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Board & Train

Board & Train

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If you google “Board & Train“, you’ll find everything from compelling reasons why it’s a brilliant idea to strong deterrents aimed at showing why it’s a waste of your hard earned money.

When you are dealing with challenging behaviours, the thought of sending your dog to a professional sounds delightful. You are likely exhausted, possibly at wit’s end, maybe even wondering how much longer you can keep going on. Sometimes, a little respite in the form of “Board & Train” or “Doggy Bootcamp” is all we feel we need to get that second wind.

I often think that Board & Train is a bit like a rehab facility. The client does quite well while he or she is in their new environment. I’ve had clients where the problematic behaviour never happened when the dog was in my home… It’s not because I have any magical powers, but what I don’t have is the same history with the dog.  Also, the environment is set up in a way that makes success easier to achieve because the dog is not surrounded by his or her usual triggers.

Because dogs don’t generalize very well, what they learn at “rehab” will not necessarily translate to their home life. Once the dog returns to their usual environment, if the family hasn’t learned how to keep the momentum going and hasn’t also changed, then the behaviour is likely to come roaring back after a few days.

Many board and train facilities offer a transfer session, where the lessons are transferred to the client. This is an important step in helping the lessons stick.

How long does board and train usually last? I’ve seen them range from 2 weeks to 2 months. Sometimes even longer. Ethically, we cannot put a timeline or deadline on when a dog will be “fixed”. Just because you gave someone 2 weeks and a lot of money doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is also on the same timeline. We can’t force, push, stress your dog so that it learns faster. We won’t. In fact, we have moved away from offering Board and Train, in favour of Doggy homeschool.

We believe that if a dog is mostly trained in his or her own home, the lessons will stick better.

Stay tuned, the next post will be all about our newest service: Doggy Homeschool!

If you are going to entertain the idea of sending your dog to boarding, or doggy bootcamp, then make sure you understand which methods will be used, as well as the consequences of those methods. If you are looking for recommendations for excellent, ethical, effective board and train solutions, I would have happy to send you a list of trusted trainers.

TRAUMA & PTSD

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I’m sorting through binders and binders of notes taken at various conferences I attended in the last decade. Some of the information is now dated and some is still quite relevant.

I stumble upon notes taken during a talk by Dr. Patricia McConnell. Her topic was about trauma and PTSD in dogs. She goes into quite a bit of detail about how dogs can suffer from PTSD, what that looks like and what we can do to help these dogs.

I reread these notes carefully, thoughtfully, and with a new appreciation for how close she was to the subject. What I didn’t know, back when I heard her speak, was how that topic was close to her heart. In her latest book The Education of Will, Dr. McConnell opens up and shares her own trauma, how she suffered from PTSD and how her dog Will was her partner throughout it all. Will, she discovers, also knew what it was like to startle easily, to be tense and on edge, to have difficulty sleeping, to be emotionally numb and to experience anxiety. 

Those that have reactive dogs, will likely relate quite well to Will !

It’s one of those rare books that allow you to come close to understanding what a dog is going through. And not in a Disney Movie kind of way, but from the perspective of a highly trained, highly skilled dog trainer and professional behaviourist. Plus, it’s a riveting, compelling read.

Here’s more about Dr. Patricia McConnell’s journey that she shares in her book.

PS: Not 24 hours after writing this blog, I have learned that Willie has metastatic pulmonary adenocarcinoma. Dr. Patricia McConnell shares this news with all of us on her blog

Here is an excerpt:

I am sorry to have to tell you that Willie, my Silly Billie Willie Boy, has metatastic pulmonary adenocarcinoma. Lung cancer. Chemo might slow its progression, but can’t cure it. Surgery isn’t an option.

I thought you would want to know. So many of us here have become a close village of dog lovers, and have followed each other’s dogs for years. Many of you have read about Willie’s challenges in The Education of Will. I didn’t want to blindside you with the end of his life, which is predicted to come in two to six months. In my experience, people don’t want to be protected, they want to be informed.

Read more here

What does REACTIVE mean?

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You’ve heard folks talk about their reactive dog. Maybe you’ve spotted our Reactive Rover class while perusing our class offerings. Perhaps you’re more familiar with the term “Feisty Fido” or, perhaps, you really don’t know what a reactive dog is.

A reactive dog is not necessarily an aggressive dog

Reactivity is a behaviour and manifests itself as an overreaction to stimuli. That stimuli may be a person, another dog a specific breed or colour of dog, a noise, a movement (things with wheels!), men with beards or a combination of all of the above. This reactivity may be an inherited trait, a product of their environment or even a learned behaviour.

