Monday, September 30, 2019

What are puppies made of? Dog Training Milton

What are puppies made of? Cuteness, fluff, fun, love and cuddles ... but puppies are also made of other ingredients as they age. And what are some of the other ingredients, you ask? Needle sharp teeth, attitude, energy, independence, curiosity, an obsession to chew, intelligence, drive, demands, and the list goes on.

What puppies are NOT made of is programmable parts or an “easy” button. Here is where a lot of mistakes and misunderstandings are encountered during training. Too many think that once you train a 13-16 week old puppy, they’re done, they shouldn’t have to do more, and the puppy should retain everything they’ve learned at this age. This is a dangerous falsehood, and unfair to the puppy to think of training this way.

The truth is dog training is for life, not just for a month or two when they are young. Every moment of every day in a young puppies life (and any dog for that matter) is potential learning and training opportunities. Every time they are awake, interact with you, play, walk, experience new environments etc. they are learning. Every slip you make, every time you give in, every time your do or do not reinforce something, every time you freak out, get frustrated, are happy, energetic etc. they are learning.

The unfortunate thing is puppies are smart ...really smart, and learn very quickly how they can train us, who they can get away with things with, who’s buttons they can push, who means business etc. (not unlike young children). But puppies are also like young children in the sense that they have to be continuously reminded what the rules are, what is required of them, house hold routines and other such things.

Just as you have to remind your toddler not to touch the lit candle multiple times, you have to remind your puppy what behaviours are appropriate/inappropriate many times throughout their growth.

One puppy class just won't cut it. That doesn't mean you have to take dozens of classes and spend thousands of dollars on training, that just means that you HAVE to do your homework, and you HAVE to keep up with your homework, especially through all the puppy developmental stages.

If you think of your puppy going through all of the stages of childhood (like your own kid would do) this would help to set you up to handle what's coming at you when you add a new puppy to the household. The benefit is that puppies go through these stages a lot faster then children do, but it is no less fair to expect a 6 year old to behave like an adult then it is to expect a 6 month old puppy to show the same restraint, cognitive abilities, self control and stamina that an adult dog would.

Puppies go through terrible two's, adolescence, teenage years, young adulthood, and maturity. Puppies change and develop, loose teeth, gain confidence, realize they are individuals, learn skills, cause problems, talk back, push limits, just as any child would ... except your puppy will never ask to borrow the car. If you can understand all of this, you will be better equipped to handle what obstacles comes up throughout their first years of life.

Be fair to your puppies, set them up for success by sticking to your training program, rules, requirements and routines throughout their growth and into adulthood so that you can help build them into confident, self controlled adults who are a pleasure to be around, and an asset, not a burden, to your family.

Happy Training!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Of Children and Dogs ... Dog Training Milton

If you've never watched the movie My Dog Skip, I recommend that you do. If you've ever owned a Jack Russell Terrier (or lost a good dog for that matter) I suggest having two boxes of Kleenexes close by. Though not the fastest paced movie, it is a good rendition of what the life of a child with a doggy best friend could be like. Of course, it is a movie, with the setting of the movie being in the 1940's and life was vastly different back then, but often times I believe we are missing out on so much in 2018 as compared to even 15 - 20 years ago.

I think we are missing out on the relationship that kids used to have with their pets, their friends, with the outdoors, with getting dirty, with playing and with just being a kid. Of course this is not true for all children, however, with the amount of device use now-a-days, the missing out goes up significantly. But I digress.

Here is where your dog can help to make a huge difference in your child's life. I will preface this by saying that no child should interact with a dog that is out of control or that has behavioural issues, but we are going to assume, in this case, all is well with Fido, and that he's not out to kill anyone.

Your relationship with your dog, as the parent or guardian, will dictate how your child's relationship with their dog will be. If you are a push over and give in to the dogs every desire, treat Poochie like the boss queen delicate flower, and put them on a equal playing field, then I would suggest to do some soul searching on the balance in your relationship before you attempt to let your child handle the dog. If you are a domineering, heavy handed person who likes to use intimidation to teach, better take a look at your life, because you're child can be likely to follow suit, and you need to fix that first.

If your child is responsible, and of an age to be able to take direction (and actually follow it) then you can start incorporating your child into the training/exercising of your dog. If your child is out of control, I would not recommend them handling the dog until they show restraint and self control that would benefit the dog/child relationship.

No child, no matter the age, should be placed below the dog on the pecking order ... ever. Sadly, I have seen this happen and it is a huge recipe for disaster.  If this is the case in your house-hold, you need to immediately change this (and give yourself a smack in the head) in order for the child and dog to have a proper, respectful relationship.

Enough about the rules - here is the fun, educational and beneficial part. A dog can help build a child's self esteem, confidence, physical activity level, outdoor time and responsibility levels. A dog can be a child's best friend, confidant, motivation and entertainment. And the cool thing is, a dog can do all of this by just being a dog.

