Frequently Asked Questions:
Please contact me if you have questions or if you would like to discuss your dog’s behaviours and how I can help you help your dog be happy, confident, and well-behaved.
How do I join the Social Dog Walk group?
The first step is to contact me to tell me a little about your dog’s behaviours when on a walk. Does your dog pull on the leash? How does your dog behave on a walk when other dogs on leash are across the street? We will then make a plan to get started, such as setting up a meet and greet or a private training session. Learn more information about the Social Dog Walk class.
How do I stop my dog from pulling on the leash on walks?
Walking on a loose leash outdoors is not an easy skill for most dogs. Imagine asking a young child to walk beside you through an amusement park with enticing distractions like fun rides, ice cream vendors, furry animals to pet, playground equipment, and other children of the same age who might be playing and running about. There might even be some frightening things that pop out unexpectedly. For some dogs, a walk in the neighbourhood or in a park can present similar challenges.
Walking on a loose leash next to a person is not a natural behaviour for a dog — dogs that are free to move about will stop to sniff, move quickly to the next interesting thing, move in random directions as they catch the scent of something in the air. This is very different from how dogs are expected to walk on a leash.
A large part of training a dog to walk on a loose leash involves helping dogs learn how to control their emotions when there are intense things in the environment. A dog might be able to easily walk on a loose leash indoors or in the yard, but is unable to maintain the behaviour when out on a walk. It’s not good for your dog’s emotional or physical health to try to “correct” or suppress a dog’s pulling behaviour by scolding, using “leash corrections” or using equipment like prong collars, choke chains, slip leads, or shock collars.
Try these three simple changes to your dog walks and see if you notice an improvement in your dog’s behaviours.
- Start off on a positive note by exiting the house in a calmer state. From the moment your dog understands a walk is about to happen, ask your dog to do skills they know know to do. This might mean that you ask your dog to stand still while you put on your dog’s harness and attach the leash. Perhaps you ask your dog to sit or stand but not move towards the door until you have it fully open. If your dog has trouble with these skills you may want to train them when you are not going for a walk, in a different context such as in a different room. Trying to teach new behaviours when your dog is too excited is stressful for you and your dog. If your dog shows signs of avoidance/reluctance or other stress signals please contact me for help.
- Spend five minutes in the backyard or front yard, letting your dog sniff and explore freely. Give your dog time to regulate their emotions and process the outside environment — the smells, sounds, sensations — before you leave your yard to start the walk. Giving your dog those few minutes to acclimate to the exciting outdoor environment can help the walk begin in a more relaxed state.
- Let your dog sniff on walks (as long as it’s safe to do so). Dogs experience their world through their noses. Not letting a dog stop to sniff things is like walking through a museum or art gallery without being given the time to stop to look at the exhibits or art. It can be very stressful for a dog who is not allowed to sniff on a walk; dogs sniff to calm themselves and with the technology we have we know now that sustained sniffing lowers a dog’s heart rate. This doesn’t mean your dog gets to drag you around to sniff whatever, whenever, and wherever it wants. You still have rules on a walk, but just make sure to provide some opportunities for your dog to enjoy the olfactory buffet on his walk.
If these three changes don’t improve your dog’s behaviours enough, Contact me to discuss how I can help make leash walks more enjoyable for you and your dog.
What is the best approach to training my dog: a private class or a group class?
Every client has different needs and goals, but generally speaking, it’s best to start with private dog training classes before attending a group class. Why? There can be multiple reasons why a private dog training is better than group classes, but there are two main reasons. Firstly, learning in a low distraction environment is much more effective for both the human and the dog. Secondly, private training allows the instructor to adjust their instruction to the learning needs of the dog and the human holding the leash. Group dog training classes can be a great place to practice skills that the dog/person team have already mastered in a low-distraction environment. Read more about this topic especially when training puppies.
How can I help my reactive dog?
Emotions drive a lot of behaviours. When dogs show behaviours that are reactive — over-the-top responses to stimuli — you will want the help of a professional who understands how to address the dog’s emotional state that is causing the unwanted behaviours. A large part of changing reactive behaviours is using management to avoid the rehearsal of the unwanted behaviours because the more a behaviour is repeated, the more likely it will be repeated again in the future. Helping a dog with reactive behaviours can be a slow process, but it’s essential that the dog is allowed to progress at its own pace. Here is information about my Fear & Reactivity class. Contact me to discuss how I can help you help your dog.
How do I stop my dog from barking out the window?
Here is an article outlining three simple steps you can take to stop your dog from barking out the window. Every dog is different and each home environment is different, so you may need additional help. A private consult with you will allow me to gather the information needed to determine the underlying causes and how best to address the behaviour to reduce it.
How do I stop my dog from barking when my dog is at home alone?
A dog will bark for different reasons, so you’ll want to look at each situation to determine the underlying reasons for the barking. If your dog is barking at home alone, it could be that your dog is anxious about being alone and/or being away from the person your dog has bonded strongly with (you). It’s important to recognize that your dog’s barking is a symptom. It is not advisable to focus on stopping the barking but not the underlying cause of the barking (such as using a bark collar). If a dog is barking when left alone it is usually because of emotional distress; the dog has not been gently taught to be comfortable when left alone. Dogs are social animals and have a strong desire to be with their social unit. They need patience and time to become used to being alone, and it cannot be rushed. Here is a simple, step-by-step guide to teach a dog how to be alone in a positive, non-aversive way. However, dogs who have moderate to severe emotional distress at being alone will require the help from a professional skilled in behaviour modification. Emotionally-based behaviours are not for a “dog training” issue; they are a “behaviour modification” issue.
How do I teach my dog to come when called?
There are numerous reasons why a dog might not come when called. Perhaps your dog is anticipating that when they come to you they will have to leave the fun place. Perhaps in the past when you called the dog something “bad” happened like a nail trim, bath time, or a scolding for not coming the first time you called. (Never scold your dog after it comes to you, even if your dog had ignored all your commands to come before then.) Maybe the environment is so distracting that your dog’s attention is highly focused on something else; this is a common problem and the dog is not in a state of mind to be able to perform well. Perhaps you’ve been using objects or food to lure your dog to come to you but you haven’t been able to successfully fade the lure (meaning your lure has become a bribe). Perhaps your body language is communicating the opposite of what you want your dog to do. Maybe your dog hasn’t properly learned your verbal cue. Here is a fun video showing how to teach a dog to come when called (Recall) right from the beginning. You do not need to use a clicker as shown in the video. You can use a marker word such as “yes” instead of a clicker. And you don’t need to use the word “bacon” or use bacon as the reinforcer (reward) for coming when called. Try it out and don’t hesitate to contact me for some personalized help, including fading away the use of food, training a recall without using food, and practicing the skill in high distraction environments — even around wildlife or at the dog park. You do NOT need to use a shock collar (e-collar) to train your dog to come when called, and I strongly suggest you avoid using this aversive tool. For one thing, you will make mistakes in your training — mistakes are inevitable even for a highly skilled trainer — and your dog should not have to bear the brunt of your training mistakes. With an e-collar (shock collar) even one small training mistake could ruin your dog’s relationship with you and potentially lead to highly undesirable behaviours (e.g, running away in panic, avoiding you, redirecting fear/aggression towards the nearest person or dog).