5 Myths About Positive Training, Debunked

5 Myths About Positive Dog Training... Debunked!

Positive training, short for positive reinforcement based dog training, relies on the use of rewards to motivate dogs to learn cues and tricks and to stop unwanted behaviours.

The use of pain, fear and intimidation is never necessary to teach a dog. With an intimate understanding of how dogs think, positive trainers can use the addition or removal of rewards to teach a dog almost anything.

Some trainers and dog owners, however, do not truly understand why we choose to rely on rewards, rather than punishments, to communicate with dogs. You may have seen these myths circulated by those who are misinformed.

We’re always happy to clear up misconceptions. We aim to help you experience the unmatched joy of using rewards to train your  dog. Here are the biggest myths about positive training, debunked:

Myth #1: Positive trainers let dogs do whatever they want.

Though positive trainers do not rely on punishment, we can actually be some of the strictest dog owners in terms of setting boundaries and keeping high expectations for our own dogs and our clients’ dogs. We use consistency, clear communication and rewards to get our dogs to behave.

We make sure to set boundaries that are purposeful, rather than creating meaningless rules as a power trip. For example, we may teach our dogs to stay engaged during a walk and expect them to stay close to us, even if a rabbit dashes across their path. But we’ll also give our dogs opportunities to sniff freely as a form of mental enrichment.

Myth #2: Positive training is complicated and takes a long time.

In comparison to “quick-fix” training methods, positive training seems to take a long time. However, those flashy, magic bullet trainers depend heavily on the use of aversives to stop unwanted behaviours, which results in instant, yet superficial results.

For example, using a shock collar to zap a dog when it sees a cat may prevent the dog from chasing the cat while wearing the collar, but the dog’s underlying drive to chase the cat will not have been removed. Eventually, the dog’s urge to chase will overpower their fear of the collar, or they may simply choose to chase the cat as soon as the shock collar is removed.

To create lasting behavioural changes, we use games and rewards to actually change the way your dog feels and reacts. We show them that listening to cues is more rewarding than giving in to their urges, and that they do not need to fear whatever is making them react. This is the only way to get your dog to make the correct choices with their own free will – it’s not possible to do that with forceful training methods.

Myth #3: Positive trainers have a limited range of tools in their toolbox.

This is probably the strangest myth of all – yet one we hear a lot. Some people feel that using treats and aversive methods is a “balanced” way to train, those who rely on positive reinforcement are only using one tool – treats.

Of course, this is not true. Positive trainers have a wide range of tools – from treats to toys, clickers, target sticks, haltis, front-clip harnesses, puzzles and barriers, and an even wider range of intangible tools like games, techniques and concepts. We always find creative, unique solutions without the need to resort to causing pain or fear.

Myth #4: Positive trainers would rather see dogs get euthanized than rehabilitated with aversive tools.

The worst myth of all – some people suggest that positive trainers are so adamant about avoiding aversives that they would rather let dogs die than use painful tools. The reason we refuse to use aversives is not because we want to be kind to animals (though that’s a huge perk) – it’s because we know that aversives do not actually work.

It’s not safe or effective to use punishments with dogs who have shown signs of aggression. In fact, we know that confrontational dog training is known to escalate, and in some cases, even cause aggressive behaviours.

Positive training is used to rehabilitate even severely aggressive dogs. Once a dog bites someone, however, they usually cannot be trusted in the same ways that we would trust a typical dog. With a combination of ongoing rehabilitation, management, and possibly rehoming the dog to an experienced owner, an aggressive dog can live a full, happy life.

If it seems that a dog cannot be rehabilitated through positive training, we do not recommend switching to aversives just for the sake of trying everything. This is because using aversives creates an even more dangerous dog.

When dogs are fearful, their signals normally escalate in a healthy, expressive way. It’s okay for dogs to growl when they’re scared or uncomfortable. It tells us to give space, or that we have stepped too far ahead in our training process. Aversives suppress a dog’s ability to express these emotions until they’re bottled up. This creates a dog that looks outwardly calm, but their fear of the situation can overpower their fear of getting punished – making a dog seem to attack “without warning.”

Aggression can sometimes be caused by factors that we cannot control. Genetics, past trauma, even a brain tumor or other neurological issue can cause a dog to be completely unmanageable. When we have to choose between endangering people and other animals, and having a dangerous dog euthanized, we have to be realistic and acknowledge that not every aggressive dog can be rescued.

These situations are extremely rare. Most dogs excel with positive training.

Myth #5: Positive training is just a fad.

Before dogs were dogs, our ancestors lured feral canines to their campsites with scraps of meat. In return, early dogs helped detect prey, ward off strangers from neighboring tribes, and may have even protected their favorite humans from large predators like bears. No leashes needed – early dogs naturally wanted to stay close to the warm fire, tasty leftovers and friendly humans.

The idea of dominating a dog and using force to “put it in its place” did not emerge until after the 1930s and 40s, with the emergence of Swiss animal behaviourist Rudolph Schenkel’s controversial studies on captive wolves.

