If you’re current working in the pet dog services industry (dog walker, daycare staff, groomer, veterinary staff, etc.) or are a positive reinforcement/clicker training enthusiast, and would like to learn what and how we teach, we welcome you to take a look at our Classroom Assistant program!
In exchange for some basic assistance in the classroom, you’ll be able to see us deliver our curriculum, class structure, and coaching skills.
Currently, we are particularly interested in looking for classroom assistants that would be interested in assisting some of our Reactive Dog Group Classes at our South Etobicoke location, on Tuesday nights, Wednesday afternoons, and Saturday afternoons, which is the only of it’s kind in Toronto. You’ll get to see exactly how we help dogs that are struggling with leash reactivity by assisting.
Learn more about our Classroom Assistant program, and how to apply here:
Melissa and her colleague (also named Melissa!) brought some of the stars of the Ultimutts team, and we also were able to bring some of our own pups to work with.
In addition to getting to see Melissa demonstrate her Disc and Freestyle training, she shared insights into her work in TV and Film. In the above photo, she’s working with the Pepsi, the dog actor that plays Krypto, on DC Titans.
For this special event for our team, we were able to also invite two of our training colleagues from the Toronto Humane Society to come enjoy the seminar alongside us.
Thanks again to Melissa and the Ultimutts team for spending time with us!
Important Announcement! After consulting with the entire instructor team, and polling our current and alumni students, and looking at supporting evidence, we are making the decision to continue requiring all participants of our group classes to wear a facemask covering the nose, mouth, and chin. Like many institutions, such as Ontario universities, we are erring on the side of caution at this time until the effects of lifting restrictions can be assessed in phased approaches. That, coupled with the fact that by mid-April, we will be able to open windows and doors to increase ventilation at our facilities, inform our decision. Trust us, it’s not easy to teach class for hours while wearing a mask! We can’t wait for the *right* time to no longer require masks in our group classes. We will revisit the policy on a week-by-week basis and keep everyone updated. See you in school soon!
Enrichment describes all the activities our dogs do which fulfill their mental, social and physical needs. Toronto dogs are typically accustomed to getting their social time through daycare, dog walkers, playdates and dog parks. Physical needs are typically met via hiking, playing fetch or walking around Toronto’s streets and green spaces. Mental enrichment comes from interacting with their humans, solving puzzles and exploring their environment through their noses. With many of these activities curtailed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, what can we do to ensure our dogs cope?
Sniffing is one of the most mentally enriching activities for our dogs – after all their sense of smell is around 40 times stronger than ours is! It may be counter-intuitive, but walking more slowly and providing your dog with plenty of time to explore scents with their noses is more enriching than walking briskly. Get the most out of your limited outdoor time by allowing your dog time to sniff!
There are also plenty of ways to get your dog’s nose working at home. You can take a formal scent detection class with us, for example.
Alternatively, try playing the “find it” game:
Level 1 (easy): Put your dog in her crate or have somebody hold her while you hide several treats around the house. As you open the crate door cue “find it!” and sit back as your dog uses their nose to search out the treats. If they are struggling after 30 seconds, offer a hint by pointing to the treat.
Level 2 (intermediate): Ask your dog for a down-stay out of sight while you hide the treats. Cue “find it!” to release her from the stay.
Level 3 (advanced): Conceal treats in challenging locations – under the doormat, behind the sofa cushion, on a raised shelf – get creative!
(PS: We’re launching our Scent Detection class for Virtual delivery very soon!)
Food Puzzles are a well-known way of providing some mental enrichment for your dog. These are toys with compartments for concealed food – your dog must figure out how to roll, knock, pull or push the toy so that it dispenses the food. Unfortunately, many of our dogs figure out their food puzzles in record time, and what was a mental challenge quickly becomes just another slow feeder. Keep your food puzzles fresh and interesting by mixing them up!
Training is one of the best ways to keep your dog mentally stimulated, and it has the benefit of improving your dog’s behaviour! Consider replacing lost exercise time with a dedicated routine of training to keep your dog busy and challenged. Work on your dog’s basics by joining us for Foundation Skills Virtual classes (more information:https://sites.google.com/whenhoundsfly.com/virtual) or consider taking a more advanced class with us. During this time, we are allowing anyone to audit our classes on a Pay-What-You-Feel basis (and if your situation is that you can’t pay, that’s ok!)
