Why Board And Train Programs Are So Effective

Board And Train North York Toronto

Are you considering a “board and train” program for your puppy or dog?

These programs are a powerful way to boost your dog’s training progress. Spending one-on-one time with a professional trainer in a new environment is very different than going to the occasional training class or working with your dog at home.

Many bad habits persist at home because it can be so hard to break the cycle.

The more your dog practices a behaviour, especially if they find it enjoyable and easy to get away with, the more it will continue. Sometimes, the best way to break the cycle is to take your dog away from the temptations and routine of their home environment. At a board and train program, they’ll be supervised and surrounded with people and other dogs that will lead by example.

How Your Trainer Can Help

A good dog trainer is well-versed in dog behaviour. Board-and-train gives your trainer a chance to observe your dog’s behaviour and understand not only what your dog is doing, but why. Your trainer can get to the root of the problem and help you make long-term plans to work on it.

You should feel comfortable asking your trainer questions. Make sure they are willing to send you photos and updates each day – you’ll be sure to miss your pup! Your dog should be sent home with instructions on how to continue to enforce good behaviours that they’ve learned. Board-and-train is not magic – it’s highly effective, but only if you continue to follow your trainer’s techniques when you get your dog back.

Skills Taught In Board And Train Programs

Board and train programs are ideal for dogs and puppies that need to learn basic manners, like potty training, loose leash walking and learning not to be destructive.

Here are some of the most popular types of board-and-train programs:

Board and train for puppies

If possible, start planning your puppy’s board and train program as soon as you bring them home. The first few months of your puppy’s life are the best time for socialization. Your puppy will be able to quickly adjust to spending time in another home, which is particularly useful if your trainer may also board your dog in the future. Puppies can also pick up good habits from resident dogs – this can speed up potty training because when your puppy sees older dogs going outside for a potty break, they will follow their lead. Check out Puppy Potty Camp from Healthy Houndz for puppies in North York and Toronto.

Loose leash walking

You don’t need any fancy harnesses or harmful equipment to teach your dog to walk calmly on the leash, though a Halti or front-clip harness can help guide your dog without hurting them. The key is to communicate with your dog through verbal and nonverbal cues. Dogs don’t automatically realize they need to focus on us, not just the environment, when we’re out on walks. Having your dog learn to walk correctly at a board-and-train program allows your trainer to teach your dog to listen for cues while they enjoy the walk. Once your dog learns these cues, your trainer can teach you to use your words and your body language to direct your dog without tugging or pulling.

Destructive behaviour

If your dog goes through the trash, chews up shoes or otherwise messes up your home, your first course of action should be to put away tempting items and keep your dog confined with a gate or crate when you cannot supervise them. At the same time, you can teach your dog to be less destructive by directing them to an appropriate toy when they feel like chewing. A board-and-train program takes your dog puts them in a safe, temptation-free environment where they won’t be able to practice this bad habit.

Separation anxiety

Your dog will learn that they can be happy while spending time away from you. For dogs with severe separation anxiety, it can take a bit longer for them to adjust, but they will have the mental stimulation and support they need to get through it.

Board And Train With Healthy Houndz!

One of the potential downsides of board-and-train programs is that some trainers use punishment-based training that can be more harsh when you’re not around. Always board-and-train with a trainer that understands behavioural science and uses rewards to teach your dog – instead of masking the problem by hurting or scaring your dog. Healthy Houndz offers positive board-and-train programs for dogs and puppies in Toronto and North York, plus training sessions and other professional dog services. Contact us today!

What It Really Means To Socialize Your Puppy

What It Really Means To Socialize Your Puppy

When you first get your puppy, everyone from your vet to your grandma is going to tell you, “you need to socialize that puppy while they are little!”

This common advice is accurate, though incomplete. Socializing a puppy doesn’t mean the same thing for every dog owner. It definitely does not mean that you have to encourage your puppy to interact with everyone you see.

Consider how you would like your puppy to behave when they are fully grown. Do you want a dog that is able to focus on you in any environment, unafraid of children, loud noises and tall strangers in hats? Or do you actually want a dog that is truly friendly and runs up to every other human and dog that they see?

If it’s your priority to have a dog that is well-behaved everywhere they go, you’ll want the former. If you plan on doing therapy dog volunteer work, you’ll want the latter.

How To Socialize Your Puppy

Minimally, you should expose your puppy to many different environments with varied sounds, scents, other animals and other people and work on basic cues wherever you go.

If you’d like, you can encourage your puppy to greet people and dogs, but it’s more important for you to be your puppy’s advocate and allow them to make choices. If a child is being rough with them, for example, you should supervise, intervene, and make sure your puppy has enough space to move away when they feel overwhelmed.

This is especially true when introducing your puppy to other dogs. While you may feel less in control of off-leash introductions, having your puppy greet other dogs face-to-face while on-leash can make both dogs feel trapped, which can lead to a fight. If you decide to allow your puppy to greet dogs on-leash, keep interactions very brief, praise your puppy, and then move along.