Children gain confidence in their abilities when they can direct and teach their dog new things. It can bring a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, and with that, alongside the higher confidence level comes higher self esteem. The ability to direct, teach and accomplish things with their canine buddies opens a whole new world for them to explore, have fun with and get involved in. Being involved with their dogs also brings with it learning about responsibilities - the responsibility of picking up after the dog, exercising and feeding them, training them and in general, caring for them. When a child is given some responsibilities to handle, this can also work wonders for confidences levels and the joy of accomplishing tasks.

Dogs like being outside and need physical activity - guess what? It's good for the kiddos too. If you have a dog, then it's 100% likely that they need to be walked, and what better way to get your child on board with outdoor time then letting them take Fido's lead and exercising their buddy. Exploring, hiking, fishing and walking with dogs is fun - the dogs are usually up for lots of things, can keep up with the child, and are always interested in exploring new things. Exploring and learning about nature by just being in it is fantastic for both dogs and kids. This gets kids moving, which is something lacking in 2018, and gets them outside, in the dirt, in the rain, in the fresh air, which is 100 times more beneficial for them then being in front of a screen. This gets the dog exercised, excess energy burnt and builds a fantastic bond with their child friend.

A good game of fetch with a dog who has been taught the rules of the game is awesome entertainment for kids. The dogs learn that the children can be in charge of the game and the dog gets a good amount of exercise and energy burnt. The child learns how to control the game, give direction and have fun while doing it. If you have a backyard it's a fun and easy way to exercise and entertain both ... and who doesn't want things made easy when you've got kids or dogs?

A dog can also be a friend, or even best friend, and can very much benefit children who have a harder time being social with their peers, or who are shy or more withdrawn. Having a dog to hang out with, talk about and show off, can help with communication and to a greater extent, having someone to hang out with. Please don't get me wrong, a dog can not replace a human friend for social interaction, peer learning etc. but a dog can help be there when things get a little harder.

For children who need someone to talk to or read to, sometimes a dog is better then a person. A dog won't judge, they won't say you're not good enough, they won't correct your grammar/speech and they are good listeners. Sometimes it takes opening up to a dog first before kids are comfortable opening up to their peers, parents, teachers etc. as it gives them an audience/outlet that is completely non-judgemental. Dogs are great motivators this way (and I suppose cats are as well).

So if you have a dog, who is well behaved, trained and polite with whom your child is interested in building a relationship with, I say make it happen. Give them some responsibility, teach them how to teach, let them build their confidence and self esteem, give them the opportunity to get outside - let them enjoy each others company. There is nothing better then seeing the bond that can grown between a child and a dog.

And if you have a dog who doesn't have training, and you also have kids, there is no better reason to get on top of that training so that your child can build a respectful, engaging and meaningful relationship with their pup that can benefit them throughout their lives in so many ways.

Happy Training!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Take Your Training Everywhere! Dog Training Milton

 Two dogs in a down/stay to the right, child feeding some wild birds to the left, squirrels running around, and hikers passing by;
training in a real life situation.

The key to a well trained and well behaved dog is consistency, we all know that. However, consistency must be taken everywhere you take your dog, not just inside the home or inside a training hall.

I constantly tell my students that training should go with you everywhere. Dogs are very contextual creatures, so they "get it" where you practice and where you are consistent. But they need to be refreshed and reinforced in new situations, with new distractions in new areas because things are, well, new. Just because your dog can down stay in the living room for 20 minutes, doesn't mean she's going to down stay on your hike for 20 minutes, let along 20 seconds if you haven't practiced there.

Everywhere you take your dog should be a new training opportunity. An opportunity to teach them that the behaviour that they know in the living room, also applies to the forest, the cottage, downtown, the car dealership, the bank, on walks, the park, on hikes etc. You need to practice in all of the locations that you take your dog, and sometimes, depending on the distraction levels, you will have to take some steps back to create success, in order to move forward and make it clear to the dog. And it is perfectly ok to have to back step in order to succeed. We all have to do it at times.

So get out there and practice - practice everywhere that you want your dog to behave and set them up for success when you're out and about.

Happy training!

 The nuthatch in hand at Hilton Falls Conservation area.

A good time in the woods.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Consistency - Dog Training Milton

If you follow us at all on Facebook, you will see that every Tuesday we have a pUpLift motivational post on our page. Well, this weeks had to do with consistency, and I thought that this is something that should be expanded on the blog in more detail.

Consistency, or lack there-of, is what will either bring you success or failure in working with your dog. I don't care what method or tools that you use, if you are consistent, you will see results, and if you are inconsistent, you will be disappointed.

Consistency is where most owners "fall off the wagon" so-to-speak. It isn't easy to remain consistent, especially when you have a family, a job, and other life events that get in the way, however, in order to be fair to our dogs, and really gain an understanding, consistency in rules, consistency in habits and consistency in practice is where you will make or break the relationship. And you want to make sure that the consistency provides positive results and not negative. It seems that negative habits are much easier to stay consistent with then positive ones, but it's the positive ones that will gain you success, not the negative ones.