Set yourself specific training goals and celebrate with your pup when you reach them! Here are some training goal ideas:
30 second down stay while I retrieve the tug rope from the other room
Verbal cue differentiation: Dog lies down on “down” cue and sits on “sit” cue without mixing them up
Recall from the other end of the house
Leave-it, treat placed 10 cm away on the ground for 10 seconds
Teach a new trick! E.g. roll over, play dead, fetch my TV remote, sit pretty etc
Canine conditioning is a collection of exercises designed to increase your dog’s fitness, strength, body awareness (proprioception), and co-ordination. Many of these exercises can be done at home with some basic equipment.
Cavaletti poles: These are raised poles for your dog to step over at a walk or trot. This helps your dog develop a balanced gait and good coordination.
Balance Games: Teaching your dog to balance on wobbly surfaces or small platforms can strengthen muscles and improve body awareness.
Hind-end awareness: These exercises are designed to get your dog moving their hind quarters independently of their front legs. Two popular challenges are: Targeting a platform with rear paws only, commonly taught in dog agility to improve Dog Walk / A frame performance; and circling around a front-paw perch which can be used to teach heel position as shown in this video (Andre & Petey). Both exercises are excellent for body awareness and coordination.
There are plenty of other conditioning exercises out there to keep you & your dog busy!
Engagement games foster our dog’s relationship with us through having fun together! These games include Fetch and Tug of War, but did you know there are lots of other engagement games to try?
Hide ‘n Seek: Hide from your dog in another room, closet, under the bed etc. Call them once and wait…. If they successfully find you, reward them with praise and a delicious treat! For an easy version of this, work with a partner to hold your dog as you hide. If your dog is more advanced, try putting them in a down-stay instead.
Come and Go: In this game, encourage your dog to run through your legs! Recall your dog, then toss a treat between your legs. Make the game harder by adding distance or more than one person! Here’s Stephanie and Mila demonstrating the game:
Chase Me: Many of our dogs love to be chased, but we don’t encourage chasing your dog as this can adversely affect your recall. Did you know that chasing can be just as fun for your dog the other way around? Call your dog to your side and run away! When your dog catches up, praise and reward them. Playing chase-me this way around can actually improve your dog’s recall abilities!
In summary, with the requirements of social distancing, now’s the time to invest more in training and enrichment for your dog. Try some of these suggestions, or join us in the virtual classroom! After all, your dog’s can’t curl up with a book or binge watch a series on Netflix – it’s up to us!
COVID19 is disrupting more than just our human interaction; our dogs are affected too! Some puppies may be isolated during a critical socialization period. How can we continue to give our dogs adequate physical and mental stimulation, as well as positive socialization experiences during this time?
Socialization Done Right
Many people think of a pile of puppies running, wrestling, and playing when they think of socialization. In reality, teaching dogs to mind their social manners is only one part of proper socialization.
Socialization done right teaches the puppy that the world they live in is safe and fun, through positive experiences with new sights, smells, noises, feelings, and environments.
If you are not currently affected by COVID-19, you MUST still bring your puppy out for socialization experiences:
Continue to bring your puppy on walks, exploring new areas, and seeing new dogs. Always supervise interactions closely, and be picky about which dogs your puppy will meet (do you know their vaccination and health status?)
Taking your puppy out for walks or outings each and every day still lets you expose them to other dogs in the following way:
Sight – Seeing various dogs, how they move, what they look like
Sounds – Hearing other dogs bark and make noises
Smell – Air scenting as they follow the trail of a dog that was by a few minutes ago
On-Leash Greetings – Best advice at this time from health officials would suggest this is not safe, as leashes could quickly get tangled, and then owner(s) would have to break social distancing guidelines to untangle leashes and dogs
As soon as permitted to by health authorities: Current Students and Alumni of When Hounds Fly can use our Facebook Group to set up play dates with other puppies from unaffected homes. Similarly, as soon as permitted, we will be hosting Puppy Parties for our students for supervised socialization sessions.
