Gratitude and My Next Challenge

I started When Hounds Fly Dog Training in January 2010 as an experiment to see whether dog training services – specifically, centered around Clicker Training, could become a full-time career for me.

At the time, most of the dog training schools operating in Toronto were part-time businesses, where the instructors drew their primary income from either white-collar day jobs, or made the majority of their income through other dog-related services (such as dog walking).

Fast forward to 2017 and When Hounds Fly now has four employees (if you include myself), three of whom work full time, doing dog training and behaviour consulting. So, the experiment paid off!

Our Past Instructors

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in growing this company is finding qualified people that met my high standards for instructors. In the early days, I was extremely lucky and qualified people found me. My early part-time instructors came already knowledgeable, already experienced, no training or skills development required.

Karen Pryor Visits When Hounds Fly
2011 – Julie Posluns, Mirkka Koivusalo, and Emily Fisher, my first group of talented instructors
Rachael Johnston
2012 – Rachael Johnston joined us (And she’s been with us since)
Alexa Mareschal
2013 – Alexa Mareschal joined us briefly – she had worked in the US at the head office of PetCo on their national training office. She’s a lawyer now in Salt Lake City…
2017 – Sara Russell joined our team early this year, already completing her KPA-CTP and coming with years of experience in the field.

By 2014, I realized that the odds of just finding qualified people who would apply for either part or full-time positions as instructors were extremely low. So, I turned my attention towards helping mentor and coach people who were passionate about our mission, so that in the end, they could hopefully be instructors at our school.

2014-2016 – Verena Schleich and Katie Hood became instructors at When Hounds Fly while volunteering and assisting classes and completing their Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner programs.

Katie and Verena were the first two people that I can say that I taught everything I knew to. All the insight and experience I had accumulated to date, I tried my best to impart to them to help them become as complete as possible. They have both since moved away from Toronto and I know they are out there doing excellent work in the field.

2017 – Tim Alamenciak
2017 – Kelsey Edwards

From 2016 onwards, I’ve been focusing my energies on personally developing talented people to help meet the needs of our community.

In the past, I left the formal education to organizations such as the Karen Pryor Academy, Pat Miller Peaceable Paws, or Jean Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers.

Now, having spent years working with people and mentoring them, my goal is to transition towards developing qualified dog training professionals in-house.

Tim Alameciak had volunteered for nearly a year as a classroom assistant, and his own quest for knowledge and self-study gave him the foundational knowledge needed to be an instructor for our team.

And, most recently, Kelsey Edwards, another one of our year-long volunteers is next. Through our own internal training workshops, 1-on-1 coaching sessions, and guided self-study and reading lists, she leveled up to a point where her knowledge rivals that of those who graduate from recognized dog trainer certification programs.

Classroom Assistants and Volunteers

Over the years, we have had many people inquire about volunteering at our school to gain experience. Some stay as few as a couple of weeks and then stop showing up. Others have been extremely committed (and through hard work, ended up being instructors here).

In 2012 we had a Working Holiday Visa visitor from Japan, Megumi Yamanaka, volunteer as a classroom assistant for a year( Unfortunately I never got a picture with her). She is teaching dog training back home now.


In recent years, Monisa Nandi, Stephanie Tran, and Megan Taylor have volunteered as classroom assistants with us – long enough for us to say that they’ve learned a lot and we’ve trusted them with different aspects of teaching and working directly with our clients.

Claire Kilburn at Paws in the Park

And, Claire Kilburn volunteered with us for over a year while completing high school. She’s studying at McGill now, but works remotely as our admin assistant, and this last summer, she had the opportunity to teach both in the classroom and also be our representative and instructor at Paws in the Park.

There are some people who have volunteered with us for a month or two, once a week and now go around saying they apprenticed under me, which is a big misrepresentation (the first few months are just cleaning up messes and filling up water bowls… it’s a long time before I let people even answer simple questions or speak in class.

These days, so many people don’t stick with things or put in the hard work. Everyone wants shortcuts…

My Next Challenge

 

While I am still very much involved directly in teaching (both group classes, and private lessons), I am transitioning towards skills development for our team – both our instructors and our volunteer classroom assistants. I’m getting good at it, and in the end,  our community will benefit from a greater number of highly qualified dog training professionals.

To our committed volunteers, past and present – I wanted to express my gratitude to you and also complement you for your commitment to the process. Thank you!!!

 

 

Sincerely,

Andre Yeu

Work with the Toronto Humane Society

This year, we’ve had the opportunity to work with the Toronto Humane Society in a variety of ways. One of our missions is to improve the welfare of animals (in particular, dogs), so it was our pleasure to offer our expertise and services to them.