You may want to teach your puppy to focus on you and wait for permission before running up to people or other dogs. Some dogs may be in training, and some people have allergies – no matter how cute your puppy is, not everyone is going to want to interact with them. Always ask before approaching, just to be safe.

Socializing Your Puppy Before They Have All Their Shots

Puppies go through critical fear periods during which potentially scary situations can have a powerful impact on the rest of their life.

During critical fear periods, your puppy may react unpredictably to different stimuli. One day, they might happily play with your neighbor’s toddler, and the next, they might be terrified of them.

An unpleasant interaction – for example, the child pulling on your puppy’s ears – can lead to a lifelong fear of children. That’s why it’s so important to carefully manage interactions in your dog’s puppyhood to make sure they’re as fun and pleasant as possible.

There are two critical fear periods – the first occurs around 7-12 weeks of age, and the second occurs around 6 to 14 months. The first will occur before your puppy has had all of their core vaccinations, so you may want to begin carefully socializing them around that time.

Your puppy’s core vaccines will typically include parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis and rabies. Distemper and parvovirus are especially common in young puppies that are not completely vaccinated. Your puppy can pick up diseases through contact with saliva, blood, urine and feces. Distemper can be spread through a cough or a sneeze from an infected dog.

Avoid public areas like parks, pet stores, hiking trails and sidewalks until your puppy is fully vaccinated. Even if there are no other dogs present, your puppy may play with a stick that an infected dog has chewed, or putter around infected urine or feces and later lick their paws.

It’s typically safe to let your puppy play on your own property if it is not frequented by strange dogs or wild animals. Parvovirus can survive for up to a year on many surfaces, so take extra care if you have had a dog with the virus in the past. You can also have play-dates with friendly, temperamentally stable dogs that have had all of their vaccines.

Take extra care if you volunteer at a shelter or work around dogs. It is possible for you to harbor pathogens on your shoes or clothing. While you can safely socialize your puppy around people, you may want to have them at least take off their shoes before entering your home.

Is The Dog Park A Good Place To Socialize My Puppy?

Many trainers, behaviourists and veterinarians would advise that you stay away from dog parks entirely. Dogs have died from being attacked at dog parks. Dogs can also pick up diseases – some strains that may not be included in your dog’s vaccines – from playing with toys or coming in contact with urine or feces.

That said, if you really want to take your dog to the dog park, you can lessen the risk that your puppy will get hurt or sick. Aim to go when few other people are there. Don’t let your puppy play with toys that other dogs have used. Get to know the other owners and make sure they are watchful and responsible. Keep an eye on your puppy at all times and intervene if either dog shows any signs of fearfulness or aggression.

Socializing With Doggy Daycare & Boarding

One of the best ways for your dog to make friends is at daycare or overnight boarding. Dogs are only grouped together if they are friendly and sociable, and should be supervised by someone who is well-versed in body language so they can intervene before any problems arise.

Board-and-train programs with Healthy Houndz in North York and Toronto are an excellent way to give your puppy a leg-up on potty training and basic manners while they spend time with other dogs. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you raise your puppy to be happy, confident and well-mannered.

How To Stop Your Dog From Jumping On People

How To Train Your Dog To Stop Jumping On People

Does your dog love people a little too much?

Overly enthusiastic greetings can be cute at first, but it can be annoying, embarrassing, or even dangerous when your dog jumps on everyone, getting muddy pawprints on nice clothes, snagging their nails on ladies’ tights, and knocking over small children.

Dogs just want to be close to us. They jump so they can be on our level, at optimal height for sniffing faces and giving kisses.

You can teach your dog to politely greet people – without breaking their over-exuberant spirit.

How You Could Be Making This Problem Worse

When your dog jumps on you, your first instinct might be to push them back onto the floor, or block them with your knee. Or, if your dog is jumping on your guest, you might pull back on the leash.

Physically moving your dog to the floor can feel a lot like wrestling to your dog. In a hyper-excited state, they’re not understanding “oh, I shouldn’t be jumping”.  Instead, they’re thinking, “this is a fun game”!

That’s why your dog will continue to jump every time they greet someone, rather than sitting politely. Instead of giving them the chance to jump and then pushing them down, you’ll want to prevent the jump from ever happening. The best way to do this is to teach your dog an alternate behaviour – most likely, to sit politely and wait to receive attention.

Using Attention As A Reward

While treats are an effective way to change habits and teach new behaviours, food isn’t necessary when training your dog to sit when greeting people. That’s because you already have a powerful reward at your disposal: attention!

First, you’ll need to teach your dog how to “sit”. This is easily done by luring your dog into the sitting position by holding a treat over their head. Then, add a verbal cue – “sit!” and a hand signal – raise your hand from your side, palm facing upwards.

You might need to use a baby gate or other barrier to keep your dog from rushing up and jumping on you when you get home. There is no need to greet your dog the moment you walk in. Take your time putting down your bags and taking off your shoes. When your dog has calmed down, you can ask them to sit. Once they do, reward them by stooping down to their level and giving them plenty of love.

