Tag Archives: positive training

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!

Training for Distractions

The Training for Distractions Program is perfect for your dog if you:

  • Have a dog who is distracted by food/toys/environment, and other dogs and people, but is friendly and is not reactive (see below)
  • Want better reliability and compliance in the face of distractions
  • Want your dog to make better choices without nagging her
  • Want training strategies that are applicable to all distractions

Requirements and Prerequisites:

  • Dogs must be comfortable with other dogs and humans. This class is not for dogs with significant social difficulties including: barking/lunging, snarking/snapping upon greeting a dog,  etc. If this describes your dog, please see below for options.
  • Dogs must be up-to-date on all vaccinations 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.
  • Owners who have not trained at Scratch and Sniff Canine Services previously may be required to attend a free assessment and Orientation Webinar session prior to class
  • Experience with positive training (both dog and human), and at least an introduction of the following:
        • Zen or Leave it (impulse control around food in hand)
        • Sit and Down (verbal cue or hand signal)
        • Stay basics
        • Loose leash walking basics
        • Hand target/touch
        • If you have most but not all prerequisites, please contact the office to discuss

Does your dog have “Big Feelings”? Is she reactive, worried, or intense in her reactions? Check out our Private Training and Behaviour Consulting. If you’re unsure, contact the office to set up a free assessment.

Pricing and Schedule

Monday Nov 9th, running 7 consecutive weeks (see below for dates)
$315+HST ($355.95)

* Due to similarities between COVID and common cold symptoms, if your instructor is ill with a suspected cold your program will be extended by a week past the holidays, with the last class occurring Jan 4th.

Should COVID closures impact operation, this program will be put on hold and will resume after the closure in the same time slot. Other accommodations, including credit or refund, are not available.

Make-up sessions for missed classes are offered at a discounted rate of $30/half hour and must be completed the same week as the class that is missed (subject to private session policy).

Book your spot now!

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
  • 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.

Schedule

The Boot Scootin’ Back-up Challenge!
$275+HST (Total $310.75)
Starting Wednesday Oct 28, 8:30-9:30pm

TAKE NOTE: This program is intended to take place IN-PERSON – however, should a COVID-related closure occur while this program is in session, it will immediately convert into a virtual, real-time class over ZOOM. The schedule will remain the same through the program’s completion.

  • Masks that cover the nose/mouth and without vents are strictly mandatory when indoors and sanitizer is provided, as directed by WDG Public Health
  • Small group class size and limited attendance – one person per dog
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection of the premises
  • Social/Physical Distancing in effect at all times

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

Group Training FAQ

Click the arrows to learn more about our IN-PERSON group classes!

When is group training the best option?

Group classes are ideal for dogs who are friendly/tolerant of people and other dogs and require training in manners/obedience. (The only exception is any program where behaviour modification is a primary focus.) There is an assortment of training programs offered at Scratch and Sniff Canine Services.

The foundation program, Life Skills, runs in an “open enrolment” format and is always on the calendar (see below), and you may join this program at any time. Specialty classes are offered routinely and on a rotating basis. Use the drop-down menu to view more information on the program that most interests you.

How does “open enrolment” work?

You’re welcome to join Life Skills class any time there is a space available! Once joining class, you will attend 6 consecutive weekly classes to complete your full program. The curriculum is specially designed such that classes may be taken in any order.

What happens if I miss a Life Skills class?

In the case of a COVID-related shut down, illness, quarantine, students in the In-Person Life Skills program will be transferred into the Virtual Life Skills format to complete their remaining classes. Students will already be familiar with the virtual platform because this is where their at-home reference information is accessed!

Students with non-COVID related absences, for example scheduling conflicts, can keep up with access to their online Life Skills Reference Classroom.

Students of any group program are welcome to purchase a significantly discounted half hour private session to make up that content. This may be required in some specialty programs in order to keep up with the class.

What happens when the school is closed?

All scheduled closures, for example holidays and continuing education events, will be blocked off on the schedule and noted on the side menu on the webpage, and programs will be scheduled around this.

In the case of a COVID-related shut down, illness, or quarantine, all students in the In-Person Life Skills program will be transferred into the Virtual Life Skills format to complete their remaining classes. Students will already be familiar with the virtual platform because this is where their at-home reference information is accessed!

Do you cancel classes in bad weather?

Very rarely! Unless the roads are dire (e.g. heavy freezing rain), classes will run. All students affected will be contacted when this is the case. If you haven’t heard from the office, assume classes will run.

What are your COVID safety precautions?