Andre Yeu had the opportunity to provide clicker training seminars to a variety of THS staff (Animal Care Workers, Supervisors, and their Canine Behaviour Team):

Rachael Johnston has had the opportunity to provide consulting services to discuss behaviour modification for a number of dogs under the care of the Canine Behaviour Team at THS.

And this summer, we were invited to offer complementary mini-training sessions at Paws in the Park,

THS’ annual fundraiser and adoption festival.

 

We hope to have future opportunities to work with the Toronto Humane Society to share our knowledge of humane training methods and clicker training again in the future!

ClickerExpo 2017

We – Rachael, Andre, and Verena – just got back from Portland, Oregon, where we spend 4 days at ClickerExpo – a huge conference for clicker trainers, run by the Karen Pryor Academy, where all three of us studied.  It was a truly amazing experience, spending four straight days surrounded by clicker trainers of all walks of life and experience levels.

We spent one full day doing chicken camp – in which we clicker trained chickens with Terry Ryan.  This should be on every dog trainer’s bucket list.  It’s an excellent way to brush up on your precision and timing, with a less forgiving animal than a dog.

Three days were then spend back to back in labs and seminars, with presenters like Kathy Sdao, Dr. Susan G. Friedman, Ken Ramirez, Michele Pouliot, Sarah Owings, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, Hannah Branigan, Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, and more.

I think it’s fair to say that  we all came back better trainers – and teachers – than we were when we left.

Rachael, Verena, and Andre in Portland
Chicken Camp Attendees
Andre and his Chicken (Photography by: Marty Strausbaugh)
Terry Ryan & Verena
First Night of Expo Meet and Greet
Working with Chickens! (Andre on left, Rachael on right)
Andre, Verena, and Rachael with our Chickens

Closed for Continuing Education January 25 to 31st

Dear Prospect Students –

Thanks for visiting our web site!

Our commitment to excellent dog training means despite working with over 4000 dogs (and their families) for the last 7 years, we continue to invest in education and are never done learning.

Instructors at When Hounds Fly are away for a week to attend ClickerExpo in Portland, Oregon. Please note our school is closed for all current students from January 25 to 31st.

DSCF1058-300x225DSCF1075-300x225DSCF1087-300x225

Our administrative staff are responding to New Student Enrollment Forms/Class Registrations during our closure, but our response may be delayed.

Inquiries or special requests may not be responded to till we resume operations in February.

Thanks for your understanding and we will see you in February!

Sincerely,

The teaching staff at When Hounds Fly

To our prospective students…

August 8, 2017

Dear Prospective Student,

Thank you very much for visiting our web site and checking our services out. Since I started When Hounds Fly in January 2010, over 4000 dogs and their families have taken classes with us. My mission when I opened our first location at 1108 Dundas Street West was to raise the quality of dog training services in Toronto, and to improve the welfare of pet dogs in our city.

Thanks to the success of our students, word of mouth spread quickly and we grew. Our Dundas West location now has two training halls and we frequently run multiple classes per night that are always full. Requests for private lessons to help with dogs that have fear, anxiety, or aggression issues pour in, to the point where new students were waiting many weeks for a first available appointment.

From an economics perspective, when demand for services exceed supply, it’s time to increase supply. The problem is it’s not easy for me to increase our availability. I can’t just “train up” new employees to meet demand. Finding experienced, professional dog trainers with sufficient practical experience and academic experience is very difficult. (We’re hiring – in case you know of anyone!) Unlike big-box dog training schools, we don’t have a “6 week teacher training class” and certify people to be instructors. Rachael Johnston and Sara Russell have 10+ years experience. We are that serious about qualifications and expertise.

Going back to economics – if supply can’t be increased, then I could just increase prices to reduce demand and maximize profit for our business. I am, however, community-oriented at heart, and I want people who have modest incomes to be able to afford our services and programs. I don’t want to price ourselves such that only the wealthy can benefit from our classes and services. So, I haven’t increased prices of group classes since 2014. I’ve setup this business to avoid unnecessary frills (such as a receptionist who answers phone calls – when all the basic information is freely available on our web site and most customer service functions are fully self-service) and put all our resources into teaching and lessons.

My goal is to grow our teaching staff so that we can meet demand. I’m working on it. It’s my top priority. But I won’t compromise on my original mission of maintaining extremely high standards. So until I find the right people to join our team, please see the following regarding lead times/wait times for coming to take classes with us:

Availability at Pape Village

Our newest facility at East York can accept students almost immediately. We have both extra classroom capacity and teaching resources. If you want to start Puppy Socialization or Foundation Skills class as soon as possible, please enroll at Pape Village. Our investment in our Pape Village location is very important to us, therefore our most experienced instructor, Rachael Johnston, teaches the majority of classes here.

Availability at Dundas West

Our original location is very busy, and we carefully limit the number of new students we take in per week to avoid having more students that we can serve. As of this update, we are currently accepting applications for new students, however, New Student Orientation spots are only available for later in August with an eye to be taking classes in September.