If you’re expecting guests, leash your dog so they will not have a chance to jump. Put them in a comfortable harness, not a collar that could injure their throat if they do try to jump. Painful collar pops and other physical punishments can actually create a negative association with guests, turning a friendly dog into a fearful one. You don’t want to hurt your dog; you just want to keep them under control until they are calm.

Welcome your guests into your home and let them settle in. Once they do, and they have expressed that they want to greet your dog, allow your dog to walk up to them. Ask your guests not to pet the dog until they sit.

You’ll need some practice before the lesson truly sticks. If your dog jumps on you, simply turn away and do not make eye contact. Avoid engaging with them until all four paws are on the floor. At first, you’ll need to use your “sit” cues. Over time, wait longer and longer before telling your dog to sit. You’ll start to notice that your dog will begin to sit automatically without needing to be told to do it. Affection is a powerful motivator, so your dog will do anything to earn it.

Teaching Your Dog To Leave People Alone

As adorable as your dog is, not everyone is going to walk to greet them. Some people have allergies; some do not like getting fur on their clothes. At times, you may be in a rush and may not want to greet everyone you meet on your walk.

Practice leave it with your dog every time you go for a walk. It’s not just for morsels of food. Your dog can learn to walk past a squirrel, a person, and other dogs. Practice teaching your dog to return their focus on you during walks, no matter what distractions are around. If you play plenty of training games when you’re on walks, your dog will find it easier to focus on you anytime, anywhere.

Get Help With Teaching Your Dog Not To Jump On People And Other Manners

Healthy Houndz is proud to offer positive reinforcement based dog training in Toronto and North York. We not only help you control problem behaviours and teach new skills, but actually understand what your dog is thinking so you can build an even more powerful bond. Contact us today!

Kids And Dogs – How To Prevent Dog Bites

Dog Bite Prevention: How To Keep Kids Safe Around Dogs

When you love dogs, it’s heartwarming to see your kids grow up with a beloved family dog of their own. For some families, the dog is just another son or daughter. We must remember however, that dogs are animals, and all of them, even the sweetest, most tolerant ones, will bite if they feel scared.

A dog bite, even when it’s just a nip, can cause a lifelong fear of dogs. At their worst, dog attacks can be fatal to children. Mild to severe dog bites can lead to the dog being euthanized.

Fortunately, dog bites are usually preventable. By respecting our dogs’ needs and teaching our children to be gentle, kids and dogs can grow up to be best friends with no bite incidents.

Why Dogs Bite Kids

Children love to hug and kiss their family members, and do not understand that dogs can be startled when kids approach them from behind, run up to them, squeeze their neck and get up in their face. We cannot expect young children to fully understand why their displays of affection are not always welcome.

Kids also find it difficult to read a dog’s body language. It’s easier for us to identify a strained facial expression, pinned ears and avoidance of eye contact.

Statistics show 32% of dog bite that happen to children cause trauma to the head, face and neck. It’s not uncommon for it to be a dog that the parents believe to be “good with kids.” Even if your dog normally tolerates hugs and kisses, there  may be times when they are tired or in pain – causing them to snap.

The Myth Of The Nanny Dog

It’s true that pitbull-type dogs have an undeserved bad reputation. It’s not true that they have jaws that lock, or that their bite force is extraordinarily powerful. However, it’s crucial that you understand that they are not nanny dogs. In the past few years, a myth has circulated through articles and memes claiming that Staffordshire Terriers were once used as “nanny dogs” in 19th century England. There’s no evidence that this is true.

While any dog can snap at a child, large, powerful dogs can do more damage in a single bite. That said, a small terrier mix once killed a three-week-old baby. Even small dogs can inflict a lot of damage in a split-second.

There’s no such thing as a “nanny dog”. No dog should be left alone with a child, or forced to tolerate tail pulling, screaming or grabbing. Every child is different. Some could be trusted to be alone with a dog by the time they are ten years old; other kids will take even longer to reliably respect a dog.

Rules Every Kid Should Know

  • Never approach a dog while they are eating. Even if a dog has shown no signs of resource guarding, your kids should be taught to give all animals space while they eat.
  • Never approach a dog while they are sleeping. Dogs can snap if startled awake.
  • No hugging or kissing. Pet the dog on their back and chest, not on the head.
  • Never lean on or ride the dog. Dogs have suffered fatal back injuries after children have been allowed to ride on them like a horse.
  • Do not play games that encourage nipping or chasing. Teach your kids to play with toys to keep the dog from nipping at their hands during play. Kids should not grab a toy while the dog is playing with it.
  • Always ask before petting a stranger’s dog. Never approach a stray dog, and stay away from chained dogs as they tend to lash out aggressively because they may feel cornered and unable to escape.
  • No screaming or running around the dog. Some dogs will chase and knock down children that behave like squealing creatures of prey. Instruct your kids to stop, stand still and “be a tree” if they’re scared of a dog or being chased.
  • Do not attempt to punish the dog. Teach your kids to find an adult if the dog is eating something harmful, stealing their toys or otherwise “misbehaving”.
  • Learn dog body language, and walk away if the dog growls or seems fearful. There are some great resources for this at

Finding The Right Dog For Your Family

A dog with a friendly, easy-going temperament is a good match for you and your kids. Remember, a dog’s temperament develops through genetics, past experiences and training. Be extra wary of shelter dogs that may have been abused, or may have a genetic predisposition to being fearful of children. It’s best to adopt a puppy that you can socialize and teach to play safely with your children, or an adult dog that has a history of being a good family dog.