In Schenkel’s studies, he observed wolves fighting over resources. There seemed to be dominant wolves that would constantly attack weaker wolves over food. Through the next few decades, dog trainers emulated those tough dominant wolves, using alpha rolls to physically force domesticated dogs into submission. Using treats was greatly discouraged.

The problem with Schenkels’ studies? He only observed captive wolves that were forced to live together in close quarters. It was like something straight out of a reality show.

It wasn’t until the 2000s, when researcher David Mech studied a pack of wild wolves, that people realized how inaccurate those early studies were. A real wolf pack is made up of a family unit – a mother, father and puppies. In a real, wild wolf pack, no violence is needed to keep pack members in line. The older family members hunt and provide food for their puppies. The pups learn from example and through playtime.

All this time, trainers of non-canine species, particularly large animals like dolphins, had to rely solely on positive reinforcement. When your student weighs thousands of pounds, you can’t use force or fear to control them.

By the 1980s, Karen Pryor, the biggest proponent of modern dog training as we know it, learned about food rewards and cues from training dolphins. She used hand signals and a whistle to communicate with dolphins and teach them tricks. With the same methods, she found an effective way to teach dogs.

The takeaway: using physical force is actually a fad in dog training, and it’s long outdated. It’s about time we go back to our roots.

See The Power Of Positive In Action

At Healthy Houndz, we raise dogs to have a lifelong love of learning. Every session begins and ends with a waggy tail. Ready to see the change in your dog?

Contact Healthy Houndz for positive dog training in North York and Toronto.

How To Make The Most Of In-Home Private Dog Training

In home private dog training in Toronto and North York, CA

When it comes to dog training, there’s truly no place like home.

In-home private dog training is the easiest way for your trainer to assess your dog’s behaviour in their home environment. Anxious, shy and reactive dogs can learn without the pressure of being around other dogs.

The best part? You get to work one-on-one with your trainer to make lasting changes in your dog’s behaviour with a fully personalized training plan.

Questions To Ask Your Dog Trainer

In-home private dog training is not only an opportunity for your dog to learn; it’s even more important for you to truly understand and retain what you learn during our sessions. Ask plenty of questions to make sure you understand the techniques we use, why we use them, and how you can continue reinforcing good behaviours between sessions.

Here are some examples of questions you might have during a training session:

  • What should I do if my dog doesn’t succeed?
  • What might be causing my dog to act this way?
  • How can my family help keep up with our training?
  • Why are we using this technique?
  • If I can’t do this, is there an alternative technique we can try?
  • How did you do that?
  • Can you show me that again?

Doing Your Homework

In order for your dog to retain new skills and form new habits, you will need to continue training with them in between sessions. You will get “homework” in the form of what to do before the next training sessions, possibly with handouts.

Aim to train your dog in short sessions each day, rather than in long, infrequent sessions. You’ll keep your dog’s attention span fresh and avoid frustration. You should be rewarding your dog every couple of seconds during these short sessions to keep their attention and motivation high. If your dog keeps making errors, make the exercise easier or review cues that they already know.

Help your dog generalize their new skills by practicing in different rooms of your home, in your yard, and then in new environments.

If you have a question between training sessions, you can always get in touch with us. If you’d rather wait until the next session, write down your question so you don’t forget.

Why It’s Important To Be Honest

Sometimes, you might be too busy between training sessions to practice with your dog. At other times, you might completely forget.

The truth is, you can train your dog in as little as five minutes a day, depending on what you are working on, and how quickly you’d like to progress. It’s usually not a lack of time that contributes to us being too “busy” to train our dogs, but a lack of motivation, failure to schedule in time, or even a lack of confidence that you’ll be able to succeed.

Please be honest if you do not manage to work with your dog between training sessions. We can work together to create a set training schedule and make sure you truly understand the exercises. If something doesn’t make sense or seems arbitrary, we can talk more about the purpose of each exercise and what signs of progress you should be looking for.

Life happens. When you’re truly too busy to train your dog, we can find a way to make it work. Being honest allows us to adjust your dog’s training plan accordingly. Even dog trainers sometimes forget and fall behind on their dogs’ training. We’ll never judge you or make you feel bad about forgetting to train. We’re here to help you move forward.

Ready To Start In-Home Private Dog Training?

Set up your free consultation for in-home private dog training in Toronto and North York with Healthy Houndz.

Why Doesn’t My Dog Listen To Me?

What To Do When Your Dog Doesn't Obey Cues

Are you tired of nagging your dog? Do you wish your dog would listen the first time you asked them to do something?

All dogs will, at some point, refuse to respond to a cue that they already know. There are many reasons why a dog might seem to ignore a cue. All of these reasons can be navigated through training.

You really can train your dog to listen to you anywhere, anytime. Though dogs, like humans, are imperfect, they have an incredibly acute sense of hearing. You do not need to repeat yourself or raise your voice to get your dog to listen better… you just have to get inside their head.

No Need To Repeat Yourself

Does it seem like your dog doesn’t take you seriously until the third time you repeat a cue?

If you have a habit of repeating yourself, your dog might form a habit of delaying their response.

Increase the chance that your dog will listen the first time by making sure you get their attention first. Go back a few steps in your training. Teach your dog to look at you when you say their name, and heavily reward them for making eye contact.