Some breeds are designed to react quickly. Think of the German Shepherd Dog, for example. Reactivity is a benefit for detection. Many working dogs wouldn’t be as effective if they weren’t wired to react quickly to all manner of stimuli ! Can you imagine a herding breed who doesn’t react quickly to its environment ? Reactivity can be an important ingredient for working dogs and sporting dogs.

Most of the reactive dogs we work with at the Ottawa Canine School, however, are easily excited and frustrated. In fact, many times I’ve heard folks tell me that their dog is really friendly! Rover is just pulling them towards the other dog. In some cases, this is true: the dog is over excited and anxious to get to the other dog. Others, on the other hand, have learned that lashing out gets them the space they crave. The dog lunges and barks as an attempt to make the scary thing go away. In both cases, the behaviour is usually unwanted.

Some dogs learn that barking and lunging can make the scary thing go away!

Hemingway, our Great Dane, would never hurt a fly. He was kind and gentle but boy-oh-boy was he a project ! At the sight of another dog, he would leap in the air, drag me towards the other dog while barking incessantly. If the thought of a 140 lb dog bouncing and barking towards you isn’t scary enough, imagine Great Dane sized drool flying around his head. After an “episode”, I’d literally have to wipe all the drool off of his face. He was excitable and had little impulse control. One trainer, after meeting Hemi, told me “He is SO RUDE.”. I knew I had my work cut out for me, and work hard we did. I am proud to say that Hemi responded well to training and became a joy to walk in the neighbourhood. He became a more polite dog that didn’t get carried away by his emotions.

My other dog, Everest, is a very different dog. He likes his space and would never try to excitedly drag me over to go see another dog. His behaviour towards other dogs changed (and not for the better) after a specific incident and he started barking in a threatening and unfriendly manner when he saw large dark coloured dogs. Today, he very rarely reacts to another dog being in his space. I manage his environment and, every chance I get I reinforce that other dogs mean good things happen. The last time we were at the veterinarian’s office, for example, we played a game where every time he looked at another dog then looked back at me, he got a piece of tasty kangaroo (his favourite!).

Context is key

The tricky part is that some of these reactive behaviours are normal canine behaviours. Is the dog barking or is the dog reactive? Is the dog friendly and enthusiastic or is he reactive? How can we tell ? The answer is to look at the context of when the behaviour happens. It is normal for a dog to get all excited when he sees a squirrel. It is not normal, however, for my dog to bark incessantly when he sees a 10 year old child. It is normal for my dog to bark excitedly in a flyball tournament. It is not normal for my dog to bark and lunge at other dogs I pass by on the street. Context is key.


What did your dog get for Christmas?

Chantal Mills No Comments

Did you spoil your pets this Christmas?

In our house, Santa generally leaves a little gift for Everest.  Sometimes he doesn’t even wrap it, but Everest  doesn’t mind.

Each Christmas, I also go through the dog toys and decide what to keep, what to donate and what to toss.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

What was your dog’s favourite holiday gift or moment?

New Curricula ! One curriculum, two curricula

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“Our Puppy Classes are built with you and your puppy in mind, using science-based methods and inspired by the latest research on puppy training.”

We are proud and excited to offer you a brand positively spanking new Puppy Kindergarten curriculum.  You spoke, we listened! and now, our puppy classes boast a thoroughly redone format and updated content.

When we first started offering puppy kindergarten classes, over a decade ago, the course itself was about 4 weeks long and it was for all dogs 6 months or less. Fast forward to today, and our puppy classes have been extended to a 6 week course and, inspired by a seminar given by Dr. Ian Dunbar highlighting the importance of separating the younger puppies from the older puppies,  a Puppy Kindergarten I and a Puppy Kindergarten II were created . What a difference that made! The puppy who has done 12 weeks of classes had become a pro at learning and had impressively advanced skills.

In the last 6 months or so, we noticed that it was time for another big change. After researching the newest literature, exploring articles and webinars offered by the PPG (Pet Professional Guild) and reading various positive reinforcement training articles, it seems that puppy training is moving towards more relationship, trust and confidence building, enrichment, and prevention of fear/anxiety.

We have been collecting your feedback, conferred with the trainers and rewrote the entire curriculum for Puppy Kindergarten 1, Puppy Kindergarten 2 AND we created a Puppy Kindergarten 3. Our brand new Puppy Kindergarten III class promotes confidence building. Dog sports and brain games are introduced. Your puppy will be introduced to tricks, fitness, agility, nose work, clicker training, and Puppy Manners 3. Discover your dog’s hidden talent! All activities are adjusted for puppies so they are safe and positive.