As I said, it's not easy. We all "fall of the wagon" at times. I do, you do, the best of us does, but the quicker you get back on track, the better. The more consistent you are, the more clear you are being to your dog, and the more clear that you are, the better they are able to understand your rules, limits and training.

A large factor in consistency for dogs is also getting everyone who handles and lives with the dog, on the same page. This is another area where I see a lot of struggles, as each person in the household will have slightly different rules, limits and practices then the other.

Want to try and make it easier? Here's where to start:

  1. Sit down with your family, or whomever handles and deals with your dog on a daily basis, and create a list of very clear rules that you want to impliment with your dog. They don't have to be my rules, but they do have to be rules that everyone is comfortable living with. Post this list up, and require that everyone follow it to the best of their ability.
  2. Sit down with your family and have everyone note what negative behaviours they might be inadvertently rewarding with attention. Make everyone aware of this, and help each other consistenty stop these negative habits.
  3. Start small. If it's exercise that your dog needs more of, or training/practice time, reside to getting up a half hour earlier in the morning, and with that extra, quiet half hour, take some time to practice with or walk your dog.
  4. Start easy. Threshold work with doorways and crates. Self control work with crate, food and place. Building self-value with ignoring and requiring work from your dog.
  5. Be clear! Dogs don't do well with grey - they absolutely need black and white, just as young children do. Get on board with being consistent in over all handling, not just the rules. There should be no grey areas. Grey areas cause the dog to make the wrong choice and you are setting them up for failure, not success.
  6. Be consistent in your feed-back, both positive and negative. Reward the good, correct or ignore the bad, consistently, every time.
  7. Make a schedule. Set out some specific walking and training times, and stick to it. This isn't just to benefit the dog, this is also to benefit your relationship with the dog and your health. Get everyone on board.
  8. Change your mind. If you are a negative thinker, a consistently glass-empty-all-the-time type, you absolutely need to change this in order to see the success with your dog. There are lots of ideas on YouTube to help change negative thoughts, patterns etc. that if you impliment and remain consistent with, will translate down to not only your dog, but to the rest of your life, family, job etc. If you are consistent with negativity, you will breed negativity. If you can change that to being more consistently positive in your training outlooks, you will gain more positive results.

These are just a few ideas to start to move you forward in a more positive and consistent direction. It's not rocket science, nor is it overly difficult work, but it can be a challenge if you are not used to consistency in new, more positive habits. But I absolutely know you can do it with a bit of effort.

It should also be noted that consistency shouldn't just be implimented for a week and then dropped. If you try this, your dog will fall right back to square one. It's building a new foundation and sticking to it. It's building a new system of communication and being clear about it. It's clarity in your new rules so there is no confusion, and making sure to remain black and white. It's adding a more positive balance to the relationship and enjoying the benefits of it.

Happy training!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Yet Another Sad Dog Training Tool Ban, But You Can Help! Dog Training Milton


There is something really important happening in the dog training community. Hillsborough County Florida (as well as the state of FL) is proposing legislation that will make it ILLEGAL to use any TRAINING COLLAR (slip lead, prong collar, ecollar) and any method that is not considered positive-only. This is VERY real and on our door step in Ontario, and across Canada and the U.S.

Please continue reading to have your voice heard. It does not matter if you live in the county or even in the U.S. Or not, you can still write a letter! If it passes, it will soon be presented as a state-wide law. And it could extend nationwide. This is a war that knows no boundaries.

Your voice as a pet dog owner will weigh more than the voices of trainers! The lives of dogs depend on it! We need you and these letters e-mailed BEFORE FRIDAY, 03/31/2017.

If you are a family that I have helped, or from another trainer, and have experienced personal success with the use of a prong collar, slip lead, remote collar, and similar balanced training approaches, please email the following to oppose the proposed regulation. Failure to stop this regulation will result in a significant impact on your democratic rights and freedoms, not to mention harm to our dogs. Send an email opposing the ban and give your story. Send a picture of your dog and how you have personally been helped
Include the following statement in the subject line:

Opposition to the Proposed Ordinance Requiring Licensing for Dog Trainers


Dear Commissioner:

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed ordinance requiring licensing for dog trainers. I am a dog lover and I am extremely passionate about the safety and welfare of dogs.
Let me tell you about my dog and how balanced training methods helped change my life and the life of my dog(s):


Conclusion: Industry regulation such as licensing should not be undertaken without careful thought as to the potential unintended consequences of the licensure requirements. As it is currently worded, this ordinance is wrought with ambiguities that can lead to extreme interpretations that would limit professionals’ abilities to properly do their jobs, and potentially lead to far greater harm for dogs in Hillsborough County. We would suggest at the very least that any attempt to regulate dog training tools, methods etc. be omitted, and all such decisions be left up to the agreement of the professional trainer and the client involved.

Physical address

Address all letters to the following email addresses:

Add as cc:

Thank you for your efforts!

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.