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Virtual Training Set-Up and Prep

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

Read the FAQ here.

Do this BEFORE your 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 for private training.
  • Set up your camera in a landscape position – wider than tall.
  • Ensure that you are not backlit (e.g. close blinds behind you, position lights in front of you).
  • Put other household dogs into another room, and let your family know that you need quiet time.
  • Sign into ZOOM at least 5min early to ensure you can access the virtual training room.
  • Haven’t started class yet? Click here to see what ZOOM is like!
  • Contact your instructor by email immediately if you are having tech problems!

Have these items ready for your session:

  • Read the lesson reminder emails (where you find the ZOOM link) for specifics applicable to each lesson
  • Treat pouch A fanny pack or a rock climbing chalk pouch will work fine. This makes your job easier!
  • Clicker Purchase online, or we’ll find an alternative
  • Moist or semi-moist treats – Approximately 300pcs. Cut all treats to about the size of a large pea, or smaller for smaller dogs. Chop treats prior to class, not during class.
  • 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 for virtual lessons. Please no choke, ecollars or prongs.
  • One or two food-stuffed toys if your dog is likely to be antsy during breaks and demos

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 those located in Canada.

What are the technology requirements?

  • High speed internet
  • A computer, phone or tablet that:
    • Has a microphone
    • Has a camera
    • Can connect to the internet
    • Some behaviour modification will require more than one device (group class only requires one)
  • Method to hold up your phone/tablet (this can be as simple as an upside-down egg carton to support your phone)
  • Join the lesson through a regular web browser or download the application for the best viewing experience

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.

Group Classes

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 a regular training class, 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 have questions about each exercise answered on the spot!

How does the flexible schedule work?

The flexible schedule allows you to start class whenever there’s a spot available. Complete registration and payment is required within 24hrs of receiving a start date in order to confirm it for you.

You’ll then attend 6 consecutive classes to make up your full Virtual Life Skills program. (Note that classes do not run on holiday weekends)

Be sure to watch the Orientation Webinar before your start date in order to get the most out of your classes! Puppies are also given access to the Smart Socialization Webinar and Puppy Socialization Manual in addition to this.

What happens if I miss a class?

Not a problem – if you have to miss a class, simply give your instructor a heads-up and we can record the lesson for you to work through before your next class! Recordings are not saved indefinitely, so be sure to let us know right away.

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

Yes! Just like in an in person class, you and the other students will be able to see each other as well as your instructor. You can learn a lot from watching each other!

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 previously.

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 included access Facebook community means that you can post follow-up videos from the lessons and receive feedback on class contact after each lesson.

I want more feedback on my training after the lesson! How do I get this?

All students in Virtual Life Skills will have access to the community Facebook page. Here, you can post videos of your training progress in order to receive feedback throughout the duration of your program.

In order to provide the best training service, problems outside the scope of the group program will require a private consultation.

How do I prep for my lesson?

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

What happens when the COVID-19 lockdown is over?

Local students will be switched back into in-person classes on the same schedule. Those taking virtual classes from outside the Guelph area may see the class times changed. Accommodations will be made for those who are unable to accommodate this scheduling shift.

Private Training

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 have 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 details of 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.

VIRTUAL Life Skills – All Ages

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

The COVID-19 pandemic has closed down our in-person classes, but we can achieve the same great 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.

Who says learning can’t happen on the couch?

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
  • Preventing “Counter surfing”
  • And more!

How Does Virtual Training Work?

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

Just like a regular training class, 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 have questions about each exercise answered on the spot!

To join a virtual class, all you need to do is click the link that is sent to you by email. Easy as that!

Technology requirements are:

Read the FAQ for more important details, including what to have ready for class!

What are the Perks?

In addition to learning and feedback in the live ZOOM class sessions, this program also includes the following perks:

  • Free Orientation Webinar to watch before class starts
  • Become a member of a private Facebook group to receive instructor feedback on your videos of class exercises between ZOOM sessions
  • Receive a Program Manual including all the exercises introduced in class
  • If you miss a class, simply watch the recording of the session!
  • PUPPY BONUS: Puppies under 6mo receive FREE access to the Smart Socialization Webinar AND Puppy Socialization Manual!

Flexible Start Date

You can start class any time space is available! No need to wait for a new session. All you need to do is:

  1. Choose your start date with the office
  2. Submit full registration and payment within 24hrs to confirm your start date
  3. Attend 6 consecutive weeks of virtual training classes

Contact the office to find out the next available start date!

Register Here!

This program will launch SOON! Join our mailing list for an alert.

  • Wednesday 6-7pm
  • Saturday 10am-11am
  • * Additional classes may be added with demand!