Puppies that have not completed their vaccinations can still observe other dogs at a safe distance. They should not be going into the dog park (which are closed at this time), but can be carried nearby to these environments and allowed to observe the sights, sounds, and smells of adult dogs.
From the American Veterinary Medicine Association:
If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.
Every new puppy owner, whether affected by COVID19 or not, should practice a multitude of other socialization exercises that can be done in your home! The key is to expose your puppy to something new. It could be anything from a new surface (the bathroom floor) to your vacuum cleaner noise, from checking teeth and ears, to you wearing hats/scarves. In each case, the idea is for the puppy to be comfortable in that situation.
Set Up for Success:
Know how to read puppy body language! If we don’t know what our puppy is telling us (I’m afraid vs. I’m fine), we run the risk of accidentally having a negative experience.
Need some help decoding your puppy’s body language? Check out this awesome website: ispeakdog.org
Allow your puppy to explore new things by choice. Do not force a puppy to go closer to things they are afraid of or unsure of. Allow them to back away if they want to.
Make the experience even MORE positive by giving your puppy treats and playing with them when they explore the new thing, hear the new thing, feel the new thing, etc.
To avoid creating fear, anxiety, and aggression problems, if your puppy is reacting with extreme fear with the new thing/situation, stop the exposure.
Methods to Use
New sights, smells, and surfaces
Present a strange object such as a skateboard to the dog. At first, the dog may be scared of it, but when it musters enough courage to go closer to take a bit of a sniff, click, and then treat the dog for approaching it.
Repeat this many times with this object, and many other objects, so that the dog’s confidence to explore increases. The same should be done for exploring surfaces and spaces, such as the bathroom floor, the stairs, crawling under chairs, etc. For people-shy dogs, this exercise can even be extended to being brave to go up and sniff strangers.
Here’s a great look at creating a positive experience with the vacuum cleaner:
Sound Sensitivity is another key area to work on. Anxiety around thunderstorms and fireworks can be crippling. Use YouTube sound clips to socialize your puppy to scary sounds. Play the sound at a low volume, and feed, play, and engage with your puppy. When the sound stops, stop feeding!
In brief, during this period where Puppy Socialization group classes are suspended, you still have a lot of work to do. Puppies running around and playing with each other only represents a portion of the important work you are responsible for doing. You should still be teaching basic foundation behaviours, and you’ll want some advice on topics like nipping and biting, so that’s what our Virtual Classes, Phone Consultations, and 1-on-1 Lessons (Both in-person and virtual) are for. Take advantage of your free time and get to work!
We are very excited to announce that we have partnered with Wellesley Animal Hospital to expand our reach and offer our Puppy Socialization classes on Sunday afternoons at their clinic at 535 Yonge Street.
Sessions start in January 2020, and we will be running a limited number of classes only on Sunday afternoons. So, to avoid disappointment, if you’d like to enroll your puppy you are expecting to join your family in January, please reserve your spot right away.
Of course, we will be continuing our daily Puppy Socialization class schedule at our Dundas West and Pape Village facility, but for those of you who live right in the core, this may be a very convenient option for you to also consider!
In 2019, we are pleased to resume Small Dog Social play groups for alumni and dogs that are currently enrolled in classes at When Hounds Fly! This is an excellent opportunity to socialize and exercise your dog off leash in a safe, clean and supervised environment.
Play groups will be 45 minutes in length and supervised by an experienced associate instructor.
Cost is $20 per dog per session with a maximum of 5 dogs per play group.
Play groups are suitable for:
Alumni and Current Students Only
Dogs under 20 lbs
Dogs that are up to date on vaccinations (3rd booster minimum)
Neutered or Spayed if over 7 months
Dogs that are well socialized. Dogs that are disruptive, display bullying or aggressive behaviours will be asked to leave.
Dogs that hump other dogs excessively will be asked to leave.
Dogs that mark/pee constantly will be asked to leave.
Pre-registration and pre-payment is required for all participants. Due to limited space, no refunds will be offered for missed classes and cancellations must be no later than 24 hours before the scheduled play group.
Play Groups will be offered on select Sundays at both our Dundas West and Pape Village locations: