashes
  • Tug toy – Long braided fleece toy or ‘stuffless’ toy if your dog enjoys tugging.
  • A front-attaching body harness for all lessons outside of the home and for behaviour modification. Please no choke, ecollars or prongs.
  • One or two food-stuffed toys if your dog is likely to be antsy during breaks and demos

Life Skills Students

Do this BEFORE your training session:

  • Take your dog out to pee
  • Put down a yoga mat or rug if the floor is slippery
  • Have all equipment and props ready in your training space
  • Chop up your treats BEFORE training. This is important!
  • Set your device on a stable surface with good visibility of your training space.
  • Set up your camera in a landscape position – wider than tall. Ensure you stay in frame.
  • Put other household dogs into another room, and let your family know that you need quiet time.

Have these items ready for your training session:

  • Treat pouch A fanny pack or a rock climbing chalk pouch will work fine. This makes your job easier!
  • Clicker 
  • Moist or semi-moist treats – Cut all treats to about the size of a large pea, or smaller for smaller dogs. Chop treats prior to training, not during a training session.
    • Store-bought treats: Rollover logs, dehydrated organ meats, Ziwi Peak, etc.
    • Cook and chop meat from the grocery, such as: chicken breast, steak, pork chop, chicken hearts/gizzard, beef/pork heart, pre-cooked hot dogs, cheese, ham, etc. 
  • 4-6ft leash – no flexi leashes
  • Tug toy – Long braided fleece toy or ‘stuffless’ toy.
  • A front-attaching body harness is recommended for routine walks, but your dog can be in a flat collar/off leash for indoor training. Please no choke, ecollars or prongs.
  • Props for each training session, as described in each lesson

Virtual Training FAQ

Welcome to VIRTUAL training! You probably have lots of questions, like whether this can actually work… the answer is ABSOLUTELY. Have a look below!

General

But, seriously, you can train dogs… ONLINE?

Absolutely! Outside of weekend workshops, all of my continuing education is conducted through various virtual formats. This includes HANDS-ON skills training! I’ve found this format to be incredibly beneficial for me and my dogs.

Does it matter where I live?

Yes – due to insurance restrictions, we are accepting only students located in Canada.

What are the technology requirements?

  • You need a basic level of computer/internet literacy, including navigating a webpage, uploading videos, and use of an online forum
  • Life Skills: Internet capacity that permits viewing and uploading of videos
  • Private Training: High speed internet that allows for video conferencing over ZOOM
  • A computer, phone or tablet that:
    • Has a microphone
    • Has a camera
    • Can connect to the internet
    • Some Private Training will require more than one device (phone/tablet/computer)
  • Method to hold up your phone/tablet (this can be as simple as an upside-down egg carton to support your phone, tape your phone to a paper towel holder, or a tripod/camera stand)

What Policy applies?

All regular policy applies. You can find Group Policy here and Private Policy here. Purchase and/or registration indicates acceptance of applicable policy.

All-Ages Life Skills Program

How does it work?

Using a virtual classroom called Google Classrooms, you will be introduced to new exercises with demonstrations, verbal descriptions and written instructions. The modules include a Module Presentation – this is exactly the same explanation and demonstration that you would receive in an in-person group class!

Each exercise is broken down into easy-to-follow steps, and you will receive entirely personalized feedback on your training.

  • Work at your own pace and on your own schedule!
  • Join ANY time!
  • Receive feedback and guidance on your training homework five days a week
  • Eight-week access to dynamic content and personal feedback on your training and questions
  • Save the Program Manual for reference after completing your program

Checkout the video below for a tour of your classroom! You can also find an interactive test classroom on the Virtual Life Skills webpage.

How does the flexible schedule work?

You can join the program ANY time, and you can work through the modules entirely at your own pace through out your eight-week class.

Will I see other people, and can others see me?

Your homework will be submitted privately to your instructor, and feedback will be returned privately. You also have the option to participate in Q&As and discussion with your classmates.

Will I learn the same things as in a regular group class?

Yes! The curriculum has been modified to cater to this virtual experience, and the class maintains the same manners and obedience exercises as in the in-person class.