Is Your Dog Actually Using Calming Signals?

Dogs “talk” to us using body language. Many of their signals are very subtle.

When your training session has run a bit too long, or your dog is otherwise tired, frustrated or confused, they may not behave as you would expect. They may also pick up on your frustration and feel as though they don’t know how to please you.

Dogs use calming signals to ease tension in social interactions between other dogs – and with their humans.

You might catch your dog sniffing at nothing in particular in the grass, yawning or avoiding eye contact instead of responding to your commands.

They’re not actually ignoring you. They’re feeling uncomfortable. These are all signs that your dog needs a break. Allow them a chance to explore their surroundings and just “be a dog” for a moment.

When you start up with training again, begin with easy cues. If you’re trying to recall your dog, get closer to them. Offer tastier rewards and more praise. Make sure your dog is having fun – then challenge them to more difficult cues, or more distracting situations.

Get Your Dog To Choose You

No matter where you are, no matter how many squirrels are running around, you can teach your dog that you are the funnest thing in the world.

Make sure your food rewards are truly tasty. Offer bigger bites in more challenging environments, such as when you’re somewhere noisy or there are many distractions.

Your style of training is just as important as your choice of rewards. Make everything a game. If you’re not having fun, your dog isn’t either.

Are Your Expectations Reasonable?

Some dog owners make it look so easy! You might find yourself comparing your dog to those in videos, in movies and in public. The truth is, dogs who seem to always listen to their owners have had hours and hours of practice. They’ve gone through all of the obstacles, mistakes and trials that you have with your dog.

You might be putting your dog in situations that they are not prepared to handle. It’s not unusual for some dogs to become totally unmanageable when let off-leash in an unfamiliar area if they haven’t truly earned your trust through consistent recall training.

This is one of the biggest mistakes dog owners make – letting their dog bite off more than they can chew. The first time your dog is off-leash and ignores you, it’s self-rewarding; they get to enjoy another few minutes of sniffing instead of having to go home. Every other time after that, they build up a habit of choosing the environment over you.

Practice recall in a safe, fenced-in area. Do not only call your dog when it is time to go inside or stop playing. Call them frequently, give them treats, and make a game of it. You can even play hide and seek to help your dog learn that returning to you is a good thing.

What It Really Means To Socialize Your Dog

Socializing your dog is vitally important to helping them learn to listen in any environment, even if they are confronted by a squirrel, another dog, or an interesting human.

Most people think that socializing your dog means to allow them to make friends with everyone. While it’s nice for your dog to be friendly, socializing just means teaching your dog to tolerate a broad range of people, animals and environments.

You want your dog to be familiar with, say, men in hats, and even enjoy being around them, but what you need is for your dog to be exposed to enough people during training sessions so they continue to obey your cues – no matter what.

Dogs Struggle With Generalizing

Your dog has learned to sit politely before you serve each meal, but now that you’re at the park, they seem as though they’ve never heard the word “sit” in their life. What gives?

When you give your dog a cue, they’re not only listening to the sound of your voice, but your body language, the background sounds and smells in their environment, and so many other subtle signals all around them.

Teaching “sit” in one way, one place, is just not enough. Teach “sit” when you are standing in front of your dog. Teach “sit” when you are next to your dog, or across the room. “Sit” at the park. “Sit” at the vet. “Sit” with a whispery voice. “Sit” with a hand cue. On the grass, on the driveway, and on the tile floor. “Sit” until your dog really knows “sit”.

You won’t necessarily have to generalize every cue so extensively. Your dog can get better and better at listening to you in different situations.

Call For Backup

Working with a trainer is the fastest, easiest way to make progress with your dog. A dog trainer doesn’t just train your dog. Using science-backed methods, we help you understand your dog’s mind and help you communicate with them better. These results improve your bond with your dog in ways that last a lifetime. Contact Healthy Houndz today for private dog training in North York and Toronto.

Can Spaying And Neutering Change Your Dog’s Behaviour?

Can spaying and neutering eliminate bad behaviours in dogs?Are you considering spaying or neutering your dog to change their behaviour?

You may hear a buzz of conflicting rumours about sterilization surgery. You may have heard that it could solve your dog’s behavioural issues, or you might be concerned that your dog will be worse off, never to be the same again.

Fortunately, the effects of spaying and neutering on dogs has been studied extensively for the past couple of decades. There’s no simple answer to this question, but we can help you understand the science behind it so you can make an informed choice for your dog.

How Will Spaying Or Neutering Change My Dog’s Behaviour?

Studies are conflicted about how dog’s behaviour is influenced by sterilization surgery.

One source, which included data from over 10,000 dogs, showed a strong positive correlation between spaying and neutering and aggression, fear and anxiety. Dogs who were fixed younger than 12 months seemed to be at an increased risk of behavioural issues.

If your dog already has a behavioural issue, whether they’re showing signs of aggression, anxiety or seem difficult to train, spaying or neutering is not a reliable, or even promising solution. While these issues can, in part, be influenced by hormones, there are so many factors and possible underlying causes.

Work with a professional trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods for behaviour modification. Healthy Houndz dog training in North York and Toronto uses modern, science-based methods to help dogs feel more confident and resolve common behavioural issues.