Unfortunately, not every dog can be trained to be good with your kids. Dogs with resource guarding issues, those that jump on kids or otherwise have harmful habits can often be trained, but training and management can take a while. There’s no “quick fix” that will make your dog a perfect citizen overnight. If your dog poses a danger to your family, you’ll have to be willing to put your human kids first.

Get Your Kids Involved In Dog Training

Dog training is a wonderful way for your kid to learn about your dog’s body language and teach them to interact without kissing and hugging. It can even become a lifelong passion. Contact Healthy Houndz today to find out how we can help you and your family set your dog up for success.

How To Make Your Dog A Therapy Dog

How To Make Your Dog A Visiting Therapy Dog

Does your dog bring you joy every day?

As a therapy dog team, you can share that joy with people who need it most.

A therapy dog visits nursing homes, hospitals, schools and universities to bring comfort to people who are lonely, ill, or going through a stressful time.

What Exactly IS A Therapy Dog?

It’s important that you understand what a therapy dog does, and what they are allowed to do. A therapy dog is usually a member of a therapy animal association and makes group visits, though you may be able to get special permission to make solo trips from your favourite facilities.

Therapy dogs are not allowed in stores or restaurants, nor do they have any special rights regarding housing or travel. Only service dogs, who help their disabled handler navigate through public areas, are allowed in areas that normally do not permit pets.

Emotional support animals (ESAs) only provide comfort to their handler, usually someone with mental conditions like anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder or depression. An ESA is allowed to live in any rented residence, and their handler does not have to pay a pet fee. They are also allowed to fly on planes for free.

Differences Between A Therapy Dog, A Service Dog And An Emotional Support Dog

Is Your Dog A Good Therapy Dog Candidate?

Not every dog can be a therapy dog. It’s a matter of compatibility. If your dog loves attention from strangers, they’ll love therapy work.

Generally, dogs do not like when random people hug and kiss them. Even a good dog may growl or even bite if they are in close contact with someone they do not trust. It’s vitally important that you only prepare your dog for therapy work if they truly love people.

Respect Your Dog’s Needs

Just because a dog is friendly, does not mean they can be expected to tolerate disrespect or abuse from the people they visit. When your dog becomes a therapy dog, you become a therapy animal handler. That means you’re their advocate.

When you’re around children, it’s your job to teach them to respect animals. Do not allow kids to ride your dog like a horse, lean on them, pet them while they’re eating, or run up and hug them. Instruct kids to speak softly, take turns, and gently stroke the dog’s back or chest. Even if your dog is incredibly tolerant, it is important that kids learn how to be polite around animals because the next dog they see might not be so tolerant.

Even the older people you visit may need to be reminded to be kind to your dog. Also, make sure your dog has plenty of space to walk away from any situation that makes them uncomfortable.

Essential Skills For Therapy Dogs

Your therapy dog should be well-socialized. This is easiest if you are able to start socializing them as a puppy. Socialization isn’t just about meeting lots of people, it’s also about teaching your dog to stay calm in many different environments. Introduce your dog to people in hats, tall people, short people, and people of different ages and ethnicities.

Walk your dog in loud and quiet areas, and wherever pets are permitted. Some public places like hardware stores and restaurant patios allow dogs, but you should always ask the manager before you bring your dog. Give your dog a treat whenever they experience something new or potentially scary to help them build positive associations and make sure they can focus on you no matter where you go.

Your dog should know basic cues like sit, stay and come. Work with a professional dog trainer to make sure your dog is fluent in these skills, and will respond to you even around distractions.

Some therapy dog programs require that your dog pass the Canine Good Neighbour test. Even if it’s not required, it’s an achievement that you can be proud of, and proof that you have a very, very good dog.

Other Requirements For Therapy Dog Teams

You may want to bathe your dog before therapy visits, especially if you’ll be visiting patients who may have a compromised immune system. Clip their nails and round them off with a nail file or nail grinding tool.

Some therapy dog programs do not allow raw-fed dogs because they feel that pathogens may affect some patients. If this is the case, you may want to switch to a dehydrated or freeze-dried diet. If you’re permitted to work with a raw-fed dog, make sure to feed them at least 30 minutes before you arrive, and wipe their mouth and paws.

Some programs require your dog to be a year old before they can start working. During puppyhood, your dog may experience what we call critical fear periods. Your puppy’s personality is still developing during the first year. They may be deeply affected by inevitable accidents like a child stepping on their tail, and could develop a lifelong fear of children that way.

Therapy Dog Program Websites

Visit the program website and speak with the program manager to learn if you and your dog are a good fit.