How does virtual instruction and feedback on my training compare to in-person classes?

In a virtual class you actually have access to significantly MORE personal feedback than an in-person class! In an in-person class, you get feedback only in that one hour. In a virtual class, you have access to feedback five days each week. After making the changes suggested, you can request further feedback on how to adjust or perfect the training exercise.

Additionally, you have access to written notes provided by your instructor, which means you have a personal reference point when you incorporate these changes into the †raining exercise.

You’ll also receive feedback on your training in real-life situations, and environments where you walk and train your dog in day to day life. That can’t happen with an in-person class!

What about distractions?

Did you know it’s actually more effective to teach a behaviour before adding distractions? This approach actually better caters to learning needs of both people and dogs, versus an in-person class.

The self-paced format means that you can post follow-up videos from the lessons and receive feedback on whatever aspect of the lesson you would like, including introduction of distractions that you encounter day-to-day.

What if I have questions about topics not included in the Life Skills Curriculum?

In order to provide the best training service, problems outside the scope of the group program will require a private consultation so your instructor is able to gather the information necessary for a complete response to your question. You can find information on the Private Session webpage.

How do I prep for my training sessions?

You can find all of this information on the Virtual Training Prep page.

Private Training

Which sessions are virtual?

Private training and behaviour consultations are currently running in both virtual and in-person formats, depending on the nature of the issue addressed in the session. Initial sessions will continue to take place in a virtual format, and follow-ups will be decided on a case-by-case basis. For example, resource guarding in the home may be addressed in a virtual format, and outdoor reactivity sessions may be addressed in-person. We cannot guarantee that a request to meet in-person can be granted. Due to health and safety implications, availability of in-person sessions is not based solely on client preference.

How does it work?

Using a video conferencing program called ZOOM, we will meet in our “virtual classroom” at the designated start time.

Just like an in person private behaviour consult, we will review your dog’s behaviour, your instructor will introduce and demonstrate exercises, and you will work with your dog on each skill. ZOOM allows you to receive personal feedback in real time, and questions about each exercise answered on the spot.

For some training problems, you will need multiple devices to record your dog at two angles, or a helper to hold your camera. You may have additional technology requirements such as bluetooth headphones. Contact the office for details.

Can any behaviour problem be dealt with virtually?

Please provide the office with some information about your dog’s behaviour, and where you are seeing this occur, and we will decide whether a virtual consult is the best route forward. Contact the office here.

What do I need to do to prep for my session?

You can find that information on the Virtual Training Prep page, as well as the Behaviour Consultation page. You will also be sent information applicable to your situation.

Socializing Your Puppy in the Midst of COVID-19

These are strange times we’re living in during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the prescribed safety precautions fly in the face of healthy puppy socialization (and human socialization, for that matter!). Even during these trying times, it’s critical to do everything possible to prevent problems from arising later in life due to a socialization deficit in puppyhood.

Remember, if you are in isolation or quarantine you must put public safety ahead of socializing your pup – if you find yourself in this position, do only the indoor activities. While there’s not evidence that dogs can be infected with this virus, it is possible for a dog to carry the virus on her coat and transmit it to another person – the same way shared surfaces like door knobs can be contaminated. 

During this age of “social distancing” the foundations of socialization still apply:

  • start young (no, really, you can’t wait until this is over!)
  • let your pup’s curiosity propel her to explore a wide variety of novel circumstances
  • avoid putting your pup in a fear- or frustration-provoking situation

Let’s look at a few ways to socialize your puppy without contributing to the spread of this virus:

Social Distancing Has Always Been an Important Lesson

“Look-Don’t-Touch” has always been the most over-looked socialization activity for pups. With their owner’s emphasis on constant greetings, many pups never learn that they can let the world go by unaccosted. And don’t you want that for your adult dog?

Take your puppy to public places and practise “social distancing” to the benefit of your puppy. With treats at the ready, every time your pup glances toward a person or dog, simply encourage your pup away and feed a treat or two.

A Variety of People – When You Have No People!

Socialization to people is covered in the point above – your puppy doesn’t have to make physical contact with someone in order for socialization to take place. 