Can Neutering Stop Urine Marking?

There is evidence that neutering before puberty can reduce urine marking. However, a male dog who is neutered before puberty can still mark. It’s even possible for female dogs to develop a habit of lifting a leg to mark objects with their urine. Intact males may have a stronger urge to mark inside your home.

However, urine marking, alone, is not the best  factor to base your decision on when and if to neuter your male dog. This unwanted behaviour can be resolved through training. In the meantime, a belly band will prevent your dog from urinating indoors.

Does Spaying And Neutering Make Dogs Lazy or Overweight?

There is a strong, well-known positive correlation between spaying/neutering and weight gain.

That does not necessarily mean your pet will gain weight after surgery, at least not if you’re not careful. Your dog’s hormones affect their metabolism, appetite and activity levels. You can encourage your dog to stay active by going for longer walks and setting up indoor activities.

What We Recommend

The best choice for your dog depends on your unique situation and your priorities.

When you get your dog from a shelter or rescue, their policy may be to only adopt out dogs that have been spayed or neutered. So, you may not have a say in the matter.

If you feel there is a strong chance that your dog will be able to escape your home and mate with other dogs, spaying or neutering may be a priority for population control. Intact dogs have a stronger drive to roam and find a mate. However, even spayed and neutered dogs need to be secured with a leash, a tether, or a real fence – not an “invisible” fence.

If you’re able to keep your dog secure, and you’re able to choose when to spay and neuter, it’s best to wait until your dog is fully grown, if you decide to do it at all. Small dogs reach full maturity by 16 months of age, while giant breeds can take up to 2.5 years to fully mature.

When it comes time to spay and neuter, ask your vet if they offer alternative sterilization surgery options. It is possible for male dogs to have a vasectomy and female dogs can undergo an ovary-sparing spay, so they will not be able to reproduce, though their body can still produce all of the same hormones.

Managing Your Intact Dog

If you plan to wait until after your dog is mature to spay or neuter, you’ll need to take a few simple steps to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Males are fertile as early as 6 months of age, and will continue to be fertile throughout their entire life. A male can sense a female in heat up to 3 miles away, so your male may feel compelled to roam.

Your female may experience her first heat as early as 4 months, though the average is 6 months. You will not always notice blood and swelling until midway through her cycle, though she will be most receptive immediately after the bleeding has stopped. She may try to roam when she is receptive. To be on the safe side, avoid off-leash dog parks, hiking areas and beaches for at least three weeks after the first sign of bleeding.

Like Us On Facebook For Weekly Updates!

Stay-in-the-know with our updates, dog training tips, Toronto dog news and more on the Healthy Houndz Facebook page.

The Right Way To Crate Train To Stop Barking And Whining

Positive Crate Training To Stop Barking And Whining And Night

Does your puppy keep you up all night?

Sleepless nights take the fun out of having a new puppy. We’ve all been there!

It takes a bit of patience to teach your puppy to love their crate, but you’ll settle into a bedtime routine before you know it. Our force free methods help you get there sooner, with less stress.

These methods also work for adult dogs who have never been crate trained.

Why You Should NEVER Punish Your Dog For Barking In The Crate

When it’s 3AM and your puppy is barking and whining in their crate, you’re bound to be a bit annoyed. It’s tempting to yell at your puppy or turn to aversive training methods, but that’s always a bad idea.

The problem with punishments is that they deceptively create a “quick fix”. Your puppy might quiet down for a few minutes – but they’ll still feel scared and alone, yet unable to express that. This also means the puppy may continue to bark when nobody is home to punish them.

You want your puppy to feel safe and secure so they don’t even want to bark. When the crate is a part of their nighttime routine, they’ll start to fall asleep within minutes of going inside for the night. If they love their crate, they’ll happily nap when you’re not home, instead of barking the whole time.

Force-free crate training means your puppy will not be afraid to bark if they have to go potty, if someone breaks into your home, or if there’s otherwise something wrong. Your puppy will sleep peacefully in their crate because they feel safe and secure, and they have learned that they can trust you to be there when they really need you.

Preparing Your Puppy-Friendly Crate

Your puppy’s crate will be their safe haven.

Line it with a bed that is thick enough to keep your puppy from sinking to the bottom. Furnish it with enough blankets for your puppy to burrow. You may want to use old towels if you’re concerned about chewing or potty accidents.

Crates are valuable tools for potty training because puppies typically do not go potty in them – if the crate is set up correctly. The crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand, turn around, and stretch out, but not so big that they will use one side as a restroom. Most crates come with dividers to make the interior space smaller, then you can make it larger as your puppy grows.

You can use a crate cover or blanket to block out light and sound. That way, your puppy will be able to sleep peacefully inside, even during the day.

Crate Training During The Day

An 8-week old puppy will need to sleep up to 20 hours per day, broken up into naps. So, you’ll have lots of opportunities to create positive crate experiences before bedtime.

The crate should be open most of the time when you are home. You can hide little treats inside for your puppy to find on their own.

