Changes to our Booking Policy Effective Monday, June 8, 9:00AM
We’re just five days into our post-lockdown re-opening journey, and we thank everyone for their patience regarding getting into our classes.
We’re navigating uncharted waters and learning as we go. And, we realize that while in principle the 3-hour booking window made sense – to keep people from feeling conflicted about coming to class even though they might be symptomatic or Covid-19 positive, and to allow us to short-notice cancel classes if one of us became symptomatic or positive, we realize now that it makes it very difficult for our students to plan their programs, and it actually makes it very difficult for us to forecast demand for classes and modules.
So, learning from this, we’re making the following changes to our Booking Policy. This change will come into effect on Monday, June 8, at 9:00AM, to give everyone, including us, time to get ready.
A “skeleton” class calendar will be published four weeks in advance at a time for all our locations and our Virtual Classes.
The booking window will be extended to 14 full days before the start of a class, allowing people to plan two weeks at a time.
As slots become full, we will backfill additional spots to meet the needs of our students, or possibly remove unfilled spots that are not in demand. So, check periodically as additional spots are added, or as people withdraw and change their bookings.
The cancellation window will be set at 24 hours. Cancellations must be performed via self-service by students using their own logins; we will not accept emails requesting us to cancel on your behalf.
If you are unable to attend class due to any reason, and it is greater than 24 hours before the commencement of your class, please remove yourself via self-service to free up spots for other students.
With less than 24 hours notice, you cannot withdraw or reschedule or get your credit back, with one exception: You become Covid-19 symptomatic, or it is discovered you have been exposed to Covid-19, we will return a class credit at no penalty if the following three conditions are met:
You notify us via email prior to the start of the class you were to attend (not after) that you are at risk of transmitting Covid-19
You supply documentation of test results at a Covid-19 testing centre
You use self-service and remove yourself from any other classes that you may have booked that fall within the recommended 14 day self-isolation period
We hope that these changes in policy to our booking and cancellation window help everyone get into their classes, make it easier for us to anticipate demand (and schedule accordingly), and also still keep our classroom environment safe during this pandemic.
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!
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 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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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!
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!*
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!
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Gary and Bill, past students of ours…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From 2016 onwards, I’ve been focusing my energies on personally developing talented people to help meet the needs of our community.
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.
A post shared by When Hounds Fly (@whenhoundsfly) on
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.
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…
A post shared by When Hounds Fly (@whenhoundsfly) on
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!!!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!