As a stand in for strangers at your door and entering your home, try playing dress-up. Wear unusual clothing and accessories, change your mannerisms, use crutches or a cane, and knock at your own front door while wearing this get-up. When options are limited, be inventive!

There’s Always More To Know About Puppies

Many people think that the primary value of a puppy class is in the play time, and this simply isn’t true. Join a virtual puppy class and learn what there is to know about raising a behaviourally healthy puppy, which goes far beyond just interactions between dogs. There’s way more to it than you might think!

(Join our Live, Virtual Life Skills Program and get access to our Puppy Package!)

Sounds

Exposure to different noises is critical for pups, and it takes more effort to find novel sounds when social distancing measures are in place!  Be sure that noises aren’t actually frightening for your puppy – if it is, turn down the volume or find a similar but less concerning noise.

The best place to start is a sound CD (check online sources) or an app like Sound Proof Puppy Training (check your app store). This gives you access to a variety of noises at your finger tips. Play it on a quality speaker system if you have one available.

Recorded noises can’t always take the place of “real life” sounds, simply due to the difference in the quality of the noise, so find sources of novel sounds in your house. That could be a kids toy that makes a weird noise, or even knocking items over (do this at a distance for your pup so you don’t startle her). Make the noise first, them provide several tasty treats after!

Confidence Games

Set up small obstacles in your home and yard, and encourage your pup to interact with them. If your pup is hesitant, change the obstacle so her natural curiosity gets the better of her. Provide all sorts of tasty treats either where your pup is comfortable, or right on the obstacles if she’s already feeling brave. 

Look around your home for inspiration. Mop buckets, garbage cans on their sides, plywood sheets propped up on bricks, chairs on a line with a blanket draped over them (like a tunnel), stepping over hula hoops and broom handles in a pile on the ground, and more – your imagination is your only limit!

Handling and Vet Prep

It is often taken for granted that a puppy will always accept handling, but in reality many pups grow into problems with being groomed or being accepting of other procedures. It’s important to understand that patting your puppy or clipping nails in a deep sleep is not the same as preparing your puppy for handling procedures! Be sure that all of your touch is done in a way that is welcomed and pleasant, and that you’re not forcing or coercing your pup. Keep a good supply of tasty treats on hand, but be sure to always touch first and feed second – this means that your puppy will think “touching makes good things happen” rather than “food means someone is going to touch me”.  Since COVID-19 will limit how many people your pup can physically interact with, have all family members participate – and maybe even do this in disguise, described above!

Variety is Still Key!

Unless you are in quarantine, the most important thing you can do is get your puppy off property. Right now. Today. And tomorrow, and the day after and the day after.

Go somewhere new every day. Walk on a new street. Drive out to walk in an industrial area. Walk down a back alley. Walk near a giant building that echos. Walk where there are honking geese. Walk where there are wildlife smells. Walk where people are passing by, and where there is heavy traffic.

Hang out near a fire station and watch the trucks leave for calls (but keep your distance, this can be scary!). Stand on near a busy intersection. Find statues and big garbage cans and weird items on the street – these items are surprisingly unnerving, so take it slow. Go to a car dealership where they have one of those flailing-armed-air-people waving at the sky!

It’s impossible to over-emphasize the importance of taking your puppy off your property.

Despite that we are literally in the midst of a global pandemic – your puppy’s development waits for no one. Do your best during these tough times to keep the socialization ball in the air, it’s a critical investment in the next 14 years of your and your dog’s lives. 

There is No Pause Button on a Winter Puppy

Welcome to winter! The season of bundling up and staying in. 

Taking on a winter puppy can be difficult. House-training is harder – who wants to squat in the snow? Socialization is harder because we humans are less than cold tolerant, and, of course, small-breed puppies quickly regret trips outside. Deep snow is also tough on shorter or more timid puppies, and the dreaded road salt affects all pups!

People, animals, and environments that a dog is not exposed to as a youngster will be unsettling for her as an adult. This is precisely why many adult dogs become reactive, aggressive, or fearful. Raising a puppy in a social/environmental vacuum is more often the cause of behavioural problems in an adult dog than is abuse or being attacked.

