As we got ready to celebrate our 10th year in operations, our team got together to reflect on what we do, how we do it, and what’s important to us. We collaboratively defined a list of core values that we’d like to share for all to see, and hold us accountable to:
In our conduct, we strive to uphold the following values:
ABOVE ALL, POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
We believe Positive Reinforcement is the most effective way to change behaviour, therefore, it is core to our dog training curriculum, but also how we seek to change behaviour in our clients, ourselves, and each other.
ALWAYS LEVELLING UP
We endeavour to make every aspect of our company better tomorrow than it was today. That extends to our curriculum, our knowledge, our skills, our operations, and our facilities.
ELEVATE THE PROFESSION
We regard ourselves as professionals that conduct ourselves with honesty, integrity, and autonomy. We aim to raise the bar by which the community at-large regards the dog training profession.
ALL FOR ONE, ONE FOR ALL
We believe that we are stronger and better together as a team, than individuals. We endeavour to strengthen our bonds as a team.
Our work should be enjoyable and we should always try to have fun in our work both in the classroom, with our clients 1-on-1, and working (and playing!) with each other.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
To meet our promises to our clients and each other, we invest in lifestyle choices that promote health and wellness.
We welcome all people to be their authentic selves both in our classroom and on our team. This includes, but is not limited to, welcoming people of all age, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, race, or place of origin.
IF YOU CAN CLICKER TRAIN IT, DON’T EAT IT
We believe that humane training is just as important as a healthy diet, physical exercise, a loving home, and veterinary care. Our commitment to animal welfare extends to the treatment of other species, which is why many of our staff and volunteers are vegetarian or vegan.
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:
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.
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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…
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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!
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.
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.
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.
Want to know more about how your dog thinks and learns? The Canine Cognition Lab at the University of Toronto (part of the Psychology department’s Computational Cognitive Development Lab) is looking for pet dogs and their owners to participate in fun studies examining what dogs understand about the physical and the social world.
We will be running some of our studies at When Hounds Fly on April 3, 10, 24 and May 1 2016, scheduling sessions between the hours of 3 – 8pm. Single-time participation and multi-day participation opportunities are available.
All of our research takes the form of short, interactive games that are designed to be fun and engaging for dogs, such as interacting with puzzles and searching for treats. We record dogs’ actions and the choices they make in these tasks to learn more about what information they use to make decisions and solve problems.
To be eligible to participate your dog must:
1. be up to date on rabies vaccinations
2. be generally healthy at the time of participation
3. not have a record of aggression towards humans
For more information, or to sign your dog up to participate, email us on email@example.com, or call us at 416-946-3981.
We hope to meet you and your dog soon!
Canine Cognition Lab Research Team
Department of Psychology
University of Toronto