How to Select a Dog Walker, Daycare, Groomer

Dogs in Dog Walker Van

Choosing a walker, groomer, or daycare for your dog can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many options out there, and because these professions aren’t regulated, anyone could call themselves an expert. The wrong choice could be bad news for the safety and well-being of your dog. From a dog trainer’s perspective, behavioural issues can develop or worsen if the dog is regularly exposed to a daycare, grooming, or walking experience that is less than ideal.

Along with reading reviews and trusting your gut, it’s important to also screen potential dog care services with some questions. We’ve compiled a handy list here of some questions we think are important from a behavioural soundness point of view. Feel free to pick and choose the questions you feel are most important, or go ahead and ask them all!

What are your staffing ratios?

Tons of dogs per staff member means a higher chance of things getting out of control, and fewer hands on deck if there is ever an emergency. For dog walkers in Toronto, the maximum is 6 dogs at a time. For daycares, while it does depend on the facility and specific dogs, one person watching 20 dogs is going to be risky.

What are your temperament assessments like?

The doggie friends your dog is spending time with at daycare or on walks will have an effect on his/her behaviour at home. If temperament assessments aren’t thorough, or aren’t even done at all, you might want to cross them off the list. An appropriate temperament assessment would tell the staff about your dog’s behaviour around strangers, other dogs, and maybe other stressors (loud sounds, etc).

What kind of behaviour could get a dog ejected?

A dog’s dangerous behaviour should never be tolerated in a daycare or walk environment. If a dog is aggressive or constantly in a state of high arousal, they should be transferred to a more appropriate service. Daycares and walkers should have a specific set of guidelines that regulate when a dog is bumped out of group walks or playtime.

What would you do if…. What is your procedure when….

Some good situations to ask about would be medical emergencies (“do you have a first aid kit?”), dog fights, dog gets loose, and dog “misbehaving”. This last one is particularly important – make sure you check with staff about what kind of dog training they ascribe to. Aversive training techniques, such as leash pops and squirt bottles, can leave you with a dog displaying deep-seated behaviour issues. The only situation where these kinds of methods would be reasonable to use would be in a life-threatening situation (a serious dog fight, or a biting dog that won’t let go).

What kind of training do your staff members receive?

Appropriate staff training is essential. Depending on the service, this could include basic first aid, dog fight interruption, dog body language, and basic behaviour theory. Policies around safety precautions should also be common knowledge to all staff members. For dog walkers, this could include safety straps on leashes, locking carabiners, and double attachment points.

Can I visit your facility?

In the case of groomers and daycares, a clean and tidy facility is a good sign. For daycares, facilities should have enough space for the number of dogs they take on at any one time. Crowded facilities increase the risk of accidents. Dogs should also have appropriate spaces to withdraw from the action if they need to (ex, a crate). Fencing and crates should be secure and free of any sharp edges.

 

While this list is in no way exhaustive, it should give you a good idea of the aspects of service providers that may have an impact on your dog’s behavioural wellness. You may have to shop around a bit for the right fit, but I promise it’s worth it!

(Photo Credit: A Couple of Mutts Dog Walking)

 

About the Author:

Claire is an Associate Instructor with When Hounds Fly Dog Training in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in the dog training world since 2015 and has loved every second of it.

Claire is the founder of Scout Me A Dog, a consulting service dedicated specifically to helping potential dog owners on the breed selection, breeder selection, and purchasing process.

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, 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!

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!

When Can You Start Walking Your Dog Without a Leash?

A question we get a lot here at When Hounds Fly is “when can I start walking my dog off leash?”  It seems like it’s a goal for a lot of people – almost like a sign their dog is well trained, to be able to walk around the city without a leash on.  The answer we always give them?  Never.

We know they mean well, and they’re eager about training their dogs, and training them well, and we love seeing that effort.  But – for those of us living in Toronto (and all city folk) – never is the right answer.

Why is it so important to keep your dog on leash?  Let’s break it down.

What are the potential downsides to having your dog on a leash?

None.  Zip.  Zilch.  Your dog could care less; at least, assuming you’ve trained them to walk well on a leash.

What are the reasons to always have a leash on your dog?

  1. Safety.  You could have the best trained dog in the world, but you just never know.  What if your wonderful, smart dog just one time takes off after a squirrel or a cat and gets hit by a car?  Would you ever forgive yourself?  What if a car backfires and scares your dog, and your dog runs away?  It only takes one time, and no dog is perfect.
  2. In respect of other dogs.  One of the most common reasons we see clients for private lessons is because their dogs are leash reactive; ie. fearful, anxious, or aggressive towards other dogs while they are on leash.  One of the biggest complaints these clients have is that people let their off-leash dogs run up to their on-leash dogs, saying, “don’t worry, my dog is friendly!”  But the fact is, yours may be – but theirs isn’t.  Theirs is scared or aggressive.  And yours is at worst going to get injured (going back to the first point, safety) – potentially then developing their own fear or reactivity – or at best, will remain safe but set that reactive dog’s training that they’ve been working so hard on back.
  3. In respect of other people.  You love dogs.  That’s great; we do too.  But not everyone does.  Some people are scared of dogs, or have allergies, or have religious/cultural beliefs that mean that they don’t want to interact with your dog.  Letting your off leash dog charge up to them is incredibly insensitive.

 

City of Toronto Leash Dog In Public Poster

Leaving leashes off in non-designated areas is just plain selfish.  It might make you feel good and proud of how good your dog is, but your dog doesn’t care, and it is ultimately detrimental to everyone around you.  Want our city to be more dog friendly?  Be a good neighbour with your dog, and keep leashes on unless in off leash areas!

 

 

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