The critical window of socialization ends between 12 and 16 weeks of age, and it is important for your pup to have as many good and varied experiences as possible before that age. This socialization period cannot be “put on hold” – every day counts! 

It’s impossible to over-emphasize how important it is to take advantage of these precious few weeks, when your puppy is most open to learning about the world.

Puppy Socialization Program

Your first stop can be a well-run puppy socialization program. Look for an age-specific class (under 5 months), where play is carefully monitored, socialization activities and not obedience is emphasized, and health and safety are a top priority. Begin this program a week after you bring your puppy home to see the most benefit.

However, classes are not the be-all and end-all of socialization. An hour a week is not adequate socialization! You will need to take the information you learn and apply it in daily life, finding new and novel locations and circumstances for your pup every day.

Outdoor Socialization

It’s very normal for puppies to have trouble walking away from their home. While cold may play into this during winter, it’s a common concern at all times of year. Put your pup in the car and drive to a new location every day for walks. 

You might just find that it is not the cold that is slowing the walks! Focus on meandering at your puppy’s pace, stop for play breaks, let her play in the snow, and provide lots of treats when anything “weird” shows up – like a garbage can or a loud truck.

If your hands are too cold to handle treats, check out your local drug store or dollar store for silicone squeeze tubes – you can find them in the travel section. Stuff the tube with canned food or cream cheese, and there’s no need to remove your gloves when you reinforce your puppy. 

Indoor Options

Sometimes it really is just too frigid to be outside, or maybe you have a small breed that is truly not able to hang out outside for longer than a few minutes. The good news is that there are lots of indoor options for you to take advantage of daily! 

Check out hardware stores like Home Hardware, feed supply stores like TSC, libraries, local breweries, corner stores, Canadian Tire stores, and more. Many stores allow non-disruptive dogs with respectful owners inside – all you have to do is ask. Some even post signs indicating their dog friendly or mention it on their website.

This is a great opportunity for not only walking on frigid days, especially in the bigger stores with long aisles, but also for training with people passing by and for socialization in a unique environment filled with weird objects and funny smells.

Be sure to let your pup relieve herself outdoors before entering and bring some clean-up supplies, just in case! (Stores will stop allowing dogs in if they leave a mess or make extra work for employees.)

Warm Clothing

There are many options for doggy clothing! You can get the minimal coverage of a coat or the whole-body coverage of pyjamas. Rather than looking for something cute or stylish, focus on the comfort and safety of your pup. Find a coat that is easy to put on and doesn’t involve having to restrain or manipulate your puppy’s legs or face. Make this a good experience for your puppy by feeding her continuously as you’re dressing her and by handling her gently and respectfully.

If your puppy is worried, moving away, nipping, or thrashing, take this process very slowly in order to avoid creating a body-handling problem. That might mean being without a coat for a few weeks and taking advantage of indoor locations and milder days.

House-Training

It is tough to house-train pups in winter, that’s for sure. Luckily there are some additional steps you can take to help keep things on track:

  • Always go outside with your puppy, no exceptions!
  • If she’s too cold to go, bring her in to warm up for a few minutes and keep her beside you until the next trip out.
  • Shovel a section of lawn and a path to the door.
  • Construct a small shelter so your pup is protected from wind and precipitation. Carry your pup to this location if necessary.
  • Purchase an indoor potty station, or make your own in a kiddy pool, and set this up in your living space or garage. This is preferable to pee pads since it doesn’t look like an area rug.
  • Keep a coat by the back door for pee breaks.

If you choose to bring a puppy home in winter, it remains your responsibility to socialize her properly. There are no pause buttons on winter puppies just because there’s a month-long cold snap, a week of ice storms, or you just can’t stand going out in the cold and dark. Both you and your pup will pay for it if you hibernate for these precious few weeks instead of following through on a proper socialization plan.

Train Like a Trainer!

Have you ever wondered how a trainer does it? Trainers aren’t hiding their magic wands from you! The steps below outline a few of the things great trainers do to help their dogs flourish and become the best dog they can be.  

Don’t be stingy!

Training is not minimum wage work! Don’t expect your dog to work for less than you do at your job. Being stingy with reinforcements is a sure-fire way to minimize learning and demotivate your dog. 