  • Masks are mandatory indoors and sanitizer provided, as dictated by WDG Public Health
  • Outdoor classes when weather allows
  • Small group class size and limited attendance
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection of the premises
  • Social/Physical Distancing in effect
  • Puppy Party Drop-offs prevent contact between owners during high-contact play, while maintaining socialization benefits for your puppy. Drop off your pup, play and socialization will be managed by your trainer, and you bring home a tired puppy!
  • In the event of a COVID-related closure, illness, or quarantine that prevents either the running or attendance of in-person classes, all students will immediately transition seamlessly into the Virtual Life Skills Program to complete their program in an online format.

Do you offer a guarantee?

In order to remain in compliance with the CCPDT Code of Ethics, I do not offer a guarantee.  A trainer teaches an owner how to train their dog; thus, asking a trainer for a guarantee isn’t asking for a guarantee on training methods, it’s asking for a guarantee on the one’s own behaviour inasmuch as it affects the dog. A guarantee is simply a marketing tactic – buyer beware!

What is the owner’s role in training?

Your role is invaluable! Your job will be to assure that you understand the information given to you and adhere to the training protocols laid out for you and your dog. The most successful owner is engaged, actively listens and assimilates information, asks lots of on-topic questions and requests clarification when necessary, frequently gives and requests feedback, and is overall an active partner in training. I want to work with you to help you and your dog – your dog and I can’t do it without you!

What methods of training do you use in group classes?

Respect for the dog’s physical, mental and emotional well-being is a top priority in any training at Scratch and Sniff Canine Services. Positive Reinforcement refers to a type of consequence: offering the dog something they want in order to increase the frequency of a behaviour. This is not a bribe because the dog is not shown up-front the “thing” they want. Consequences occur after the behaviour has happened, as opposed to a lure (or “bribe”) which is used in order to prompt a behaviour. Lures have their place, however must be used properly and must be faded out of training as soon as possible.

In class, students will learn how to “shape” behaviour, to properly use and fade a lure, to add a cue (the word “sit” for example), to capture behaviour, to properly reinforce a behaviour and to effectively manage and prevent reinforcement for undesirable behaviours. Rather than resorting to corrections to stop unwanted behaviours, owners will be coached thorough how to effectively teach an incompatible behaviour that will have the added benefit of preventing unwanted behaviours. Specific behaviours or issues addressed in each class are detailed on program webpages.

Sniffer Dogs Program

Scent detection is an up-and-coming sport that’s seen a recent surge in popularity in Canada. The goal is to teach your dog to search for a particular scent, and then alert you to its location. The scent can be hidden anywhere from in one of multiple containers, to an interior room, a vehicle, or the outside of a building. This is a great way to mentally exhaust your dog, and truly learn to appreciate the unique abilities of our dogs.

The training taught in class is similar to what is used to teach working detection dogs, including bed bug dogs, border patrol dogs, conservation dogs, and drug dogs. There are also some similarities to other scent sports, such as tracking and search and rescue.

This is a fantastic way to tire out your pooch, and your dog will love it!

Program Details

Starting Monday Nov 9, 7:15pm
6 consecutive weeks, 45-60min in length

Including Scent Kit: $295+HST

If you need to miss a class a discounted make-up session can be scheduled for $30/half hour. Please plan to attend all classes.

***IN CASE OF COVID-RELATED CLOSURE: This program will transfer to a virtual ZOOM format. No other credit, refund, or transfer will be accommodated. 
Due to similarities between the common cold and COVID symptoms, if your instructor is ill any affected class will transfer temporarily to a virtual ZOOM format, assuming capacity to teach is maintained.

 Requirements

    • In case of COVID closure: Technology requirements for the virtual format are outlined in the Virtual Training FAQs
    • Submitting registration/payment indicates acceptance of the group class policy
  • Prerequisite behaviours, taught with positive/clicker training
    • Hand Target
    • Zen/basic leave it with food in hand
  • Materials
    • Training supplies as outlined in your handouts.
    • A Scent Kit, as outlined above
  • If you have not attended classes at Scratch and Sniff Canine Services, please review the above prerequisite behaviours and contact the office, and view the free Orientation Webinar prior to starting class.

If you have questions, please contact the office prior to enrolment.

COVID-19 Precautions

  • Masks that cover the nose/mouth and without vents are strictly mandatory when indoors and sanitizer is provided, as directed by WDG Public Health. No vented masks or bandanas.
  • Small group class size and limited attendance – one handler per dog
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection of the premises
  • Social/Physical Distancing in effect

Book your spot now!

Contact the office with questions before registration

  1. Complete the registration form below, and check your email for instructions
  2. To confirm your spot: upon receipt of your invoice, payment must be made within 24hrs via Email Money Transfer to info@scratchandsniff.ca