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IN-PERSON All-Ages Life Skills: Foundations

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

(If you have a new pup, also check out the Socialization Skills Puppy Class!)

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 selection
  • Classroom Visuals for clear instruction during class time
  • Life Skills Online Resource Classroom including written instructions, videos of training exercises and bonus training exercises
  • Access to the All Things Puppy Classroom for quick answers on common puppy issues, such as house training, nipping, crate training and more (Also check out the Socialization Skills Puppy Class!)

Flexible Start Date

You can start class any time space is available!

  1. Submit the registration form below and specify your preferred class day. We’ll confirm the next available start date.
  2. Once your start date is selected, submit payment within 24hrs to confirm your spot

What you need to know:

For additional information, read the Group Class FAQs:

  • TWO people per dog. This may be subject to change in response to changing COVID risk.
  • Face masks are not required for weekday classes, and are required for Sunday classes. This policy may change without advanced notice.
  • Do not attend class if you are ill. Ill students will receive access to a Virtual Module in order to receive feedback and support on your training.
  • Your program will run for six consecutive weeks from the confirmed start date (save for clearly stated holidays/cancellations). Students can keep up in the online resource classroom if absent from class.
  • Your new dog/puppy must be living with you for at least 7 days prior to your first class.
  • Documentation of dog vaccination (Parvo/Distemper, Rabies if age appropriate) is required for ALL dogs.
  • Should your instructor become ill class may be put on hold until recovery is confirmed. Please leave additional availability after your program to accommodate possibility of this safety procedure.

Read additional Group Class FAQ here.

Schedule and Pricing:

$295+HST

Tuesday at 5:45pm & 6:45pm with Emily (face masks optional, but appreciated)
Sundays at 3pm with Kathleen (face masks required)

Your start date will be confirmed upon registration.

Weather notice: Classes will only be cancelled in truly extreme weather. Please be prepared for our Ontario winters and leave time to arrive to class safely!

Register for Life Skills!

After reading through this webpage, group FAQ and Policy, complete the form below and you’ll receive confirmation of your start date shortly! If you have questions, contact the office before completing the form.

Payment must be received within 24hrs in order to confirm the time slot offered to you, and vaccination documents must be received prior to your first class

Check your spam folder if you do not see a timely reply.
If you do not see an immediate auto-confirmation of this form in your email, complete the form on a different device. (That means we didn’t get it either!)

Private Training and Behaviour Consulting

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, in addition to plentiful resources and follow-up.

Did you know…

Some pet insurance companies will cover private training for behaviour modification! Contact your insurance provider to find out if your dog is covered. We do not direct bill.

We do not offer service dog training.

See what students in our various virtual training programs are saying about the online format:


Private Training Services and Pricing

• Initial Session (90min-2hr) $215+HST
This is always the first session for Private Training, and is in a virtual format. This session must be used within 30 days of purchase and will expire at this time. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.

• Package of Six – 6hr total $599+HST (Save $150 versus Single Sessions!)
After the Initial Session you may continue with the Package of Six at a discount.  All six sessions must be completed within FIVE months of purchase and will expire at this time. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.

• Package of Three – 3hr total $345+HST (Save $30 versus Single Sessions!)
After the Initial Session you may continue with the Package of Three at a discount.  All three sessions must be completed within 90 days of purchase and will expire at this time. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.

• Single Session 60min $125+HST
After the Initial Session you may continue with Single Sessions
This session must be used within 30 days of purchase and will expire at this time. Purchase is required in advance in order to hold session time.


Behaviour Consultation and Private Training Booking

  1. Review Policy and Virtual Training FAQ and Private Training FAQ
  2. Review this detailed document on private training
  3. Complete the form below

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.
  • Ensure that you will not be backlit
  • Put other household dogs into another room, and let your family know that you need quiet time.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • For your Initial Private Session: We will begin with discussion, so prep the above but you may start out in a comfortable spot to talk before working your dog.

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 in advance, 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.
  • food-stuffed toy (like a Kong) if your dog is likely to be antsy during breaks and demos. It’s important for your dog to remain settled and not barking.

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 at the time of the training service.

What are the technology requirements?

  • You need a basic level of computer/internet literacy, including navigating a webpage and taking videos
    • Life Skills and Virtual Training for Distractions: Internet capacity that permits viewing and uploading of videos
    • Private Training: High speed internet that allows for clear video conferencing over ZOOM
  • A computer, phone or tablet that:
    • Has a functional microphone
    • Has a functional camera
    • Can connect to the internet
    • Some Private Training will require more than one device (phone/tablet/computer)
    • Optional but encouraged – bluetooth wireless headset
  • 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 and Virtual Training for Distractions

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, and access the classroom 24/7
  • Eight-week access to dynamic content and personal feedback on your training and questions
  • Save the Program Manual for reference after completing your program

Can I see the classroom before booking the class?

You’re welcome to join the test classroom to get a feel for the layout and format before joining Virtual Life Skills! Just follow these steps:

How does the flexible schedule work?

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

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, only your name will be visible. You also have the option to participate in discussion with your classmates if you wish, and add your dog to the student introduction document.

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 modifications 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 training 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 in a classroom!

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.

You’re also welcome to follow up the Virtual Life Skills program with the Virtual Training for Distractions Program, where distraction training will be the explicit focus.

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 Life Skills program will require a private consultation so your instructor is able to gather the information necessary for a complete response to your concerns. 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.

Can I switch between the Virtual and In-Person classes?

No. While these programs cover similar topics, they are two distinct programs. The only exception is in case of COVID lockdown or related issue when in-person students will be welcomed into the Virtual program to complete their training.

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 – particularly if you live too far to travel to the facility for in-person follow-ups. 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!

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 much more than a typical agility class!

Requirements and Prerequisites:

  • Dogs must be up-to-date on vaccines
  • Completion of Life Skills 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 – obstacles are completed off leash.
  • Take note that giant breeds may find some obstacles physically difficult – if you have a giant breed, please contact the office to ensure this class is a good choice for your dog
  • Refunds and credit are not available for Specialty Classes.
  • If you need to miss a class, give advanced notice to the office and you can watch the class via ZOOM from home or on recording. 
  • Two handlers per dog (subject to change with COVID rates)

Register for Introduction to Agility!

Starting Mon Jan 16th, 6pm
Five weeks

$295+HST

Register for Next Level Agility!

Starting Mon Jan 16th, 7:15pm
Five weeks

$295+HST

This class is open to anyone who has completed Level One Agility, or has already attended Next Level Agility.

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!