Reinforcement is feedback for your dog, letting her know she is on the right track. If you don’t provide reinforcements often enough, your dog will not be clear on the task. This is equivalent to emailing your boss for clarification on a project and not getting a reply for a week. If you don’t provide a sufficiently valuable reinforcement, your dog will not be motivated to stick with the training session. Would you clean my eavestroughs in exchange for a bag of used tissues? 

Your dog needs the information and motivation that generous reinforcement provides. Expecting your dog to work for free or for minimum wage will damage your training goal. 

Think ahead

Proactively planning your training sessions is key to success. Before even looking at your dog, chop your treats to the size of a pea, have your clicker on a wrist coil, and arrange a pouch at your side so you can quickly access treats – like a cowboy drawing his gun from his holster in an old western flick. Prepare any props you may need during the session, and place them off to the side of your training space until you are ready to use them. 

Fumbling around by breaking up too-large treats, dropping your clicker, and spending an extra three seconds digging around in a poorly designed pouch are all ways to disrupt the flow of a training session – and ultimately lose your dog’s focus. Keeping a flow of clear feedback depends on your smart preparation ahead of the training session.

Clarity and structure

One of the best ways to set your dog up for success is to have a single focus during a training session and keeping it short (five minutes), especially if you are introducing a new behaviour or concept. If you are introducing “lie down,” for example, focus only on lying down. Do not also teach sit from the down during the same session. Lure or hand signal for down, reinforce, and then toss a treat a foot or two away. Your dog will stand up to get that treat – and be ready for another trial of lying down. If you allow your dog to focus on one single exercise at a time, your dog will acquire that skill faster.

Your dog isn’t GIVING you a hard time, she’s HAVING a hard time

Sometimes the best laid plans can go awry because your dog is worried, overstimulated, or otherwise stressed. A critical skill for trainers is being able to recognize when their dog’s emotional response is blocking her ability to acquire a skill and then adjusting the training session accordingly. This might mean ditching your original plan in order to help your dog cope with a specific trigger or new environment, training in a different location, or perhaps even delaying the session to another time, when your dog is feeling better. 

Setting priorities and realistic goals

Particularly in cases of behaviour modification for stress-based problems, many dogs will have very real limitations. Becoming a therapy dog in a children’s hospital is not a realistic goal for a dog with a history of biting children, but this doesn’t mean that the dog and owner can’t have a full and meaningful life together! 

Sometimes the popular notion of a “good dog” is way off base. Decide what really matters to you and train for that! 

A dog who happily jumps to greet people isn’t a bad dog, and an owner may actually choose not to train “four-on-the-floor” for greetings. This owner is well within her rights to own a dog who jumps up to greet as long as she’s mindful to manage her dog around people who do not want to be jumped on (for example, asking if the person is okay being jumped on and using leashes or gates to prevent access if they do not consent). 

The owner may make this decision because she enjoys the enthusiastic greeting, or she may just be working on other issues that take priority over jumping up. As long as everyone involved, including the dog, is happy with the outcome, this is perfectly okay. (This would, of course, not apply to situations where a dog is stressed or a risk to others, or where the dog’s behaviour infringes on another person’s rights.)

Don’t blame the dog 

Blaming the dog for poor training results is equivalent to expecting your dog to train herself. If your dog is not doing what you ask, your dog either doesn’t understand or isn’t motivated (or both!). Luckily, you can acquire the skills necessary to change both of these situations! 

If your dog isn’t behaving as you’d like, take a step back before you get frustrated and inclined to point blame, and assess your training. Hiring a skilled professional dog trainer is a valuable step in rectifying why you’re not getting the results you want. 

Get the most out of the coaching by fully incorporating the trainer’s feedback and asking targeted questions. Just as raising a child doesn’t make you a child psychologist, having raised a dog in past doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the training challenges you face with your current dog.

Do the legwork

Think – Plan – Do is critical to a constructive approach to dog training. It is easy to get stuck on one of those steps and forget that doing the work is as critical as planning for it. “Practise makes perfect” isn’t as accurate as “perfect practise makes perfect” – if you don’t do the work, you don’t get the results!