Friday, March 24, 2017

Milton Dog Training Classes

Smart Dogs Puppy Class:
April/May - Saturdays 1-2pm - 4 Spots Available

Smart Dogs Basic Class:
Saturday March 11, 10-11am - FULL
Thursday March 30, 7-8pm - FULL
Saturday April 15, 11:30am-12:30pm - 3 SPOTS AVAILABLE

Smart Dogs Fun Agility INTRO:
Sundays April/May - 6 Spots Available

Smart Dogs Fun Agility Refresher
(prerequisite Intro):
Sundays April/May - 6 Spots Available

Smart Dogs Bootcamp (prerequisite Basic):
Tuesdays & Saturdays in April/May - 2 Classes

Smart Dogs Advanced Class:
Sundays 10-11am - ONGOING

Smart Dogs Focus Play (NEW):

To Sign up, please contact

or check the website for more details:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Toronto Collar Ban - Dog Training Milton

I've been waiting a little before I addressed the particular issue of the Choke Chain, Slip Chain and Prong Collar ban in Toronto. I wanted to think it over a while before I put words down, I wanted to make sure that no emotion was involved with this post. And I wanted to figure out how to keep this short, sweet and to the point.

So here goes.

Banning Tools will do nothing to help dogs anywhere, nor will it do anything to help owners. These tools are said to be banned because they cause pain, discomfort or, as I will call it, they apply an aversive.

An aversive is something the dog considers "yucky" in that particular situation, so it doesn't always mean a physical correction or pain. Are aversives bad? No, they are not. Aversives help to teach. Let's make very clear here, I am not addressing or speaking of abusive behaviour by idiots who are missing a few screws. I'm speaking of an applied aversive to interrupt, re-direct, or end a particular behaviour. Everyone applies aversives, from pure positive trainers to heavy handed, correction trainers. They just look different from trainer to trainer.

The unfortunate part of this, is the above mentioned banned tools are just that, tools. They are tools along side martingale collars, no-pull harnesses, head halters, e-collars, flat collars, food, body language, clickers, voice etc. All tools have their uses, and all tools can be considered an aversive. It truly depends on the dog, and the particular situation. Petting your dog when they are over stimulated and want to get to something can be an aversive. Pressure on a flat collar when your dog wants to pull can be an aversive. Simply wearing a head halter can be considered an aversive. A pop on a prong collar or slip chain can be an aversive. Spacial pressure to entice your dog to move can be an aversive. Should we then ban all aversives? Of course not, that would be absolutely insane.

Can we, as trainers, use less aversives when training clients dogs? Of course we can, and in fact, it's much better by far to start as positive as possible when and where you can. The relationship building and motivation to learn/work is where you will get the best results. However, there will always come a time when some sort of aversive needs to be applied when dealing with real life situations where the dog is more interested in something else, rather then working for the owner.

This is where aversives can be extremely beneficial in training. Now some will argue that no dog should ever be corrected and all dogs should be managed and kept under threshold, rather then actually trained, and this is something that is simply ignorant. The problem that I see with this particular side of the arugement is that they do not take into consideration competing motivation. 

And what is competing motivation? It's something that the dog finds more appealing to do in certain situations, than engaging/working with the owner. This could be anything from sniffing a leaf on the ground to wanting to chase and kill the neighbourhood cat. These are two very different forms of competing motivation and should be handled differently. If you have a dog with a high prey drive, it will take a lot more then a handful of cookies and your voice to get their focus "unlocked". These types of dogs/sitiations require differing levels of applied aversives, truly depending on the dog and what that particular individual requires in that moment.

I work with a lot of families, couples, people who love their dogs, but don't have 24/7 to invest in them. They need a clear way to tell their dog YES, but they also need a clear way to tell their dog NO. These are people who simply can not manage their dog 24/7 or keep their dog "under threshold" at all times, and real world circumstances come up where we must instruct them, and give them the tools necessary to safely and  humanely control their dogs. Is this not what responsible owners should be doing in the first place? Sometimes it might mean putting a no-pull harness on a mildly distracted dog who is a bit into pulling. Other times is may require the use of a prong collar for a large or small dog, who is intent on pulling with all it's force, and where prey drive might kick into overtime.

