Tag Archives: dog training

All-Ages Life Skills – Program Options

The Life Skills Series is your go-to for manners and obedience!

The Foundation Life Skills Program, in-person or virtual, will get you started right with your puppy or new adoption of any age. (Or maybe your old dog want to learn new tricks!)

From there, work through the Advanced Life Skills Programs for an intensive focus on advanced skill-building for distractions, come when called, stay, leave it and more!

Foundation Life Skills Program (In-Person)

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

Advanced Life Skills Series (In-Person)

The Advanced Life Skills Series is made up of multiple programs that you can attend in any order for a deep-dive into advanced application and skill-building of concepts introduced in the Life Skills Foundation program.

Foundation Life Skills Program (Virtual)

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.

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 a session of play, fun, socialization, confidence building and more. At the end of the Puppy Party, come back to our door for a minimum-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.

Want more Puppy Party videos? Check out this YouTube Playlist!

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 kept up-to-date on age-appropriate vaccinations
    • be dewormed
    • have appropriate health documentation (below)
    • have been in your home at least 7 days prior to the Puppy Party
    • wear a body harness (why?)

Strict Health Documentation Requirements:

Health documentation is STRICTLY required with no exceptions nor credit/refund for failing to provide:

  • At least ONE set of vaccinations for Parvovirus/Distemper given by a veterinarian
  • Deworming

Provided in advance in one of the following ways:

  • Photo/scan of your puppy’s vet papers, showing vaccination and deworming
  • An email from your vet clinic stating that your puppy has received the above

Pricing

Standard Rate: $38+HST

Special Discount for those attending classes with Scratch and Sniff: $28 +HST

Register for a Puppy Party!

  1. Read the FAQ here
  2. Book your Play Group below!
    – 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
  3. Email the required Health Documentation (vaccination AND deworming) to the office immediately
  4. Check your email for instructions.

Book Your Puppy Party!

If a party is full, check back later – New parties may be added to accommodate high enrolment.

Puppy Parties will be on hold during our July holidays!
(Group training classes will run as usual)
Check back in August for an updated schedule.

If your puppy exhibits any sign of illness in advance of a party (for example, lethargy, gastrointestinal or respiratory symptoms), please do not attend and contact the office immediately.

VIRTUAL All-Ages Life Skills: Foundations

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!

How Does Virtual Life Skills 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 functional microphone
    • Has a functional 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!

Try out Google Classroom before you register!

You are encouraged to access the test classroom and familiarize yourself with how the platform works before registering. Simply:

Register for Virtual Life Skills!

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

$295+HST

Start on demand!

Top-up your program timeframe: $60+HST/2 weeks (available only to current students)

Holiday Scheduling: Programs running through July will be on hold July 15th-Aug 1, and resume for the remainder of their program Aug 2nd.

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.

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
  • Life Skills Online Resource 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 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. 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:

  • Masks are mandatory, and must cover the nose and mouth, no vents or neck gaiters. Virtual or distanced outdoor private training is the best option for those who are uncomfortable or unable to wear a mask.
  • TWO people per dog. This may be subject to change in response to changing COVID risk.
  • In case of ANY COVID-related closure or absence, including illness, quarantine or isolation, your program will transfer directly to the Virtual Life Skills Program. 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, and students can keep up in the online resource classroom.
  • 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 will 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 6:45pm
Wednesdays at 5:45pm
Sundays at 3pm & 4:05pm

Your start date will be confirmed upon registration.

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!)

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. 

Safety Precautions

  • Masks that cover the nose/mouth and without vents are strictly mandatory when indoors and sanitizer is provided
  • Two handlers per dog (subject to change with COVID rates)
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection of the premises
  • Social/Physical Distancing in effect at all times

Register for Introduction to Agility!

Starting Mon May 30th @ 7:15pm

$295+HST

Register for Next Level Agility!

Starting Mon May 30th @ 8:30pm

$295+HST

Orientation Webinar

The Orientation Webinar is a free, no-obligation webinar that is open to everyone.