Join class ANY TIME and attend 6 consecutive classes to complete your program. Access your program manual, webinar(s) and Facebook group any time.

Let’s get started…

  1. Read the FAQ before registration. Questions are welcomed any time!
  2. Submit registration below by clicking on the bold date (NOTE: the below date does not represent your start date)
  3. We’ll be in touch shortly with instructions!

This program will launch SOON! Join our mailing list for an alert.

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!

(Keep an eye on our website! www.scratchandsniff.ca)

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!

Agility (And Then Some!)

Agility is a fantastic activity to build your dog’s confidence, teach her to look to you for direction, and simply have fun. And this program does just that!

Agility (And Then Some!) is geared towards owners having fun with their dogs. The equipment is modified to meet each dog’s skill level, confidence and physical ability, including younger and older dogs. There’s no need for you or your dog to be a top athlete to join class!

In addition to the usual agility obstacles, this program also includes additional exercises and creative obstacles added to each level to make this class so much more than a typical agility class!

Requirements and Prerequisites:

  • Dogs must be up-to-date on all vaccines as recommended by your veterinarian
  • Completion of a foundation program at Scratch and Sniff Canine Services OR an equivalent from another school if owners/dogs have a solid understanding of clicker training and prerequisite behaviours. (note: see important prerequisite behaviours, below)
  • Owners who have not trained at Scratch and Sniff Canine Services previously will be required to view the Orientation Webinar session prior to class, and possibly attend a free assessment
  • Prerequisite training skills (taught with positive reinforcement/clicker):
    • Hand target (touch)
    • Basic skills in recall, sit, leash walking, leave it/’doggy zen’
    • Must be able to work off leash behind barriers and pass other dogs on leash in a controlled manner – all obstacles are completed off leash.
  • Refunds and credit are not available for Specialty Classes.

Class will not be cancelled for routine winter weather or typical snowfall – students will be alerted if poor weather results in cancellation.

Level One: Schedule

$275+HST
Starting Monday Feb 24 2020, 8:45pm-9:45pm

Level One: Book Your Spot!

Health Documentation for Puppy Class

Click here for the Health Form for the Puppy Socialization Program.

Puppies without this documentation cannot be admitted into class.

This specific form, signed by your attending veterinarian, is strictly required for admittance into your first class. Send a clear photo or scan prior to your first class (preferred), or let the office know if you are going to bring a hard copy to your first class.

Thanks for keeping puppy class safe for everyone!

Click here for the Health Form for the Puppy Socialization Program.

Open Practise Time

Current and past students of Scratch and Sniff Canine Services are welcome to participate in our Open Practise Times!

Sometimes it can be hard to get motivated to train. Or maybe you have the motivation, but not the space! Poor weather and early darkness in winter makes it tough to find opportunities to train in a space larger than your living room.

Open Practise Time gives you the floorspace and designated training time you need to get on the road to accomplishing your training goals.

Want to join us? Have a look at this important information, then register at the bottom of the page:

  • This is your time to practice on your own. This means that there will be no structure, content, or instruction, and this is reflected in the low cost. Come prepared knowing what you want to work on with your dog! This is training time with your dog, not a play group.
  • Participants have access to any equipment they would like to use, however are asked to determine this upon arrival. Please bring your own training supplies such as treats, Kongs, mats, tug toys, etc. You can find a list here.
  • While you are not obliged to stay for the full hour, you are asked to arrive on time. Dogs are sensitive to changes in the room, and arriving late is disruptive to other participants.
  • Please adhere to positive reinforcement training and non-aversive equipment on the dog.
  • Be aware that there are children who frequent a neighbouring business. Keep distance or arrange to be let in the back door if this is a concern. Please respect our neighbours and their patrons.
  • Payment and registration is required to hold your spot, spaces are limited! There are no refunds nor rescheduling for missed Open Practice Time. Be prepared to attend the session that you have booked!
  • Dog must be healthy and up to date on vaccinations as recommended by your veterinarian.

Book Your Open Practise Time!

																																  
						

Look, Don’t Touch!

I was out for a walk on the city streets with my elderly dog, Arlo. When I saw someone approaching with a young doodle, I led Arlo up a driveway to wait for them to pass. The owner and I greeted each other briefly, and then she stopped. His owner asked me a question about my dog, and as I answered briefly, the doodle leaned into the leash and oriented his body and wide, excited eyes toward my dog, tail wagging higher and harder. The owner asked if the dogs could meet, and I politely declined. We said our goodbyes, and as she dragged her dog away he gurgled a bark through the pressure on his collar.

So why didn’t I allow a greeting? The answer lies in frustration, and a dog’s response to it.

