Scientific Consensus in Dog Training

In our field, there is consensus amongst those that study the science, that aversive training methods are harmful, and that we should all endeavor to use as much positive reinforcement as possible when teaching our animals.

It is a myth that there is “a divide” amongst experts when it comes to training our dogs. Because if you look at what the science says, look at what the research says, and what the evidence says, there is no debate.

Your Facts are Just Your Opinion

“I don’t believe in science, it’s just your opinion!” – in 1920

“I don’t believe in climate change, it’s just a theory!”

“I don’t believe in evolution, it’s just a belief!”

“I don’t believe in using positive reinforcement, its just one of many ways to train a dog!”

What needs to be made clear, and in firm language, is that there are hard facts that dictate our bias towards using positive reinforcement. If you understand these facts, then the path is clear.

Here Are Some Facts

Fact 1:  Dogs trained with negative reinforcement show more stress-related behaviors during training, and have higher levels of cortisol in their saliva (Reward-based training group dogs showed no changes in cortisol), and when testing for mood after the fact, the more punishment a dog has received in the negative reinforcement group, the more pessimistic it is.  (Vieira de Castro AC, Fuchs D, Pastur S, et al. Does training method matter?: Evidence for the negative impact of aversive-based methods on companion dog welfare.)
Schematic for the Cognitive Bias Test in Viera de Castro’s Study

Positive Reinforcement-based training achieves better results and also does not cause elevated stress or anxiety. So, if you’re choosing how to teach your dog to sit, stay, and walk nice on a leash, why wouldn’t you choose the method that is both effective but also brings joy to your dog and doesn’t make them depressed?

Fact 2:  When using confrontational or aversive methods to train aggressive pets, veterinary researchers have found that most of these pets will continue to be aggressive (Herron, Frances S. Shofer and Ilana R. Reisner)

Dogs that are aggressive towards people or other animals are usually acting out of fear, so the science suggests we should use systematic desensitization, counter-conditioning, and the differential reinforcement of incompatible behaviours. We teach dogs how to feel at ease in situations, without the threats of a prong collar or shock collar.

The science supports our practice as well – We setup educational environments to avoid triggering the fight-or-flight response. Learners (dogs included, of course) learn best when their parasympathetic nervous system is active (the rest and digest response) – this cannot be possible under the threat of a leash correction or shock.

The claim that “red zone” or “aggressive” dogs cannot be helped unless you use harsh training techniques is perhaps the most harmful of all of the incorrect information out there today.

Neuroscience dictates that our learners do best when they feel safe, so why involve training tools that are proven to cause elevated stress?

Logical Fallacies

One of the benefits of working with people who take an interest in science is they usually understand how to construct logical arguments. On the flipside, those who operate “intuitively” usually are very difficult to talk to because they lack the ability to construct a cohesive argument.

Usually, what you are presented with is a lot of logical fallacies and some pseudo-science:

“OMG you would rather have the dog die than give a single harsh correction?” (No, those aren’t the only options usually, thank you Mr. False Dilemma)

“I’ve saved X-number of dogs using e-collars, they are lifesaving” (Thank you, Ms. Anecdotal Evidence, I was also spanked as a child, I turned out OK…)

Credibility Should Be More Than Number of Instagram Followers

Rachael speaking to Dr. Jill Sackman, Veterinary Behaviorist, at 2019 seminar on effective behaviour modification techniques and psychopharmacology

At When Hounds Fly, we don’t rely on tradition, intuition, one’s personal experience alone, or other unproven methods. Our approach relies on scientific evidence for guidance and decision making. With the proliferation of knowledge that is available, one can’t be expected to know everything about everything, therefore, we learn from people who:

  • Have Ph.Ds in relevant fields (Psychology, Neuroscience, Biology, Veterinary Medicine)
  • Have written published papers or books on the subject
  • Have received training, supervision, or endorsement from others with a similar background
  • Have credentials that are difficult to obtain and demonstrate a high level of knowledge (i.e. a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, requires one to have a doctoral degree, usually veterinary medicine, plus five years of experience working in applied animal behavior)
Our team with Kathy Sdao, applied animal behaviorist with 30 years of experience teaching animals ranging from marine mammals to pet dogs

 

Guest Presenting at 100-Level Psychology Class at University of Toronto

The problem with the world we live in today is that the largest distributors of information – Google (and YouTube), Facebook (and Instagram), and Twitter, are for-profit organizations that generate revenue by keeping users addicted to their platforms.

On Instagram, a dog rescue group with 10,000 followers has more clout than a Veterinary Behaviorist with only 1000 followers, and when the rescue’s social media manager, who relies on intuition and anecdotal evidence only, suggests that “Balanced Training, using all training tools equally, is the best way”, that makes it seem like there’s a debate, when in fact there should be none. But, in the eyes of Facebook and Instagram’s algorithm… it’s fit for publishing and promoting on your feed, and there’s no mechanism for verifying whether it’s the truth.

My wish for 2020 is that proponents of aversive training methods be relegated to the same category as anti-vaxxers, climate-change deniers, flat-earthers, or Holocaust deniers. Just look at the science, and it’s clear that their messages do not belong on the same footing as practices like ours which are evidence-based.