Whenever you play with your puppy, you’ll notice that they get very sleepy after about 30 minutes. Encourage your puppy to go into the crate on their own for naps. If it’s comfy enough, your puppy will seek it out without being placed inside.

You can practice locking your puppy in the crate for 15 to 30 minute sessions during the day. Do this while you are in the room, perhaps watching television or washing dishes.

Try putting your puppy in the crate with a Kong or similar fillable food toy. Puppies have sensitive tummies, so go easy on rich treats like peanut butter. You can fill it with their canned or raw food, or kibble that has been soaked in water.

The goal is to crate your puppy for short periods of time so they do not experience separation anxiety. Realistically, though, your puppy may need to be crated for a few hours at a time when you are not home. This will be stressful for them in the beginning, but most dogs adjust quickly.

Crate Training When You Go To Work

If you work at a full-time job every day, you’ll need to speed up your puppy’s crate training. There are plenty of ways to make it easier.

Before you leave, make sure your puppy has pottied, eaten, and had water to drink. Play with your puppy and/or go for a walk so that they are sleepy. Tuck your puppy in. Within a few weeks, your puppy’s sleeping schedule will be synchronized with your work schedule.

At 8-10 weeks old, your puppy will need to go potty at least once every three hours. Smaller puppies may need up to 4 potty breaks during an 8-hour workday. You can hire a dog walker or pet sitter to let your puppy out or take them on walks.

Puppy Potty Camp from Healthy Houndz is excellent for people who work. Not only will your puppy be on the fast-track to going accident-free, they’ll also learn foundational cues and social skills, while spending time with other dogs who act as role models for your puppy.

To prevent barking when you are not around, try putting some music on. Music has been shown in studies to have a calming effect on dogs, particularly reggae and classical tunes. The music can also help drown out the sounds of passersby, which can keep your dog on alert.

The First Few Nights

A bedtime routine will make adjusting to night-time crating so much easier.

Make sure your puppy goes potty one last time. Play until they get tired. Many puppies get wound up at night and tend to nip. Make sure they run out of steam before even attempting to crate them.

You can use a lavender-based essential oil scent to lull your puppy to sleep. Some essential oils are harmful to dogs, so it’s best to use a calming spray that is made for pets.

What To Do If Your Dog Starts Barking In The Crate

A little bit of barking and whining is to be expected at first.

Your first response to crying should be to take your puppy out and give them a chance to go potty. Regardless of whether they “go” or not, they will need to wind down again once they go back in the crate. Tuck them in again. Wait for those little eyes to close.

If you’re certain that your puppy is “empty,” they might be lonely. Place the crate right next to your bed, if possible. Your pup might settle down if they can cuddle with an unlaundered t-shirt that carries your scent.

You could also try emulating the warmth and sounds of sleeping with littermates. A ticking clock and a heat source like a microwaved sock full of rice can help.

Sometimes, puppies bark because they’re bored. If your puppy is awake with the late night puppy zoomies, they may need more exercise during the day. An overstimulated puppy is the hardest to put to bed; it’s better to spend a few extra minutes playing than to let them bark and bark for hours.

Help For Sleep Deprived Puppy Parents

Crate training is one of the hardest parts of having a puppy. If you stick through those first few weeks, though, it’ll be so worth it. And you don’t have to go at it alone.

At Healthy Houndz, we’ve overcome every imaginable puppy problem without using force, pain or fear. Get in touch today to hop on the fast-track to a happy, well-rounded dog.

How To Make 2019 Your Dog’s Best Year Yet

Ways To Improve Your Dog's Life In 2019

Here’s to another wonderful year with your canine companion! While you’re setting goals for your own health and enrichment, you’ll find that you can often set mutual resolutions that benefit you and your dog at the same time. Here are some simple ways you can make big improvements to your dog’s training, behaviour and health in just one year:

Track Your Dog’s Progress In 2019

When we don’t set goals and take notes, it’s easy to fall behind on our dog’s progress. How long has it been since you taught a fun new cue? Has your dog been struggling with leash reactivity with no success in the past year? Simply set up a new calendar on your smartphone with goals and reminders to stay on top of your dog’s care.

Add More Fresh Foods To Your Dog’s Diet

At Healthy Houndz, we recommend a raw food diet, but we realize that it is not practical or affordable for everyone. Instead, use fresh foods as treats and food toppers. Watch as your dog’s eyes light up when you offer bites of scrambled eggs instead of bland biscuits for their training rewards.

Fresh fruit, veggies, fish, meat and eggs are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Superfoods like blueberries fight cancer, while fatty fish like salmon (cooked and deboned, as raw salmon can contain parasites) can prevent or help relieve symptoms of arthritis. Remember, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic are toxic to dogs.

Go On More “Do Nothing” Walks In 2019

If you already take your dog for a daily walk, you might not enjoy it as much as you once did. Circling the block and waiting for your dog to finally poop can get tiresome. Try a new route, and strive to go on an extra long adventure at least once per week. If you can, drive to a park that you do not visit often, or explore a different neighborhood. New sights and smells are a wonderful way to stimulate your dog’s mind, giving them both physical and mental exercise they need for better behaviour and overall improved well-being.