By banning certain tools, we are taking away these owners options on how to handle their sometimes difficult dogs, and, in turn, we take away another tool with this ban, which is THE EXERCISE. Exercise is a key component of training, helping to relax over stimulated dogs, enabling the owners to better work with their dogs when they have more ability to focus. Some of these dogs, with this particular ban, will NOT get walked, as, for example, the prong collar or the slip collar, has greatly helped reduce pulling and reactivity, allowing these owners to bring their otherwise unmanageable dogs, out into the world for exercise. Guess what happens when an already over stimulated dog gets little to no exercise? Yes, the difficult behaviour gets worse and worse.

I do not want to compare tools, or claim that one tool is better then another over all, because that is simply not true. Each tool has its place, and each tool can be useful in different circumstances.

However, I can tell you, with multiple years of experience and multiple years of experimenting, the most aversive tool that I have come across is the halti/gentle leader/head halter. I have put every tool I can imagine on my own dogs over the years, because I like to have the experience to speak about them, not the hear-say to think I know what I'm talking about, and the one that caused the most discomfort/stress/reaction/pressure/damage was the head halters.

Does this mean that I want to see them banned? Of course not, they are just not a tool that I will recommend or use myself in most circumstances, because of the effects that they have on many dogs. Notice I said "most circumstances". This means there are always dogs/owners/circumstances that this tool could be appropriate and even better then the others, for what we are trying to develop and work with.

I do believe that trainers should not be one trick ponies either. If the only tool in your tool box is a prong collar, you more then likely need to take some courses, better your skills, and revisit different options, as not all dogs need these particular pieces of equipment. We should be able to work with dogs, regardless of the tool involved, however, the tools can have a HUGE impact on owners lives, stress levels and well being. They can also have a HUGE impact on the owners ability to communicate CLEARLY to their dogs, which can impact dog stress levels and well being. They can also have a HUGE impact on the progress that the dog makes, and without seeing progress, owners can and will give up, which does nothing to better serve our community or canine companions.

And who is affected by this ban?

CKC, UKC, or any other dog show venue where slip chains are used.
Vet offices

This ban is basically taking away rights. Taking away owners rights to choose what works best for their dogs. Taking away trainers rights to prescribe what they see would be best for the dog. Taking away owners options for walking/exercising certain dogs. Infringing on all of our rights to make decisions for ourselves.

I encourage you to look at this situation with an open mind, and contact your counselors with your concerns over this ban.

I also encourage those from Oakville/Milton to contact the SPCA as they are moving towards this same ban, which once again, infringes on the rights of the dog owning public.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and keep on training your dogs - you and them will be better for it.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Smart Dogs Basic Classes starting soon!

Saturday March 11th, 10-11am.

Smart Dog Basics Group Class will help teach you how to gain control of your canine companion under distraction with all of the basics of obedience - come, stay, sit, down, stand, heel, leave it, off. We work on engagement with your dog, focus and attention, and we offer the only video homework options in our area! We also save time for question and answer including topics like house training, crate training and other "typical doggy issues". We want our students to succeed.
This is A MUST for all dogs, the most important class that you need to take! If you want a dog who listens to you, responds under distraction, and is a joy to be around, this is the class you want. This is a one size fits all class, all ages, all breeds and all sizes welcome!

  • 18 weeks and up - puppies must have their vaccinations completed.
  •  Homework is required to be completed.
  • Equipment required: 6 foot leash, training collar and treats.
  • Prerequisite: None
  • $230.00 + HST -  7 x one hour sessions.
  • The test is optional but MUST be passed in order to receive a certificate and move on to Bootcamp Class.

$50 non-refundable deposit required to hold your spot.