Do your own research, look into the credibility of the presenter, and where the evidence comes from – and do not assume that what appears on your social media feed is truth, because some of it is probably harmful or just plain incorrect.

Closed March 21 – 25, 2019 Inclusive

Thanks for visiting our web site!
No classes or orientations are scheduled from March 21  – 25 inclusive as the entire teaching staff at When Hounds Fly are at ClickerExpo in Washington, DC.

We look forward to bringing back what we learn to improve our students’ learning experiences.

Please note, any admission forms or applications will not be responded to until we’re back and running on Tuesday March 26th. So please be patient!

Ecovacs Deebot N79 and N79S – Red Light and Four Beeps Error

We own a total of three Ecovacs Deebot N79 / N79S robot vacuum cleaners and we use them daily at When Hounds Fly.

As a dog training school, upwards of 30 different dogs may come per day for classes. It’s a LOT of fur and dander and lint and sand and dust!

Despite this, our N79s were giving us great service for many months until suddenly they all started giving the “Red Auto Light / Four Beep” error.

They would run for about 2 minutes and suddenly stop dead in its tracks and give off the error.

Initially our research showed it was a battery issue. So, we spend weeks playing with charging dock positions, cleaning the charge contacts, etc. and nothing seemed to stick.

After a while I had a guess that it was due to hair/fur accumulation in the beater brush and after giving it a thorough cleaning, I was really happy to see the robots perform again good as new.

All it takes is removal of four tiny phillips screws (Update on 6/20/2019 – You don’t actually have to unscrew the clean that piece, it’s not critical), and a flathead screw driver to help with removing the front wheel. I shot a video of me cleaning one of our Deebot N79 vacuums for you to see.

Hope this helps and keeps your Deebot working for many years to come and out of the landfill!

*Update on 6/20/2019* – One of our three Deebots actually stopped working, even after thorough cleaning. I logged a ticket with Ecovacs support and after going through some basic troubleshooting, they authorized me to send it back for a warranty replacement. But, before going through that hassle, honestly, just try thoroughly cleaning your Deebot and you may be surprised!*

Going to Training Camp! Fenzi Dog Sports Academy 2018

Fenzi Dog Sports Academy

When Hounds Fly is closed from Thursday May 31 to Monday June 4 inclusive because most of us will be attending the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy Training Camp 2018 in Wilmington, Ohio!

We look forward to learning from the brightest minds in Dog Sports training from disciplines such as Agility, Obedience, Nosework, and Canine Freestyle.

We are never satisfied; always trying to level up 🙂

In the meantime, please note that we will generally NOT be checking emails or admissions forms, so please be patient and we’ll be getting back to your inquiries after June 4th.

In the meantime, this weekend, check out:

Dundas West Fest Saturday June 2

Pape Village SummerFest Saturday June 2

Is my dog playing, bullying, or fighting?

In our Puppy Socialization classes, one of the lessons we try to teach new puppy owners is how to recognize the signs of appropriate and healthy play between dogs.

On one hand, we have some owners that are “helicopter parents” and at the onset of anything more physical than polite sniffing, they feel like their dogs are in mortal danger.

On the otherhand, we have some owners who believe their dog who is bullying or over-aroused is just playing with good intentions, and we are being too uptight. “Let dogs be dogs, let them work it out”, they’d say.

As instructors, our job is to either help those who are worried feel safe that their dog is having a good time – yes that includes facial and ear nips and tumbling and wrestling.

Our job is also to identify when a dog is getting overaroused, or is *not* picking up on the cutoff (please stop!) signals of other dogs and to interrupt or time-out.

To help our students (and anyone, anywhere!) we commissioned Hyedie Hashimoto to create an infographic. Please download a copy and print it off for your dog training facility, dog daycare, dog park – wherever it might be useful!

PDF: whf_appropriateplay

PNG: whf_approriateplay

In Memory of Sandy

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Gary and Bill, past students of ours…

Hi Andre,

Back at the end of February 2017, you may recall, you came over to our house to help us with Sandy, whom we rescued in November. He was a terrified little guy – frightened of everything and everyone.

Sadly we lost our Sandy on Tuesday November 21st from his congestive heart failure. We are heart-broken … but Sandy left this world a very confident dog; his fears, for the most part, a thing of the past. No more barking at cars, noises, other dogs or people. In large part we have you to thank for this- for teaching us how best to help him.

As we now reflect on the final year of his life he spent with us, we wanted you to know how much we appreciated all your help and guidance with Sandy. And we know, Sandy thanks you too.

Woofs,
Gary, Bill & Joey

Gary and Bill adopted Sandy just a year ago at the ripe old age of 9 years. In the year they cared for him, they not only gave him a loving home but also the gift of confidence. He used to bark and lunge at any dog or person on the street. But thanks to their hard work and commitment to desensitization and counter-conditioning, by this past summer, Sandy was able to take classes with us and meet people and dogs at the school and in their neighbourhood.

Please consider not only adopting and rescuing your next dog, but also consider taking a second look at the older ones too. Of all the dogs in need of homes, they need our compassion the most. They often gave their unconditional love to their owners only to find themselves abandoned in their final years. So, like Gary and Bill, let’s help and make a senior dog’s final years the best ones.

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!

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