Though you cannot imagine the vivid landscape of scents your dog is experiencing, you can actually take time to de-stress with a mindful, meditative dog walk. Don’t wait until you’ve had a tough week or a bad day to treat yourself to a mindful dog walk – they are an essential part of self-care that you should set time aside for on a regular basis.

Sign Up For Something New Together In 2019

Joining a new activity has a powerful impact on your bond with your dog. Commit to an agility class, try nosework, or even register for a 5k. A new activity can be as simple as learning a new trick each month at home. That one-on-one time and ongoing commitment will help you discover what it means to team up with your dog to work towards a goal.

While dogs do not realize that they are working towards a faster time or a longer distance, they get so much joy in getting special attention from you. Do not let breed stereotypes stop you. You might be amazed at how long your Chihuahua can go on a hike, or how quickly your Shih Tzu progresses in agility. Give your dog a chance to surprise you!

You Don’t Have To Tackle This Year Alone

The biggest mistake dog owners make is putting off getting help for easily solvable problems. The longer your dog practices habits like bad leash manners, pottying in the house, and destroying your home due to separation anxiety, the harder it becomes to change them.

If you have a new puppy, start positive training from the very start. It’s never too early to start learning! Potty training camp from Healthy Houndz sets your puppy up for success. You’ll save so much time and energy when you work with us.

Call 647-749-8731 or contact Healthy Houndz to set up your dog training consultation. We can’t wait to meet you!

5 Indoor Games To Play With Your Dog On Cold Days

Indoor Games To Play With Your Dog When It's Too Cold To Go Outside

Brr!! It’s getting too cold outside to take your dog for long walks. While some breeds adore the snow, many dogs would rather go for quick potty breaks, then come back inside.

When you can’t spend as much time outdoors with your dog, they can start to gain weight. In the winter, their metabolism slows down, and with less activity, they’re burning fewer calories.

No matter how cold it is outside, dogs need consistent physical exercise and mental stimulation year-round. With fun indoor games, you can keep your dog’s mind and body active through the winter.

Hide And Seek

Playing hide and seek is a great way to reinforce recall.

Have your dog sit and stay – even better if you can use their crate as their waiting area so their crate is always a fun place to be. To start, you may want to hide behind a piece of furniture across the room – somewhere they can easily watch you hide and quickly find you. Then, call your dog using your recall word of choice. “Puppy, come!” works well. You can also use hide-and-seek to train different recall cues. Try teaching your dog to recall with a whistle, too.

Once your dog gets the idea, try hiding in more difficult spots. You may want to drape a blanket over their crate so they can’t see you hide. If you’re just starting to teach recall for the first time, you may need a family member to make sure your dog doesn’t peek.

Every time your dog finds you, give them lots of praise and a yummy reward. When the snow melts, you can try playing hide-and-seek outdoors to help teach a solid recall in open spaces.


Signing up for nosework classes is a great way to keep your dog’s mind sharp, but it might not be practical for you. You can also practice easy nosework at home.

The most simple way is to hide a piece of smelly food (like a liver treat or a piece of cheese), encourage your dog to “stay” and then “find it!”

If you’d like to up the ante, teach your dog to detect non-edible scents. Essential oils like clove or eucalyptus are commonly used in nosework classes. You can use three identical containers and put the scent in just one of them, that way your dog will learn to use their nose, not their eyes, to find the target.

Encourage your dog to sniff each box, then give them lots of praise and a yummy reward immediately after they find the target scent. As your dog develops a positive association with the scent, you can start to have them sit or speak when they find the scent, or even just make eye contact.

Monkey In The Middle

This is a great way to get your dog excited about toys if they normally ignore them. Simply toss a toy back and forth between you and at least one family member. Between throws, squeak the toy and shake it close to the ground near your dog, then toss it.

To avoid frustration and to keep the game fun, let your dog get the toy once in a while. During this game, you can also start to teach drop it or give cues to get the toy back so you can play again.

Family Name Game

You can teach your dog to identify family members by name – and even use this trick to eventually have them act as a courier, passing notes between family members throughout your home.

Start by forming a circle with your family members, and make sure everyone has a few treats. Tell your dog to “go to Emily,” while Emily encourages the dog to go to her. At first, your dog will need a lot of guidance, but if you play this game often, they’ll pick up on it. Soon, they’ll be able to go “find” your family members by going from room to room.

Indoor Agility

Some portable agility equipment is compact enough to set up in your living room. You can also get creative with foldable tunnels, books, boxes, hula hoops and other household items to create your own mini agility course. Most agility equipment is bright blue or yellow because these colors are easiest for dogs to see, so you’ll want to use those colors when creating highly visible targets and checkpoints.

Challenge Your Dog This Winter!

Need more ways to keep your dog on the move this winter? There is so much to learn with Healthy Houndz – dog training in Toronto and North York. We only use positive reinforcement methods, and we show you how to communicate better with your dog to help them reach their greatest potential – or just learn to stop counter surfing! Call us today for your free consultation.

How Music Affects Dogs

How Music Affects Dogs

While you won’t catch them rocking out or singing along in the car, dogs really are influenced by music.

With their amazing sense of hearing, we can’t say we’re surprised.