Our Puppy Kindergarten III program includes off-leash playtime to allow your puppy to further develop his or her social skills. In fact, all of our puppy classes include off leash play.

Also, as a bonus participating in any of Puppy Kindergarten classes you get  access to our private Puppy Playdates!  What a great way to promote healthy play! We have puppy playdates for all age groups, from the junior to the teenage puppy.

Allow me to take a moment to thank Dr. Angie Yong, the trainer whose dedication and bright mind contributed greatly to these newly redesigned curricula. She is not only a brilliant trainer, but she has a Ph.D in psychology. Our Puppy Classes are built with you and your puppy in mind, using science-based methods and inspired by the latest research on puppy training.

Losing a friend

Chantal Mills No Comments

It’s something that I am dreading: losing my dog Everest. This picture of him running on the beach was taken this past summer. He is on the cusp of 13 and that number both makes me happy (wow! 13! and he looks so good!!), and filled with dread (13! Where did the time go? Please live forever!).

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has spent time thinking about their dog passing. How will it happen, when will it happen, will we have him cremated… oh taxidermy is a bit too out there for me… but what about a sprinkle of his ashes in a paperweight? I’ve had all of these thoughts.

I remember having similar thoughts when Hemingway, our Great Dane, was still alive. I would think about what I’d do if I came home and this 160 lb dog was lifeless in the living room. Or, I’d try to figure out how I would get him into the car by myself if ever there was an emergency. Some may call these thoughts morbid, and I can’t disagree. I concluded that these thoughts were my way  of mentally  preparing for the unbearable, inevitable loss. I felt that if I mentally prepared myself, then it wouldn’t be as unbearable.

For Hemi, that day came in August of 2016. It was a Truly Terrible Day. Leaving the animal hospital with a leash and collar was devastating. Matt and I turned to each other and hugged and cried for a long time. Then, we got into our car and drove home. When asked how many dogs we have, our son still says we have 2 dogs – 1 is in heaven. I miss Hemi, and all of the dogs with whom I’ve had the honour of sharing my life.

The deep sadness of those losses is gone and I can now focus on the joy they brought, the quirks they had, the bad habits they had and the things I’ve learned thanks to them. The biggest lesson learned was that those moments spent thinking those morbid thoughts to mentally preparing myself did not make it any easier when that Terrible Day came. All it really did was steal time I could have spent enjoying the present.

These day, I am trying to be more like a dog. Everest is enjoying the moment, enjoying his life, relishing the time spent with us. What a shame it would be if, instead of also basking in the present, I were going through a series of morbid scenarios in the name of preparation. Nope. Thanks to Hemi, I’ve learned that it’s going to be a Truly Terrible Day, but time is better spent  LIVING IN THE MOMENT.

****

KOLO 8 News Now’s Amanda Sanchez shared this image of her friend Ashley spreading her dog Wagner’s ashes over their favorite dog park. I love this picture. It makes me believe that the Rainbow Bridge is real and that losing a friend sometimes means setting them free to play for ever.blogashesdog

Soundproofing

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A year ago, between Christmas and New Year, the Ottawa Canine School moved into its new location. Our new location is still on St. Laurent blvd. 401 B St. Laurent, to be exact, and is literally just the building next to where we used to be. It’s got a bigger training space, a smaller reception area and best of all, a fenced outdoor space!

We are loving our new location and absolutely love having Full Cycle as our neighbours once again.  It’s like being back home again 🙂

As with any new space, it does take a bit of time to get really acquainted with it and get adjusted to everything from where the light switches are, to how the space feels and sounds. Though I did expect to have to do some soundproofing, (because the ceilings are 2 storeys high!!!), we were still a bit surprised by how the sound reverberated in the room and the acoustic challenges of the space.

I’m going to be honest, it was hard to teach and after teaching a few classes, I felt like my ears and head needed a bit of a break. The clients commented on it as well and though most were very patient, we knew that we could not ignore this and quickly set out to do some research. Luckily, our trainer Alana had been a sound engineer in New York City in a previous life, so she had some wonderful advice. We installed some absorbing soundproofing panels on the wall, which made a difference but it wasn’t enough.

We did more research and contacted all of the local soundproofing “gurus”in town. Our first pick, Mike of Acoustic Panels Ottawa was the only one who responded. Mike came by to check out the space, made recommendations, and a month later he was hard at work installing custom made soundproofing panels!

Soundproofing panels going up!

