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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.


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!

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!

 

Turn your dog into a CHEW-A-HOLIC

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Dogs have a biological need to chew. Even though chewing is normal and healthy, it can still be a regular problem—for you and your furniture. Whether your dog is a puppy or a newly adopted grown dog, get him hooked on chew toys instead of your shoes.  Kong and Nylabone make a wide variety of durable, good quality products that can meet your dog’s chewing needs. 

Prevent mistakes. When you can’t supervise, put your dog in an enclosed, dog-proofed area with a sanctioned chewie. 

Teach good chewing choices. Dogs have texture preferences, so try to match what yours like. If he is attacking the couch pillows, try giving him plush toys. If he is eyeing the table leg, try a bone. Praise liberally when your dog chews something allowed.

Interrupt mistakes. If your dog chews the wrong thing, interrupt and trade him for something he can chew on. Praise liberally when he does.

Why I left my six-figure job

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Why I walked away from a six-figure job.

by Chantal Mills

In 2003 I was a High School Guidance Counsellor. It was what I’d aspired to become when I started my teaching career, nearly a decade earlier.  I had achieved my goal, and was living my dream by day, and obsessed with learning as much as I could about dogs by night. I couldn’t wait to spend my free time either with dogs or learning about them.

In 2004 I signed up for an expensive course to learn how to become a dog trainer. I never thought it would lead to opening a dog training business. My goal was simply to put a stop to the intense drive I had that was keeping me awake, pushing me to know everything I could about dogs. I mistakenly thought that by taking the professional dog training course, by having the information and by doing the hands-on work, it would satiate my hunger for knowledge.

In retrospect, the love of animals has always been there. Growing up, you’d find me in my neighbour’s barn, either hanging out with the horses or helping with the milking of the cows. I have pictures of me sleeping in the mud room with our dog because I didn’t want him to sleep alone. It’s a bit embarrassing but I’ll tell you anyway… I would take walks in the forest with arms outstretched, in the hopes that birds would feel welcomed to land on my arms. I talked to the animals and asked that they come out of hiding. In grade 7, I set up a phone interview with a veterinarian in Alfred, Ontario. He was very generous with his time. That conversation convinced me that I wanted to become a veterinarian.

Unfortunately, my talents lay not in math and science, and by the time I was in University, my calling to become a teacher was loud and clear. My love of animals did not disappear whilst in University. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about the time, near the end of the semester, I bought a Golden Retriever puppy and hid him in my dorm room in the hopes that I would never get caught. Trying to raise a puppy on the 16th floor of a dorm residence during exam time, all while keeping him secret, was not my best idea.  I learned a lot from that experience. Barney had a great life despite my clumsy start with him. He especially loved swimming and trying to rescue anyone else who was trying to enjoy the water.

After graduating from the Professional Dog Trainer program, my dog training career just took off. At first, my aim was to make enough money to pay myself back for the course.  Before I knew it, I was teaching group classes in a community centre. In a parallel universe, my teaching career was taking its own direction. In 2007, I  became a Vice-Principal, all while doing my dog training on the side. Here is a picture of me with my dog Everest. I’d bring him to work weekly so he could spend the day with the kids. They took him for walks and read to him. Both the kids and Everest loved it.

In November of 2009, my son was born. During my maternity leave, I opened the Ottawa Canine School.  I extended my maternity leave for as long as I could, but in the summer of  2012, I had to make a decision. I resigned from teaching.  Walking away from a job I loved, a six-figure career, a generous amount of holiday time and iron clad job security was not a decision taken lightly.

Friends and family called me “brave” and “courageous” but to be honest, I never felt any fear. I never felt as though I was being brave. The road that took me toward becoming a dog trainer was a road I could not not take. The decision to open a dog training school and jump head first into the world of business felt like the absolute right thing to do.  Going for it was not optional, it was destiny.

 

 

No doubt about it, there is a lot of work for those in the dog training industry. I once heard someone say “where there are dogs, there are problems” and I suppose for those in the dog training business, that is good news! But not everyone should become a dog trainer.