Frustration often arises from being unable to fulfill an intense want or need. In our dogs, it’s usually a product of arousal in combination with restraint. For the doodle, this meant that seeing Arlo just 15 feet away resulted in feelings of excitement (arousal). He was confined on a leash, which acted as the restraint and prevented access.

This combination of factors resulted in frustration, expressed as staring and orienting, leaning hard on the leash, and vocalization. This was a pretty minor display as compared to many other dogs, but the effect on this dog – or the dog being stared down – shouldn’t be minimized.

Frustration in humans leads to all sorts of maladaptive coping mechanisms. Road rage is a perfect example of how frustration causes uncomfortable feelings up to the point of aggressive outbursts or even physical assault. Frustration is profoundly distressing for the person experiencing it, even if it doesn’t escalate to that point.

Dogs show a similar range of expression of frustration, and unfortunately the information available to most pet owners neglects to mention it as a cause of problem behaviours or even aggression. Most people do not see a connection with their cute little puppy excitedly bouncing around on the end of the leash barking because “she just wants to say hi!”

Excitement is normal, and it is not this excitement that is the problem – it is the human response to it! Too often, owners of friendly dogs allow their dogs to experience these feelings of frustration and even deliberately put their dogs in situations where it is likely to happen.

At best, they teach their dogs to get cranked up at the sight of other dogs and that pulling and barking is the best way to fulfil the desire to meet the other dog. At worst, they are cultivating an aggressive response to other dogs. That can either come from a road-rage-like response to the feelings of frustration or through well-intended training methods that include corrections like jerks to the leash. In this case, a dog who previously was excited about dogs comes to learn that the presence of other dogs causes their owner to jerk the leash, which causes them pain or discomfort. This dog can easily be convinced that other dogs aren’t good to have around and will develop an aggressive response to other dogs due to this association.

So what can you do instead? We’ll use an example of other dogs as distractions, but this is applicable to people or anything else that excites your dog in a happy way.

  1. Teach your dog “Say Hi!” When you say this, it means your dog is allowed to engage in a social interaction with the dog. After you say, “Say Hi!,” you can usher your dog in to greet on a loose leash or off leash. Of course, take appropriate precautions about who your dog is greeting, particularly regarding finding friendly dogs who also are allowed to greet, etc.
  1. Teach your dog that when you don’t say, “Say Hi!,” it means that social interaction is off limits. This is a critical distinction for your dog to understand and requires a lot of consistency on your part!

This can be achieved using a combination of factors:

Keep Your Distance

If your leashed dog is too close to the dog, she will be frustrated. It is as simple as that! How close is too close will depend very much on your dog, the dog she wants to greet, and the environment. Generally, you will be able to tell if your dog is too close because she orients fully away from you and toward the dog, blinks less or has wider eyes, leans into the leash, either stands very still or moves rapidly, and is less responsive to an offer of a treat. If she does this, move away 5 to 10 feet.

“Look, Don’t Touch”

You’ll need to prepare a baggy of treats that your dog loves – don’t be stingy! – and have these at the ready in an easily accessible pocket or training pouch. Begin at a distance where your dog notices the other dog but doesn’t display the above body language.

Notice when your dog looks toward the other dog and immediately say, “yes!” and feed a treat. It can be helpful to show the dog the treat and place it on the ground by your foot so she turns around to take the treat.

Repeat this for as many times as your dog glances at the dog. Always time “yes!” with the moment she looks; there’s no benefit in letting her stare! You will soon notice that she gives a quick glance and looks back to you before you even have a chance to say, “yes!” This is perfect! Continue to reward this! If this isn’t happening, you’ll need to begin at a longer distance or use tastier treats. It can be helpful to practise with a friend and their dog so you also get some practise before training out on walks.

“Say Hi!”

Practise “Look, Don’t Touch” without greeting the large majority of the time. This will help set an expectation that your dog is to continue past dogs and people, and it will go a long way to prevent frustration from re-emerging. When you are going to allow a greeting, for example with a neighbour or dog friend, begin with “Look, Don’t Touch” until your dog is settled and functional. You can then tell your calm dog, “Say Hi!” and allow her to greet her friends while maintaining a loose leash.

If that doodle had been put though these paces and, instead of leaning into the leash and staring, was quietly standing with her owner, I may have allowed a greeting with Arlo. While I didn’t have the impression that this dog had any aggressive intention, it’s very likely that his strained body language would have translated into a very forward, pushy introduction. This wouldn’t be fair to either dog, particularly as Arlo, at the age of 15, easily falls off balance.

Many other dogs will assume the worst if a dog pushes into their space and may react defensively to that approach. Help your dog maintain her friendly demeanour by preventing frustration.

Are you having some trouble with your pooch’s behaviour around people or dogs? Check out our group classes or private training, or contact the office and we’ll be happy to help!