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.
Teaching assistant professional development continued this week. These committed dog trainers are going to be giving up 2 more Saturdays to share knowledge and ideas! . This past Saturday we had a very special guest who worked hard as a demo dog. Check our feed to learn more about her! . #trainlikethis #clickertraining #humansofWHF #dogtrainers
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…
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!!!