Are you wondering if perhaps a career in dog training is for you? I’ve got a little checklist for you. 

If you love animals but are not a people person, dog training is not likely to be a fulfilling career for you. If you thought dog training was about dogs, you’re right. But it’s also about helping people. In fact, I’d argue that dog training is more about people than about dogs.

Want to know more about the dog training industry and perhaps how you can go about becoming a dog trainer? Get the free guide.

We are moving!!

Ottawa Canine School 8 comments

In 2010, when we were first setting up the current location of the Ottawa Canine School, my son was 7 months old. We’d set up the Jolly Jumper in the middle of the room while we worked away. 👶 Andre, who is now retired from the Ottawa Canine School, worked tirelessly to help get the school ready. His wife, Donna, brought her tools and miter saw and helped us so much. 🙏 My husband, Matt, did a stellar job tidying up all the electrical panels and random wires hanging from the ceiling.

And today, we are at it again. My team is excited for the change and we are excited to bring you an even better dog school experience.💖

We went to see the space last Sunday for the first time and I snapped this picture of my son, now 8 years old, running around the floor of our soon-to-be new space. We will be putting down the same thick rubber mats that the dogs love. But in the meantime, it’s a young boy’s dream race track!

 

We are thrilled to be able to offer you a bigger space and an enclosed outdoor area! We are not going very far at all from our current location , but it will be an exciting change for all.⭐️

Our new space has had a fresh coat of paint (or two, or three…), thanks to the amazing Len of Commercial Painting and Renovations Ltd.  A BIG shoutout also goes to Cindy from Randall’s Paint for the paint colour consult and vision.

All the electrical work is now complete. Sexy LED strips have been installed thanks to Stéphane at SBL electric.

Now the next step, of getting settled in begins. Matt, hubby and behind-the-scenes support extraordinaire is already all over this. He has been the Canine School’s #1 cheerleader since its conception, in the back of my mind. I still have the card he gave me after I got my very first client. Matt stays in the background, but the OCS would NOT exist without him. I am ever grateful for his tireless, generous support.

The amazing OCS team is incredibly supportive, offering skills, time, help. We make a good team. Even trainers enrolled in the Dog Training Certification program are offering help. We will be ready, come snow, freezing rain, hell or high water, to open our NEW DOORS on January 1st.  Ok, make that January 3rd because, you know, we do need to celebrate the new year after all! And so do you!

WE ARE SO EXCITED!!!!

Here are a few pictures of the work in progress.

Even the ceiling was painted. What a job. Rubber flooring will be going down between Xmas and New Year.

 

The reception area’s inspiring view. It’s so close to the Park!

Matt, the electrical engineer, simultaneously looking at the floor he wants to redo and the electrical outlet that needs a new cover. This will be our new reception area.

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Barking Barista and the OCS

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If you have been to the Ottawa Canine School (421 St. Laurent blvd), you may have seen Barking Barista Coffee on the shelves. Barking Barista is co-owned by Matthew Ellis and Chantal Mills, husband and wife team behind the brand. Chantal is also the owner and head trainer of the Ottawa Canine School, which is why it came to be that part of proceeds from the coffee sales goes to help dogs in need. You can read more about the story and people behind Barking Barista Coffee Roasters here.

Just this past Saturday, the Barking Baristas had the pleasure of hand delivering a special donation to the lovely folks of the Ottawa Dog rescue. . “Donation time always gets us a bit giddy, as not only do we want to craft the best, most delicious cup of coffee but we also have an unstoppable drive to help animals in need. Hand delivering a donation is our biggest reinforcer. It’s why we care so much about every part of the coffee roasting process. It is what fuels the drive… that, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.” – Chantal

andreaandchanel

Andrea Valois, President and Co-Founder of The Ottawa Dog Rescue (pictured here with puppy mill survivor Chanel the Chihuahua), contacted us many months ago. She had heard about our coffee from a friend of hers, who enjoyed a cup when we served it up at Etsy Made in Canada. He raved about our coffee and told her about how we help dogs.  For the last 10 months, we have been putting aside a portion of our proceeds  in support of the Ottawa Dog Rescue.