Please contact us if you are interested in joining


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Let's Talk Crates. Dog Training in Milton

"Of course, the goal is to get them in the crate, not on it. This girl loved her crates."

Dog crates can be a bit of a touchy subject for some. I've heard it all, the dislike of containing a dog, left over feelings from a dogs previous life, just plain cruel, projections of human emotions on the "sad" dog etc. I would like to discuss here some of the many benefits of crate training your dog.

By properly crate training your dog, you do the following for them:

  • Create a safe environment to ensure both your dog and your house are safe when you leave
  • Build a spot for the dog to move to if they feel uncomfortable or feel like they need to move away from something
  • Aids greatly in house training
  • Teaches the dog about limits and allows the owner to take a break from the dog if needed
  • Ensures that if emergencies happen, you have reduced some of the stress by teaching your dog it is ok to be confined - all vets offices will put your dog in a crate if they need over night stays, operations etc. and its better to get them comfortable before something like that happens
  • You have a spot to place your dog to travel safely in the car
  • Excellent for traveling and visiting family/friends/hotels
  • Can aid in helping dogs with separation anxiety 

It is, of course, best and easiest to get your dog used to the crate from day one. Some breeders will start crate training puppies as young as five and six weeks old, and this helps immensely for the transition with the new owner.

Older dogs who have never been in a crate can take a bit longer to get used to the idea, but if you introduce it in a positive way, starting when you are home (not when you leave) you will reap the benefits of this awesome tool.

Over all the crate should be viewed as a beneficial tool, not as cruel punishment. It could save your dogs life one day.

Happy Training!

Friday, January 13, 2017

It's Not Always About Sit. Dog Training Milton Ontario

Let me ask you this. Can your dog sit? Can your dog down? Can your dog place?

Now let me ask you this. Can your dog do the above calmly, patiently and willingly? Can your dog hold the position until you release them? Can your dog wait patiently by your side while you talk to a neighbour? Can your dog willingly, and on their own, lay calmly on the floor while you watch a movie?

I speak to many people who have been through training classes who insist that there dog knows how to sit, down and do all of the basics, but I come to find out that the dog does it on his terms, and typically only for a second or two, until they decide they are done. I see these dogs who have little patience and little self control and are either only interested in food, or only interested in what they perceive as external rewards.

The problem here isn't necessarily the sit, down or what ever else exercise the dog is performing. The problem lies with the dog never having been taught self control, patience and to yeild in the first place.This is something that lacks in a lot of training programs. Too much emphasis is put on the actual position, the "trick" and getting the reward in there, but not enough emphasis is put on how to live with the dog, how to communicate better, how to teach the dog self control and patience.

Self control is one of the most important factors in having a well behaved dog. And when I say well behaved, that doesn't necessarily mean that their obedience is perfect (no such thing anyway), rather, it means that the dog is polite, patient, controlled and will yeild when needed. Obedience training itself doesn't always achieve this, in fact, if you only work on the basics, but put zero focus on behaviour, you may create a dog who can perform, but is a real pain in the butt to live with, or one who is wound up so tight to get to a reward, that calm doesn't even enter their vocabulary.

When training your dog obedience wise, you need to look at things you may not be aware of, that are extremely important to the state of mind that you are rewarding. It doesn't matter if you use food, toys, play, voice or physical praise, you need to be aware of your dogs state of mind/behaviour when you reward. Did you release your dog from a down when he was shaking and whinning, dying to get up? Well guess what, you just rewarded your dog for being impatient. Did you release your dog just as she started to move from a sit, so you wouldn't have to follow through because it's just easier that way? Guess what, you just rewarded your dog for breaking position. Did you give your dog heavy eye contact or soft verbal encouragement while they were whinning in the sit stay or on place? Yup, you guessed it. You just rewarded your dog for lack of self control. I could go on endlessly with examples like the ones above, but I think that you get the point.