View as the prerequisite for group classes and private training – or simply to see what we’re all about!

Register below to receive an email immediately with details and links to view, and you can get started in class immediately!

Get Started!

Note: The date noted is for admin purposes only. By booking here, you will receive an auto-email with Orientation Access.

Check your junk mail then contact the office if you don’t immediately see an email.

More Than Obedience

A young woman came to me with her German Shepherd, Wheels. At less than a year old, Wheels had already bitten a half dozen times, with increasing severity. Wheels’s owners called up her breeder to seek help and express concern at his behaviour. Her breeder told her, “Wheels just needs to learn to stay and heel, if you teach him better obedience he won’t bite.”

This ill-conceived advice is ineffective, at best. At worst, it’s downright dangerous.

Obedience training is like woodworking: taught properly, it’s enjoyable, enriching, and has some useful results (a pretty table leg, a dog who walks politely).

Behaviour modification is like therapy. The objective is to manage and resolve deep-seated issues like anxiety and depression. Carving a nice table leg is of minimal benefit!

Just as you wouldn’t sit down with your woodworking instructor to talk about past traumas and current struggles, dogs in need of behaviour modification work can’t fully benefit from obedience training. Wheels needed a very different approach.

Understanding the difference between behaviour modification and obedience lies in understanding the mechanisms through which animals learn. Consequences are critical to learning, but we often place too heavy an emphasis on them and don’t fully understand how they function. Consequences are defined by their results – in other words, if you attempt to punish a dog and the dog continues to do the behaviour you intend to stop, you’re not actually punishing the behaviour! Whatever you’re doing as “punishment” – shouting, collar corrections, pinning the dog – is likely scary or painful, yet the dog isn’t making the necessary correlation for it to be an actual punishment.

Obedience training is based heavily in consequences. Obedience training that is enriching and valuable for a dog is based in positive reinforcement, such as dispensing food or toys or providing access to something your dogs wants as a reward. There is no punishment. However obedience training’s value is limited by its specific focus on the dog’s behaviour – whether  to reinforce “good” behaviour or punish ”bad.”

Understanding how behaviour fulfills an emotional need is critical to assessing problem behaviours and assembling an appropriate training plan. All this rests primarily on how associations are formed and, most importantly, understanding this as a largely unconscious and uncontrollable process. Behaviour that is born of emotional turmoil is not behaviour the dog can easily control, and thus is not subject to “obedience training.”

This explains why Wheels can have excellent leash manners when walking down the street with no other dogs around, but when he sees a dog he barks, lunges, and drags his owner down the street and continues to do so even after the other dog is long gone.

Wheels is triggered to an uncomfortable emotional high by the sight of the other dog, and even after the dog is gone his sympathetic nervous system remains engaged in a “fight or flight” response. This leash pulling may look like an obedience issue, but really it’s a much deeper issue.

A woodworking instructor can help you detail your table leg just so, but she can’t help you overcome OCD or an addiction. Woodworking can also be an enjoyable hobby to help you de-stress, but it is not the root of a therapeutic approach. Obedience training can help an owner give their dog valuable structure, but it does not, in and of itself, resolve behaviour problems.

A behaviour consultant, just like a therapist, understands how behaviour is a reflection of an emotional state as well as the intricacies of how that emotional state is reflected in an animal’s behaviour. Just like a therapist recommending woodworking as a hobby, a behaviour consultant may use obedience trained with positive reinforcement as a secondary strategy to get to the emotional root of the problem, but that will not be the sum total of the training.

Rather than focusing on stay and heel with Wheels’s owner, we focused on developing his ability to emotionally self-regulate in the presence of dogs and implemented strategies to help him recover after the turmoil of encountering a dog, creating a relaxed, calm, and positive association, and cultivated a sense of safety. We didn’t punish any “bad” behaviour; instead we got to the root of the problem behaviour through changing Wheels’s emotional state and associations with other dogs.