Pet Partners

Caring Canine Toronto

Therapeutic Paws Of Canada

St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs

Socializing Done Right

If you don’t know how to do it properly, your efforts to socialize your dog could actually create near fears. Never use treats to lure your dog into an uncomfortable situation. Socialize them at their own pace, or you could do more harm than good. If you need any help building foundational skills or socializing your prospective therapy dog in Toronto or North York, contact Healthy Houndz.

High-Value Dog Treat Ideas That Won’t Make Your Dog Gain Weight

Healthy, High Value Dog Treats That Won't Make Your Dog Gain Weight #positivetraining #dogtreatrecipes

Dogs love to learn, but that’s not enough to motivate them to develop new skills and break bad habits.

Tasty, highly motivating tidbits, or “high value treats,” are absolutely essential to rewarding your dog for their efforts. In fact, food has been shown to elicit a powerful, positive emotional response – meaning it actually makes your dog happier while you’re training; it can even change the way your dog feels about a scary situation when you use treats to modify fear-based behaviours.

On the other paw, varied sources tell us that between 40 percent and 60 percent of dogs are overweight. Weight is distributed differently on dogs than on humans, and we’re used to seeing dogs that are overweight, so it can be hard for us to gauge when our own animals need help slimming down. Their short lifespan means that they are more quickly affected by weight-related chronic illnesses like diabetes and kidney disease, so it’s vitally important that your high value treats are not putting your dog’s health at risk.

Fortunately, you really can offer your dog high-value treats they love that won’t make them gain too much weight.

What Makes A Treat Unhealthy?

Dogs are easily able to metabolize animal proteins and fats for energy. Though they can digest carbohydrates, carbs are more likely to be the culprit of weight gain. So, it’s best to give your dog single-ingredient, meat-based treats whenever possible.

If your dog eats dry kibble, they’re taking in a lot of carbohydrates already, so you will want to steer clear of cookie-type treats made with flour, lentils, peas, rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes. If your dog eats a fresh, raw diet, it’s not such a big deal if they consume treats that contain starch. That said, most dogs prefer meaty treats over dry biscuits.

Try These Healthy Training Treat Ideas

Making your own dehydrated dog treats is the most cost-effective way to get healthy, single-ingredient rewards that your dog won’t be able to resist. A dehydrator can be purchased for as little as $30, and will save you a ton of money in the long run.

Lean meats are best for dehydrating, as fat tends to make jerky go bad faster. Try dehydrating strips of chicken or turkey breast. Flank steak is popular for making jerky, though London broil is just as good, and much cheaper. You can also roll ground meat into bite-sized meatballs and then dehydrate them.

If you only have a few minutes before your training session, you can use boiled chicken breast, scrambled egg, or even cooked salmon. These treats can be stored in the fridge for up to four days.

Prefer to buy your treats? Look for as few ingredients as possible, with meat at the top of the ingredients list. Meaty treats are more expensive because they do not contain cheap fillers like corn, wheat, rice, peas or lentils, but a little goes a long way. Freeze-dried liver is one of the most popular single-ingredient treats, but it’s high in Vitamin A, which can build up in your dog’s liver and cause joint damage. To be safe, vary it up with other treats.

Watch out for jerky that is made overseas, as regulations may not be as strict. Thousands of dogs have gotten sick from chicken jerky made in China before those products were ever recalled.

Do Fruits And Veggies Make Good Training Treats?

Some dogs go nuts for fruits and veggies, but they’re typically not considered high-value treats. Starchy veggies like peas, carrots and sweet potatoes are okay in moderation, but they can make your dog gain weight. Most fruits and veggies are difficult for dogs to digest, and will show up unchanged in their poop the next day. They’re easier to digest if steamed or pureed.

Kale is a superfood that contains a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, can fight inflammation, and may even prevent cancer, but it’s bitter. You can crisp it up into kale chips in your dehydrator, microwave or oven, but you may need to add a small amount of bacon grease or coconut oil to make it truly high-value.

Remember, it’s only high-value if your dog loves it. Your training treats should stand a chance at getting your dog’s attention over a squirrel.

How Big Should Your Training Treats Be?

The smaller your training treats, the longer you can train. However, a treat the size of a grain of rice may be acceptable for a Chihuahua, not a Great Dane. Big treats are absolutely more motivating than tiny ones.

We recommend making your training treats small so you can give your dog a JACKPOT of 3-5 treats when they’ve done an especially good job – for example, recalled even though a rabbit hopped across the yard.

You don’t have to give your dog a treat every time they do something right. Varying up your rewards will keep your dog’s attention better than giving them the same reward each time. Sometimes, you can just say, “Good!” and scratch them behind the ear. Then you can sometimes give them a jackpot of 5 treats in a row. Keep your dog on their toes, and you’ll be sure to hold their attention.

There’s So Much To Learn With Healthy Houndz!

Healthy, delicious treats are just one component of a powerful training program.

Whether you want to train your dog for competitions, or just want them to go potty outside, you can work with us to learn about timing and communication to set your dog up for success.