A total of 9 acoustic panels were installed

You spoke, we listened… and now we can hear you even better!

Keep your dogs safe during the howlidays

Chantal Mills No Comments

It’s never too early to start thinking about preparing for a safe and happy holiday season, am I right?

Especially with the beautiful blanket of snow covering the ground, some Christmas lights already enlivening the streets, it is not easy to forget that Christmas is a mere 36 days away.

We start decorating December 1st, mainly because our son’s birthday is at the end of November and we focus on that before turning our thoughts to getting Holiday Ready. Whatever your tradition, please keep these tips in mind when getting ready for the holiday season.

Pet Safety For The Holidays Infographic

Why you should become a dog trainer

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1. You love dogs. You are that person, no matter where you are: you seem to find dogs and they seem to find you. You’re an avid reader and of course have read a lot about your canine friends. But still, it’s not enough. You want to know why they do the things they do. Why does your dog lick the couch, bark incessantly, or whine all the time? These are the kind of questions you want answers to!  Good news! As a dog trainer, you get to be surrounded by dogs on a daily basis.  If you’re having a bad day, just sit in on a puppy class. It’s fun to watch, but even more fun to teach! Oh how I love to see those little ones learn and bloom.  Interacting with dogs every day, no matter how old they are, is a pretty sweet gig.

2. You enjoy variety. If you like to do the same thing everyday, you can certainly set your schedule up that way, but if you enjoy variety, this is your gig. From puppy training to helping folks with potty training, dog training covers an extremely wide spectrum. That is what keeps it fun and exciting. Sometimes, especially if you do one-on-one private training, you will enjoy working with a variety of people and their dogs. It’s entertaining, stimulating, enriching and, at times, extremely touching.

3. You like to be the master of your schedule. If you feel as though you lack some control over how your day goes, you will find little of this kind of stress in dog training. You can set your hours, determine how many days a week you want to teach, decide how many group classes vs. private training classes you will do, and when you will do them. You are your own boss, my friend. Don’t get me wrong here. You will work hard and it won’t always be rainbows and lollipops, but I can tell you that although I work hard, I’ve never felt so free.

4.You love to learn. I can’t imagine ANY career where you just feel you have learned enough and know it all. The dog training industry is no different. There is so much to learn and so many incredibly talented, intelligent, compassionate, vivacious people to learn from. Lets not forget the exciting conferences held in enticing locales. I’ve travelled throughout Canada and the US to attend conferences that have had a huge impact on how I approach training. Continuing education in the dog training world is fun, practical and sometimes pretty mind blowing.

5. You enjoy being kind to animals and to people. An enriching, exciting, wonderful career awaits you if you enjoy working with both sides of the leash.  Being patient, kind and innovative goes a long way with both dogs and their handlers. It’s not enough, I’m afraid, to just love dogs. You must also enjoy working with people.

Interested in learning more about becoming a dog trainer?  

Check out our certification program and change your life!

Trick or treat!

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Treat
[/trēt/ Noun:  Something that gives great pleasure. An act of providing something for somebody else at one’s own expense]

When you think of the word treat, what comes to mind? A nice Belgian Wheat Beer? A piece of dark chocolate? A day at the Nordik Spa? All of the above?

For my dog, a treat is a cookie that he gets as part of our daily routine, an off leash romp or a simple walk in the neighbourhood. Treats, however, have no place in our training regimen. We are not offering a special rare indulgence. In fact, if we treated our dogs when training, we would find it incredibly unsuccessful.

Before you start wondering if I’m about to start promoting some unsavoury training methods, let me reassure you that we absolutely do use food, toys and fun activities in our training. We call them reinforcements and we give them to reinforce the wanted behaviour.  For example, a small piece of cheese can be used as a reinforcement for a behaviour and we must not be stingy with our training aids when our dog is learning a new behaviour.

The reinforcer is given as a consequence of the dog’s behaviour and consequently, makes him want to repeat said behaviour. The reinforcer is anything that the dog truly enjoys. It is also something that can be given quickly and enjoyed quickly  (which is why food is ideal). My dog LOVES to play in the snow, but if I used this as a reinforcement when training a new behaviour, it would not make for an ideal training session. My dog also likes a good bum scratch, but this is not as powerful as a piece of cheese.

Most trainers I know love to use food because it is quick and easy to deliver, but for some dogs, the best reinforcer is a toy. Tugs are great in training, provided your dog loves the game !

What are some of your dog’s favourite things, that you can use as a reinforcer?

Remember that CONSEQUENCES (and not cues or what we used to call “commands”) drive behaviour!

 

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