Dogs use 18 muscles to turn their ears towards sounds, helping them locate noises more precisely than humans.

They can also hear a frequency range of 40 to 60,000 Hz, while our range is only between 20 and 20,000 Hz. This allows them to hear both lower and higher pitches than we can, allowing dogs to hear a much more vivid range of sounds than we can ever imagine.

Keep in mind that dogs are also more sensitive to volume, and can suffer hearing damage at volumes that sound normal to us.

What Researchers Are Discovering About Music And Dogs

Multiple studies have shown us that music has a measurable, observable effect on dogs.

A 2012 Colorado State University study, “Behavioral effects of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs,” observed the effects of different genres of music on dachshunds in a rescue kennel.

Regardless of the genre of music played, the dogs barked less than during silent control periods. They were the most quiet when they listened to classical music, specifically Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Classical music made the dogs so relaxed that they were more likely to sleep.

The dogs trembled when they were exposed to heavy metal music. Headbangers, you may want to use headphones around your dog.

The Scottish SPCA conducted their own study in 2014 with similar results. Regardless of genre, the participating dogs were more likely to lie down when listening to any type of music.

Their dogs, however, showed a strong preference for reggae, with soft rock coming in close second. They also noted that dogs seemed to have individual preferences.

How Music Can Calm Your Dog

Music is excellent for reactive dogs. Soft, calming music can take the edge off of your dog’s anxiety so they can be calm enough to learn how to react appropriately to their triggers, for example, if you’d like them to go to bed when they’re overwhelmed by houseguests.

You can also play music when you’re away to help your dog with separation anxiety. Music can drown out noises that they hear outdoors, like passersby, and fill the lonely silence that they may experience when your family is not home. Music can help ease your dog into a new routine, so they’ll be able to sleep when you’re away.

Always play music during a potentially stressful interaction, like nail trimming or a bath. Not only will your dog feel calmer, you’ll relax, too, making it easier for you to set a good example for your dog. You can also ask your veterinarian and groomer about playing music at their facility to help dogs relax.

You can even use calming music to overpower the sounds of booms during thunderstorms and fireworks displays. Combined with counterconditioning and desensitization, music can make those scary experiences actually fun for your dog.

Help Your Dog Find Their Happy Place With Positive Training

Music helps a lot, but it’s not a quick-fix for behavioural problems and fear-based issues. Seek a trainer that uses behavioural science based, reward-oriented training methods to change the way your dog processes events – rather than covering up issues with punishments that don’t change your dog’s behaviour in the long term.

Contact Healthy Houndz for positive dog training in Toronto and North York.

Is Your Dog Reactive? How To Tell, And What You Can Do To Help:

Is Your Dog Reactive?

Is your reactive dog wearing you out?

If you’re always worrying about the next trigger, rushing across the street every time you encounter another dog, dreading visitors, cutting your outings short – you’re probably not enjoying dog ownership as much as you expected. It may be tiring, frustrating, even embarrassing when it feels like your dog is out of control.

By understanding what your dog is experiencing, you can start to drive positive change in their behaviour.

Remember, a reactive dog is not a “bad dog”.

Reactive dogs are scared. With a combination of factors that may be genetic, based on past experiences, due to a lack of positive exposure or based on diet and exercise, your dog truly does not know how to handle certain situations. With your guidance, your dog can learn to react appropriately to their triggers.

What’s The Difference Between “Normal” And “Reactive” Dogs?

Most dogs get excited when they see another dog, or a squirrel, the mailman, or a guest in your home. Every dog reacts.

But some dogs overreact. You may find it impossible to divert their attention when they’re overreacting. They may ignore cues and treats. They might even be harmful to themselves or others.

Every time a reactive dog has an episode of reactivity, they experience a spike in the stress hormone known as cortisol. A little stress is not a bad thing, but too much of it can actually lead to physical health issues down the road. In the short-term, the more cortisol produced in your dog’s blood, the more they will continue to produce it in excess, making it even harder for your dog to relax.

Managing Your Reactive Dog

First, identify your dog’s triggers. Be specific! If your dog goes nuts around other dogs, take note of when that happens. Your dog might be perfectly fine in small groups at the dog park, but will act up when meeting face-to-face on lead. They might bark uncontrollably at strangers that enter your home, but happily greet strangers on the street. Context is key.

Do your best to keep your dog out of triggering situations, or at least manage their intensity. For example, cross the street when you’re about to be approached by another dog. We tend to linger when stopping to meet other people walking their dogs, and this is a big mistake. On-lead meetings are very “in your face.” The dogs are instantly nose-to-nose with a stranger with no way to escape.

Managing triggers for your reactive dog does not mean becoming a hermit for the rest of your dog’s life. When you have guests over, a baby gate can do wonders in keeping your dog distanced from the front door so they can meet your friends once everyone has calmed down and settled in.

Avoid situations that lead to trigger stacking. Trigger stacking is when a dog is bombarded with too much at one time. At a family party, your dog might be overwhelmed by: the doorbell ringing, your guests, their dogs, their kids, plus the sounds of loud conversations, being stepped over, and the sensation of being pet by people they don’t know. All of these triggers, stacked together, can cause your dog to do something they normally wouldn’t, like bite.