Availability of Private Lessons

As of mid-June, on average, between all of us, it is about a 4-6 week wait time from the time of enrolling to your actual first appointment. And like all things in life, good things come to those who wait – hiring someone strictly based on who can see you first usually results in disaster.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I look forward to meeting you and your pup at school soon.

Sincerely,

Andre Yeu

Volunteers Needed for University of Toronto Canine Cognition Lab

Dog CI Lever

Want to know more about how your dog thinks and learns? The Canine Cognition Lab at the University of Toronto (part of the Psychology department’s Computational Cognitive Development Lab) is looking for pet dogs and their owners to participate in fun studies examining what dogs understand about the physical and the social world.

We will be running some of our studies at When Hounds Fly on April 3, 10, 24 and May 1 2016, scheduling sessions between the hours of 3 – 8pm. Single-time participation and multi-day participation opportunities are available.

dog and tubes

Dog and Shelves

Dog CI Watching

Dog CI Lever

Dog CI Dial

All of our research takes the form of short, interactive games that are designed to be fun and engaging for dogs, such as interacting with puzzles and searching for treats. We record dogs’ actions and the choices they make in these tasks to learn more about what information they use to make decisions and solve problems.

To be eligible to participate your dog must:

1. be up to date on rabies vaccinations
2. be generally healthy at the time of participation
3. not have a record of aggression towards humans

For more information, or to sign your dog up to participate, email us on cocodev@psych.utoronto.ca, or call us at 416-946-3981.

We hope to meet you and your dog soon!

Canine Cognition Lab Research Team
Department of Psychology
University of Toronto

Computational Cognitive Development Lab

University of Toronto

Congratulations to New Therapy Dogs Percy and Sydney

Congratulations to Percy (When Hounds Fly Dundas West Alumni) and Sydney (When Hounds Fly North Toronto Alumni) for becoming our latest two alumni to become certified St John Ambulance Therapy Dogs! Sydney was already certified as a CKC Canine Good Neighbour as well.

Besides having the right temperament (not all dogs are suited for therapy dog work and that’s ok!), taking our Canine Good Neighbour prep class is an excellent way to learn the training skills needed to excel at the examination and tests.

Percy
Percy

 

Sydney
Sydney

Congratulations to Rachael Johnston

Rachael Johnston

Congratulations to our most senior instructor, Rachael Johnston, for passing her CPDT-KA examination with an excellent score of 90%. She now joins a very small number of dog trainers in Ontario that are both Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners and have their CPDT-KA designation.

Rachael Johnston

We never doubted that she would easily pass with flying colours. She is, after all, When Hounds Fly’s most experienced dog training instructor. She began her career in the early 2000s, first graduating from a dog trainer academy that used correction training, but abandoned those techniques quickly because of the negative effects it had both on her and the dogs.

In 2003, she became a volunteer, mentor, and eventually, an instructor, at Sit Happens in Calgary. In 2009, she graduated from the Karen Pryor Academy, studying under Helix Fairweather. We were lucky to bring her onto our instructing staff in 2012 as she moved to Toronto. She’s been teaching on Thursdays and Sundays ever since.

With that many years experience and education, it’s no wonder she makes teaching class look effortless!

Congratulations again, Rachael!

 

#clickertraining with Rachael in #puppy class. #moosonee rescue #dogsofwhf

A video posted by When Hounds Fly (@whenhoundsfly) on

Lecturing at Ryerson on Behaviorism

Toronto Ryerson - Undergraduate Psychology Class Lecture

Petey and I were invited to lecture to a class of psychology undergrads on behaviorism! As a dog trainer that focuses on the practical application of the principles of operant conditioning, I owe a great deal to the academic world, and it was an honour to be able to pay it back (in my own little way).  Perhaps one of these students will end up producing a thesis that will help us better understand our dogs one day.

Here is a little clip of my talk. The historical aspects of behaviorism, and the jargon isn’t something I use regularly, so I hope I did it justice! Unfortunately, my camera got full just as we were about to play 101 Things to Do With a Box with Petey.

Thanks to Dr. Lucy McGarry for the opportunity. Her students were very engaged and asked excellent, thoughtful questions.

Toronto Ryerson - Undergraduate Psychology Class Lecture

School Closed January 21-28

ClickerExpo Portland

Our instructors, Katie Hood, Rachael Johnston, and Andre Yeu are attending ClickerExpo in Portland and as a result the school is closed for classes from January 21-28 (all locations, all classes).

We will be processing all enrollment forms during this period although our response will be slower. Emails inquiries sent to info@whenhoundsfly.com will also be responded to but with a delay. Phone/voicemails will not be checked.

We look forward to coming back with new information to further develop our skill and the effectiveness of all our programs!