We work with dogs and their families in Toronto and North York.

Contact Healthy Houndz to get started today!

3 Core Dog Training Techniques – Luring, Capturing And Shaping

Difference Between Luring Capturing Shaping

Though your dog may take five minutes to find a piece of ham that landed on their head, they possess a truly sophisticated mind, capable of learning an incredibly wide range of skills.

Your dog can learn almost any trick, so long as they are physically capable, motivated with a reward, and you communicate clearly by using the right training technique for the task. Most tricks can be taught with one of three core dog training techniques: luring, capturing or shaping.

What Is “Luring”?

Luring is when you guide your dog by holding a treat in front of their nose. The most effective way to use luring is to use the food lure to steer the dog into the desired position for the first few attempts, then transition the luring motion into a hand signal, and then add a verbal cue.

It’s important to fade out the food lure as soon as you can, or the dog will only perform the behaviour when they have a treat in front of their nose.

Luring is probably the most popular dog training technique. Beginner dog trainers may depend on it heavily, while advanced dog trainers aim to avoid it when possible.

You’ll typically use luring to teach “sit,” and “down,” and to teach your dog to use agility equipment like weave poles and ramps.

Luring is similar to targeting, in which you would teach your dog to follow your hand or a target stick. With targeting, the food only appears after the performed behaviour. As with a clicker, a target is only used while teaching a new trick.

What Is “Capturing”?

Capturing is when you teach your dog to perform a natural behaviour on cue. You simply wait for your dog to perform the behaviour without any prompting or guidance from you, and mark and reward them immediately afterwards.

For example, maybe you love the way your dog stretches after a nap, and want them to do on the cue, “stretch!”

You’ll keep a few treats on hand and wait for your dog to stretch. As soon as they do, you’ll mark the behaviour by clicking with your clicker (or using a verbal marker like, “Yes!” or “Good!”) then give them a treat.

When you consistently reward a behaviour, your dog will perform it more often. When you notice your dog is stretching in front of you to get the treat, you can start to add a hand signal and/or your verbal cue.

Capturing only works with behaviours that your dog does on their own. You can “capture” your dog when they sit, yawn, stretch, scratch, tilt their head, bark or sneeze. It’s best to start with a super simple, common behaviour to help your dog understand that they’ll be rewarded when they perform a behaviour that you like.

What Is “Shaping”?

Shaping is when you break down a behaviour into easily achievable steps, and reward your dog for making small steps towards the desired end result.

For example, let’s say you want to teach your dog to step inside a box. You would put the box on the floor and reward your dog just for going near it. Upon receiving an easily earned reward, your dog will be motivated to receive another. You’d raise the bar for the next treat by waiting for your dog to put one paw inside the box. Then, you’d hold onto the treat until your dog puts two paws in the box.

With shaping, your dog is able to make progress at their own pace. A common mistake people make with luring is using food to make their dog move out of their comfort zone too quickly. If you were to use a treat to guide the dog into the box before they have had time to feel comfortable stepping into it, they could become stressed and may even become afraid of the box.

Shaping does not always have to have a concrete end goal. You can also use it to work with your dog to develop new tricks. Let your dog get creative by rewarding them for any interesting behaviours that they may offer.

Shaping is an advanced dog training technique that requires excellent timing and observational skills. Do it incorrectly, and your dog will get frustrated and confused. It’s crucial that you reward tiny steps towards the end goal, and reward at frequent intervals, while giving your dog enough time to use their brain. It helps to watch videos and work with a trainer, in-person, to develop a knack for timing, and learn to understand your dog’s body language so they are always excited to work, rather than frustrated.

Let’s Reach Your Training Goals!

Learning about the different core dog training techniques is just the first step. Now, you’re ready to make a plan to reach your goals, and use what you’ve learned to develop your dog’s skills. Your relationship with your dog, their physical and mental abilities, and your ability to communicate with them will determine how you can best use these techniques.

An experienced, positive reinforcement dog trainer is your best resource for assessing your dog’s skills, avoiding frustration, and making training enjoyable for you and your dog every step of the way.

Contact Healthy Houndz to find out how we can help you and your dog reach your goals and beyond – whether you want to train your dog for agility or obedience trials, nosework, or just a few clever tricks to challenge their mind.

Teach your dog ANYTHING with these three core #positivetraining techniques: luring, capturing and shaping.

Great Places To Take Your Dog In Toronto

Dog Friendly Parks And Restaurants In #Toronto

Are you and your dog new to Toronto, or just looking for new ways to get out of the house?

Most businesses do not allow pets, but there are still plenty of ways you can expose your dog to new environments while working on training and making memories.

Here are some wonderful new experiences your dog can have in the Toronto area:

Daycare and Boarding

Healthy Houndz offers kennel-free dog boarding for dogs who love to play. Next time you go out of town without your dog, they’ll love staying with us and making new friends. We also offer doggie daycare and positive reinforcement based board-and-train programs so your dog can learn new skills in a fun, positive atmosphere. Contact us to learn more.