 

 

andreachantmatt

Left to right: Andrea Valois (with Chanel) Chantal Mills, Matthew Ellis. Picture taken at the Beechwood Farmer’s Market, where the Barking Baristas can be found Saturdays between 9am and 2pm.

The Ottawa Dog Rescue is a registered charity and has been in the community for 3 years now. They are an all breed, foster based, volunteer run rescue dedicated to saving abandoned, neglected & abused dogs. If you wish to donate directly to them, it’s easy peasy! You can do so directly on their website.

Here are some of their adoptable dogs… I know!!! Irresistible

 

SOBEY

SCHNEIDER

RUFUS

LIBBY

LIBBY’S PUPPIES!

 

Thank you to everyone who has purchased beans, hot coffee and cold brew coffee, or given us money “for the dogs”. You have helped make this happen and I can tell you that the donations are deeply appreciated.

Request support for a dog or rescue in need

If you would like the Barking Baristas to know about a dog in need, we’d love to hear from you.  Reach out and request our support, or request coffee for your fundraiser. Find out more about how we help.

Drink Coffee. Help Dogs.
#Coffee2theRescue

chantalandchanel

Pictured: Chantal (owner of the Ottawa Canine School and co-owner of Barking Barista Coffee Roasters) holding Puppy Mill survivor Chanel

Giving cookies to dogs doesn’t work, right?

Chantal Mills 1 Comments

When I was a so-called traditional trainer, when I first started training dogs, I really did not understand how using food in training could be as effective as what I was doing. I’ll be frank – I thought only the weak had to revert to using food.  Ah… how wrong I was!

I will NEVER say that punishment doesn’t work. I use it too. Ignoring a dog that wants your attention is punishment. Taking away an item your dog is guarding, is an example of punishment. Harsher punishment also works, and works awfully well. I know, I used it on my dog and taught others to do it with their dog. I also didn’t think I was hurting any dogs, nor did I ever consider it a problem if I made them uncomfortable in any way. In fact, I was untrained in recognizing the signs of discomfort and stress in a dog.

I continued to learn. That insatiable thirst to know more and more and more wouldn’t leave me. Though reluctant at first, I let my mind consider other ways to train a dog, and I allowed myself to consider training options that involved food. It was not easy to unlearn things I so fervently believed. It took a lot of time for me to let go of concepts and approaches that had made up the basis of how I operated. Even my dog was confused. But, I persevered. I really wanted to “get it”. My dog adapted and the changes I saw in him are what made me decide that I could not go back to what I was doing.

Today, I look for more than just compliance from my pets. That used to be the golden standard and what I used to get from my dog Everest. To get him to comply, I had to give a leash correction and I needed a prong. I don’t care about compliance any longer.  Nope. I strive for cooperation. I allow my dog to choose to engage with me and you know what? when you remove the threat of an aversive, that possibility of a correction no matter how light you make it, it is amazing how willing that animal becomes. That may be difficult for some to relate to. I expect that. Believe me, I would have scoffed at that notion 10 years ago. It may feel like you are relinquishing control. I get it. I would have thought so too a decade ago. However, today, I see that a relationship based on cooperation is not only kind and humane, but more powerful than a relationship based on avoidance.

My dog used to “talk back” to me a lot, but at least he did what I asked him to do. How is that success? I want more than a dog going through the motions just because I asked him to. Do I have all the answers? Nope. I wish. But I will never stop my quest for knowledge, I will continue learning from my mistakes, and I will strive to keep an open mind since that is what got me here in the first place.

Here is a blog entry from a fellow dog trainer that is well worth the read.

But We Don’t Give Our Kids a Cookie Every Time they Tie Their Shoes!

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