 

Do you need help with your dog? Let us know!

Smart Socialization Puppy Seminar

“Socialization: That just means having friends over and going to the dog park, right…?”

Think again!

You’ve probably heard about socialization, but do you really know what that means? Often, “common knowledge” approaches to socialization can do more damage than they do good.  Proper socialization is like a ‘behavioural vaccine’ that can protect your puppy from developing a multitude of behaviour problems as an adult.

  • Did you know that this “window of socialization” closes at a very young age?
  • Do you know what are you doing now that might be putting your puppy at risk as an adult?
  • Are you missing critical pieces of the socialization puzzle?

Come learn about Socialization, what it is, what you need to do, and what you need to avoid.

Upcoming Dates:

No planned dates at this time

This is a “people-only” seminar

Are you interested in joining Puppy Socialization Class with your puppy? Click here for more info!

Brain Training Series

All too often, “training the dog” is about dealing with the habits we don’t like. Isn’t it time to train for fun, for enrichment, and for relationship?

The Brain Training Series focuses on increasing your dog’s receptivity to you and capacity to learn in order to work through various stages of difficulty and complexity of FUN tricks and behaviours.

How it Works

The Series has five programs you can choose from, outlined below. In each program, we will introduce a Base Behaviour that we will then turn into a wide variety of tricks. Each program will also include an optional assortment of other tricks to add variety to the central theme.

These programs can be taken in any order, and you can also attend one program multiple times to learn additional new tricks! Check the bottom of this page to see which program is on the schedule next!

You will need to acquire your own props for some of these tricks, some props will be available to borrow for use during in-person classes. Prop requirement will be reviewed in class.

“Boot-Scootin’ Back-up Challenge”
Base Behaviour: Back up to step on an object
Example of tricks: long distance reverse, karate kick, backward circle around you, weave through your legs backward, half-hand stand, and more…

“Snoot-Boop Challenge”
Base Behaviour: Nose touch to object
Example of tricks: close a cupboard, target stick, ring a bell, bowling, unroll a carpet, volley ball, put on your harness, and more…

“Snoot-Push Challenge”
Base Behaviour: Nose push (freeze in position)
Example of tricks: blowing bubbles in water, kiss like a seal, puppy dog eyes, finger-moustache, show your front teeth, “The Snoot Challenge”, and more…

“Hold My Beer Challenge”
Base Behaviour: Hold an object
Example of tricks: hold a sign, hold a flag, put your toys away, dunk a basket ball, throw out the garbage, get me a tissue, open the door/close the crate, and more…

“Stompin’ Paws Challenge”
Base Behaviour: Stand on object with front feet
Example of tricks: Feet up on a stool/chair, balance on a ball, press a button/door bell, file your own nails, skateboard, step up on your feet and walk with you, and more…

Additional Tricks
Each class will include an assortment of tricks in addition to the theme of the Base Behaviour. This includes ticks such as: stop punching yourself (dog paws at her face), stand under you, crawl, sit pretty, circle around you, yoga stretch, leg weave (stationary and walking), spin, twist, play dead, and more…

Pre-Requisites

  • Dogs must be up-to-date on all vaccines as recommended by your veterinarian (in-person only)
  • Completion of a foundation program at Scratch and Sniff Canine Services OR an equivalent from another school (note: see important prerequisites, 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’
  • Refunds and credit are not available for Specialty Classes.

COVID-19 Safety

  • Masks that cover the nose/mouth and without vents are strictly mandatory when indoors and sanitizer is provided
  • No vented masks or bandanas.
  • Small group class size
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection of the premises
  • Social/Physical Distancing in effect

Schedule

The Boot-Scootin’ Back-up Challenge!

Check back soon!

Book your Spot Now!

Contact the office with questions before registration

  1. Complete the registration form below and review the auto-email
  2. To confirm your spot: payment must be made within 24hrs via Email Money Transfer to info@scratchandsniff.ca