Dog-Friendly Parks In Toronto

Most parks allow leashed dogs, and a few have off-leash areas where dogs can run free. Only a  few National Parks and wildlife refuges prohibit dogs; this is in order to keep their native wildlife safe. Here are some of the most popular dog-friendly parks around Toronto.

Norwood Park is completely fenced in, perfect for dogs who play well with others.

16 Norwood Rd, Toronto, ON, CA

Silverwood Park is a dog beach, perfect for dogs who love to dig in the sand or swim in the water.

14 Silverbirch Ave, Toronto, ON, CA

Earl Bales Dog Park has a huge fenced-in area, along with trails. Make sure to follow signs and only let your dog off-leash in designated zones.

4169 Bathurst St, Toronto, ON, CA

Dog-Friendly Toronto Restaurants

Dogs are not permitted inside most restaurants due to health codes; they can’t risk getting dog hair in the food. Restaurants with outdoor seating typically allow leashed, well-behaved pets. Your dog should calmly sit or lie down under the table or at your feet. Patios can be a bit cramped, so you’ll need to be considerate and keep your dog from getting underfoot. Do not allow your dog to beg for food or attention from other customers, and make sure they are not in the way of servers carrying plates of food.

Red Rocket Coffee is a small coffee shop at the corner of Homewood Avenue and Wellesley Street offering hot and cold drinks, scones and decadent desserts. Doggy guests are welcome to sit outside on the patio with their owners, and may be offered a treat.

154 Wellesley Street E Toronto, ON

Carmelina is a Mediterranean restaurant serving up exquisite pizzas, pastas and steaks, with an extensive wine list. They have a large, shady outdoor seating area that welcomes furry diners.

7501 Woodbine Avenue, Markham, ON

Belsize Public House has a large outdoor patio and serves up hearty dishes and craft ales and beers from local Ontario craft brewers.

535 Mt Pleasant Road, Toronto, ON

Foggy Dew Irish Pub & Restaurant serves traditional Irish cuisine, pub fare, cocktails, beer and wine. It’s also a great spot to grab brunch with your dog. Doggy guests are welcome on the outdoor patio and may be offered a slice of bacon or a treat.

803 King St. W. Toronto, ON

Finding New Places To Explore

There are so many places to take your dog around Toronto – too many to list here! All walkable city and downtown areas, plus many farmers markets and fairs are great for dogs when the weather is mild. Some of your favorite stores might allow you to visit with your dog if you just ask. As long as you keep your dog close to you, and they don’t mind extra attention, they’ll make a great companion when you’re out and about.

How To Find The Right Veterinarian

How To Find The Right Vet For Your Dog

Looking for a vet you can trust for the best preventative care and innovative treatment? 

There’s so many clinics to choose from. You might have to try out a few before you find “the one.”

Keep in mind that you may need multiple vets: a traditional vet, a holistic vet, and an emergency 24/7 vet.

Here are the questions you should ask at your introductory visit.

Can I call, text or email you with questions?

If you have a quick question, you should not have to go to your vet’s office for a visit, especially if the issue is not urgent.

You should feel comfortable asking questions. If your vet rushes through your office visits and does not seem willing to discuss issues at length, Most importantly, your vet, vet techs and office staff should be friendly and make you feel at ease. When you’re stressed, your dog will notice, and that will make vet visits much scarier for them.

What if my dog needs expensive, life-saving treatment?

Emergency surgery can cost thousands of dollars. Chronic illnesses like diabetes and kidney disease can rack up huge vet bills. Hopefully, you will never have to hesitate to say “yes” to your dog’s treatment because you have no idea where you would get the money.

Most veterinarians take Care credit and pet insurance. They may also offer payment plans. Your vet will be happy to recommend pet insurance plans and answer your questions about financing large bills.

What is the best diet for my dog?

Most traditional veterinarians only trust a few dog food brands like Science Diet and Royal Canin. Many will tell you to only feed commercial dog food and treats and will completely discourage feeding any kind of fresh food.

Dogs, like all animals, thrive on fresh, whole foods, not a processed diet. If you choose to feed your dog a completely raw diet, you will need a holistic vet to help you formulate a diet plan that fulfills all of your dog’s nutritional needs.

If you would rather feed commercial kibble or canned food, your dog can still benefit from fresh meat, fish, eggs and produce. You won’t necessarily need to go to a holistic veterinarian. But a good traditional vet will be able to help you decide which fresh foods to add to your dog’s diet. Steer clear of vets that tell you that all fresh food is forbidden “people food.”

Diet plays a huge role in your dog’s health. It can prevent or even treat some medical issues. While more research is needed to prove the benefits of some ingredients, there’s usually no harm in adding them to your dog’s diet.

Ask your vet if you can add meat, fish and veggies to your dog’s bowl or use them as snacks and treats. If they seem knowledgable about the importance of fresh nutrition, you’ll be able to depend on them to help you make healthy choices for your dog.

Can you help me decide which vaccines my dog needs?

Your vet can help you decide which vaccines your dog needs and how often to vaccinate, factoring in your dog’s age, health, lifestyle, and which diseases that are prevalent in your area.