But the issues don't stop there. Owners are continually and inadvertently rewarding their dogs inappropriate, impatient, impolite, hyper behaviours without even realizing. it. Do you talk to your dog or look at them when they demand you do it? I'm sorry to say, the dog is training you, and your are rewarding them for doing it. Does barking and whining get your dog out of the crate? Sigh, yes you have rewarded the noise, and undermined your work on patience. Do you give your dog a little pet when they jump up, just before you push them off? That little pet is reward enough for them to impolitely jump again.

So how do you fix all this? Teach your dog his demands will not be met. Teach your dog that inappropriate behaviours don't work to garner attention. Teach your dog that you will not release them from a stationary position until they are calm (excluding when they are first learning an exercise). Teach your dog that there are house rules that are to be followed. Teach your dog that you are not at their beck and call. Teach your dog to handle being bored. Teach your dog to just be.

I believe, now-a-days, that a good number of people don't know how to handle being bored or just "being", and that many are lacking patience and self control in this immediate satisfaction type world we now live in. This can easily be translated down to the dog (and guess what, your kids too). If you give them immediate satisfaction for everything they demand, or are constantly giving them attention/reward for no reason at all or for the inappropriate, impolite, impatient behaviours, well, they have no reason to learn otherwise. Our dogs don't have iphones, tablets or any number of other devices, but they have owners for their immediate desires; they can push owner buttons and get a reaction, they can get rewarded by the owner for lack of patience and need for satisfaction. But if you as the owner, can handle boredom and patience, deal with it, and teach it, the benefits are enormous, calm ensues and life gets easier.

So do your dog a favour. Teach them they are not the centre of the world, that sometimes they'll be bored, that they may have to show some self control and patience, that you will reward calm, polite behaviours and that there are rules to follow and consequences for not following. Your dog will be in a better state of mind, feel better, behave better and trust me, your stress level will be reduced. It's not always about sit, but rather, more importantly, its about patience, calm and the state of mind that gets rewarded.

If you think you need help or have similar issues to those mentioned in this article, please do not hesitate to contact us:

Happy training.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Wishing you the happiest 2017! Dog Training Milton Ontario

From all of us here at Smart Dogs Canine Training, we wish you happiness, success, joy and love for the coming year 2017! We hope it is your best one yet!

We will be back up and running as per usual, starting January 3rd. If you are interested in group or private dog training, please contact us at and we'd be happy to help you. We will re-post available classes again shortly.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What Kind of Relationship Do You Have? Dog Training Milton


Far too many times I see a lopsided, domineering, bordering on an almost abusive relationship between owner and dog. And no, I am not referring to the owner on this one, I am referring to the dog.

Often, new owners, experienced owners, or those just caught up in the love, treat their dogs as precious babies, catering to their every whim, grovelling at their feet, giving them everything they desire and more, dropping their lives for the life of the dog and essentially being trained by the dog. In turn, unknowingly, the dog becomes the domineering, abuser in the relationship, demanding everything, using intimidation, acting out, in the least, just being a plain pain in the butt, or at worst, being dangerous to those around them.

Dogs don't do this on purpose. Yes, some dogs are born with higher drives, more demanding tendencies, more dominant natures with harder personalities, but dogs don't knowingly abuse you, they don't treat you badly out of malice and they don't act out to get back at you .... they just do what works.

And if what works to get them what they want is being demanding, being a brat, using aggression, acting hyper etc. then they will keep on being that way. Usually these sorts of behaviours stem from the owner giving the dog attention at the wrong times, typically when the dog is "being bad". For example; the dog is acting crazy, bouncing off the furniture, grabbing clothing and being a nuisance. The owner, frustrated, says, "fine, I'll take you for a walk". With the walk being a reward, the dog is essentially reinforced for acting in an inappropriate fashion because it gets him outside where he probably wanted to be in the first place.