Generally speaking, vaccinations are effective at preventing life-threatening diseases. You should get your dog vaccinated when the risk of contracting the disease is greater than the small risk of adverse side effects.

In Toronto and most other regions, dogs and cats are required by law to receive a rabies vaccination every three years.

Your veterinarian should be able to help you decide what additional vaccinations your dog needs, and when. You’ll want to do your own research on each vaccine, and your veterinarian should respect that by giving you time to go home and decide, rather than pressuring you to give in while you’re at their clinic.

Traditional Vets In And Around Toronto

VETS Toronto – 24/7 emergency services, surgery, dentals and routine visits.

1025 Kingston Road, Toronto, Ontario M4E 1T4

Usher Animal Hospital – routine visits, ultrasounds, x-rays, dentals and surgery.

29 Chaplin Cres, Toronto, Ontario, M5P 1A2

Front Street Vet – routine visits, ultrasounds, x-rays, dentals and surgery.

548 Front Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 3N5

Chartwell Vet

2339 Brimley Road, Scarborough, ON M1S 3L6

Holistic Vets In And Around Toronto

The Holistic Vet – acupuncture, nutrition, homeopathy

987 Davis Dr, Newmarket, ON L3Y 2R7

Walden Animal Hospital – Traditional and holistic services

11 White Rd, Lively, On,  P3Y 1C3

Why You Don’t Need A Clicker To Train Your Dog

Is A Clicker Necessary For Dog Training?

Have you ever considered using a clicker to train your dog?

It comes in handy when training new behaviours. You “click” to mark the very moment your dog correctly performs the task. It’s a quicker, more consistent way to say, “yes, good dog!”

Even people who regularly use a clicker do not use it all of the time. It’s typically only used during the first few training sessions in conjunction with praise and food rewards. Once your dog understands a new cue, you don’t need to use a clicker to mark the behaviour.

You don’t actually need to use a clicker for any part of your training. Clickers are not required for Healthy Houndz training programs because we find that praise and rewards work just as well for the average dog owner, especially when teaching basic behaviours.

You may find that you can never find a clicker when you need one. They’re like left socks and hair ties. They magically disappear when you need them, and turn up when you don’t.

Holding a clicker can be cumbersome when you’re on a walk. When you’re already holding the leash, poop bags and treats, you’ll need a third hand to hold your clicker. Not to mention, clicker training requires consistency and impeccable timing, which can be difficult to accomplish when you have your hands full.

Marking Your Dog’s Behaviour

When training without a clicker, you still need to “mark” your dog’s correct behaviours with a consistent sound. This can be a verbal marker, like “yes!” spoken in a happy voice. The marker needs to be short, simple and easy to repeat. You can even click your tongue. If your dog is hearing impaired, you’ll need to use a visual marker instead, like a light or a hand signal.

At first, the marker won’t mean anything to your dog. It needs to be immediately followed by a bite-size food reward. Start by saying the marker word, then immediately giving your dog a treat. Then, practice with a simple cue that your dog already knows, like “sit”. The instant their butt hits the ground, say, “Yes!” then give them a treat.

Pretty soon, your dog will associate the marker with a reward, so they’ll understand that it indicates that they have done something right.

The sound of a clicker or verbal marker is known as a secondary reinforcer. It is, in itself, an exciting sound for your dog because it means that a treat is on the way.

Some people skip the marker altogether, and give the dog a treat as they perform the behaviour. The food reward can be a marker in itself because food is a primary reinforcer. It’s tasty and exciting, and your dog will naturally do whatever it takes to get more of it.

We like to use verbal markers paired with treats. To your dog, verbal praise can be as wonderful as a treat, and your positive tone will encourage them to keep learning. You don’t always have to train with treats; you can also pair your verbal marker with a reward like a toy, or the privilege of going outside.

Do Verbal Markers Work As Well As Clickers?

A 2016 study found that dogs were able to learn a new behaviour just as easily whether they were trained with a clicker, a marker word, or treats only.

Dogs are fantastically resilient learners.They can learn new behaviours even when our timing isn’t perfect, when we make mistakes, and when we forget to train on a regular schedule.

What You DO Need To Help Your Dog Learn

Dog training isn’t really about tools, tech and equipment. It’s about communication.

Your cues should be clear and easy for your dog to understand. Dogs seem to understand hand signals better than cue words. You can teach both at the same time. For example, the universal hand signal for “sit” is to raise your palm upwards, arm bent at the elbow. You can say “sit” while you use the gesture to make sure your dog knows exactly what you want them to do.

It’s vitally important that you communicate with your dog when they’re paying attention to you, rather than repeating cues over and over. It helps to teach “watch me” to get your dog’s attention before you ask for a behaviour.

Working with a professional dog trainer will accelerate your training by leaps and bounds. In-person lessons with an expert are the best way to learn to read the dog in front of you.

Get in touch to find out how you can work with Healthy Houndz to teach your dog anything – from potty training basics to the skills they need for competitions and dog sports.