When people hear the word reward in reference to dogs, typically they think of a treat or a game. Reward does not always have to be food or a toy. Reward can be a touch, a look, a spoken word or it can be an event, attention (both negative and positive), a good feeling, something the dog finds fun (that we may not) etc. Reward is what the dog finds rewarding/feels good in that particular moment. So if it feels good to be free of the dropped leash, and run away from the owner that is desperately trying to call them back, that event is rewarding and thus will be repeated. If whining and carrying on gets the dog loose from the crate, which in turn feels good and is what the dog wanted, that behaviour is rewarding and will be continued.

With owners inadvertently or unknowingly rewarding inappropriate/bad behaviours, the dog will continue to act this way, for no other reason then it works or it feels good. Owners need to be aware of all the minor unwanted behaviours that they might be reinforcing, on purpose or not, make note, and change the way they offer their dog attention, food, play etc.

Those who give the dog everything, who treat the dog as an infant, who dote on their dogs hand and foot, will almost always reward inappropriate behaviours and create bratty dogs who, because they get everything for free, do not need to respond when owners require them to. They get constant attention and the owners voice becomes background noise, similar to the adults on Charlie Brown (if you're old enough to remember that - all that the kids heard was "wah, wah, wah, wah" when the adults spoke). Owners reduce their value to their dogs by giving them everything for free. They reduce their reward potential if the dogs get attention/treats/play for nothing at all, and it makes owners jobs a lot harder when it comes to training or just simple asking for appropriate behaviour around the house.

If owner treated their dog like a business partner, a 60/40 split on the part of the owner, they are setting themselves up for much better results then they would if they treated the dog like a baby or child. A business has rules, has boundaries and limits, a business has to be run in a particular fashion, and in business, nothing gets handed to anyone for free. Business owners have to work to achieve, and the business partner has to work along side the owner to achieve as well. Your business partner can be your friend, your business partner can be your family, but your business partner is never an infant or small child. You don't (or we hope you don't) give your business partner everything they ask for, or give in to their every demand, especially if you are holding 60% of the company. Bottom line is you are the decision maker, but your partner has an important role to play and there is mutual respect, admiration, co-operation and work load sharing.

If you have to baby your business partner through every move, they they aren't going to grow on their own. If you have to hold your business partners hand for every decision, they will not learn from their mistakes. If you have to constantly be in touch with your business partner because you can  not survive without them, then the company is destined for a bumpy road ahead. If you have to change your life to please your business partner, that relationship will sour.

Now let's put that in perspective with the dog/owner relationship. If the owner does everything for their dog and gives them all that they want, all of the time, the dog will never grow, will never learn to "be" on its own, will never build confidence and will never achieve. This puts a large strain on the relationship, as you are now bending to their every whim, and this adds more stress to a situation that might already be stressful enough. This is where dogs start to "take advantage" and abuse, in a non-humanistic sense, those who are giving them everything, all of the time. However, if the owner requires the dog to follow certain rules, to work to achieve what they want, not give in to their every desire and expects the dog to play an active role in "building the business" the owner will acquire both mutual respect and add more value to themselves in the eyes of their dog.

It doesn't take much. Simple little changes. Some house rules. Less attention. Less background noise. Required work for what the dog wants. Reward what you like. Ignore or correct what you don't like. Time spent together that is not snuggling and baby talking, but rather fetch, tug, a walk a hike, training etc. Mutual respect - respect the dog for what he is, not what you want him to be, and he will respect you and your rules. Don't treat him like a baby, treat him like a dog. There is nothing wrong with being a dog. A dog is not a child, nor is she human. A dog is a family member, a friend and a creature that deserves a lot more then owners treating her like something she isn't.

So, keep this in mind. If you give in or give attention to the bad, you reward it. If you hand out freebies all the time, you spoil. If you don't teach, you don't allow learning/growth to occur. If you cater to all desires, you create an entitled monster. If you have no rules, chaos will ensue

But, if you teach, growth will happen. If you create clear rules, stress is reduced. If you create value in yourself, respect is earned. If you require things, discipline will be learned. Bottom line, if you want respect, you must earn it, and its a two way street. 

Happy training!