Changing Your Reactive Dog’s Mind About Triggers

Most people are tempted to yell at their dog and may resort to punishments like painful corrections to get their dog to stop misbehaving.

While these punishments may seem to work, they take away your dog’s voice. If your dog is scared, they need to be able to bark or growl to let you know. A punished dog can seem calm on the surface, but may lash out unexpectedly because on the inside, they’re still fearful.

You cannot control how your dog reacts. But you can teach them to feel neutral, even good, about their triggers through counter-conditioning and desensitization (CC/DS).

Simply put, CC/DS is when we expose a dog to their triggers in small, manageable ways while offering them something they already enjoy, like a treat. For example, if your dog goes nuts when the mailman comes, we’d give them something very yummy when the mailman is down the road – far enough for your dog to just start to notice them, rather than waiting until they are right at your doorstep, because by then, your dog will be too overwhelmed to accept a treat.

On your own, you can make simple changes like carrying treats on walks or keeping a treat jar by your front door. That way, you will always be ready to create a positive association when your dog encounters a trigger.

Working on reactivity, though, can be a bit advanced. It’s easy for the average dog owner to expose their dog to too much, too soon, creating a stressful experience that can make reactivity worse.

Healthy Houndz offers reward-based, behavioural-science based dog training in Toronto and North York. Our years of experience of working with reactive dogs allows us to recognize body language and signs of progress that can be hard to notice on your own – especially when you’re juggling treats, a lead, and your sanity.

Get in touch with us today – we’d be happy to help your dog enjoy a happier, calmer life.

Your Second Dog And Beyond – Tips To Keep The Peace In Multi-Dog Households

Getting A Second Dog - Training Tips For Multi Dog Households

What’s better than one dog? Two dogs!

When you have two dogs, they always have a playmate. Bonds between dogs can be incredibly strong – they often mourn when their adopted siblings pass away.

Not every pairing is a match made in doggy heaven. Carefully selecting your dog’s new sibling can make it easier for both dogs to adapt and get along. You’ll also need to learn about keeping the peace in your household. With that knowledge and a little luck, your dogs will be be best friends in no time.

What’s The Best Age To Adopt?

It is not recommended to bring home littermates, as two puppies may be more likely to bond with one another than their human family members.

If your current dog is a senior with limited mobility, a high-energy puppy might not be a great choice, unless you’re certain that your old friend will get plenty of peace and quiet while you tire out the young pup.

Your second dog will pick up habits from your current dog – both good and bad. So, it makes sense to wait to adopt until your current dog is completely house-trained and has good manners.

Boy or Girl?

In a 2011 AVMA study, 79% of instances of aggression between dogs that lived together were of the same sex; 68% of cases involved 1 or 2 females. So, it seems that it would be ideal to have a male and a female or two male dogs, while having multiple females is less than ideal. Even so, this was a small study, and does not necessarily mean that you cannot possibly have a whole household full of ladies. But you may want to factor in gender when you’re choosing a new doggy housemate.

What Size Should My Next Dog Be?

Dogs of all sizes can be good friends. However, there are definitely more risks to having two dogs of drastically different sizes. Even the most gentle giant can accidentally step on their tiny friend when they’re playing. A weight difference of no more than 12 kg can prevent size-related injuries.

Bringing Home Your Second Dog

Your dogs’ first meeting should be on neutral ground. Your current dog may act out if a new dog suddenly appears on their territory. Ideally, you should go visit the shelter, breeder or foster home and take both dogs for a walk together before you make any final decisions.

Some dogs take to their new siblings right away, but it’s not unusual for there to be some tension in the beginning. If you have any doubts, use baby gates and crates to separate the dogs at first. Allow them to get used to one another’s’ scent without the risk of a physical altercation.

When you feel the time is right, let your dogs loose in a wide, open area like a fenced yard. They should have room to escape if they feel cornered or overwhelmed.

Dogs bond by exploring scents together. Surround them with lots of fun toys and engage them with activities to ease off the pressure of directly interacting with one another until they are ready.

How Dogs Communicate With One Another

Brush up on your knowledge of canine body language to help you understand how your dogs “speak” to one another.

Look for loose, happy play, and watch out for tight, stiff body language. It’s normal for dogs to be loud and growly when they play. It’s not okay for one dog to bully the other. Be ready to interrupt overzealous play by calling the dogs away from each other for a break so they can cool down.

Resource Guarding And Jealousy

Dogs do not have a strictly structured hierarchy – one dog won’t necessarily become the Alpha of the other. Hierarchy is fluid – sometimes, one dog will growl when the other comes near their bone. The other might growl when the other tries to take away their toy.

Never punish your dogs for growling at one another. This is one of their primary forms of communication. Usually, the recipient will know to back off. It’s okay to calmly call them away if they are invading their sibling’s space.

It’s best to prevent resource guarding from ever happening. If you give one dog a big, juicy bone, their sibling should get one too. They should have separate eating and sleeping areas, and separate toys.

Also, make sure to give each dog equal attention – that’s why we have two hands! Spend time together as a family, and try to make time to take each dog out individually. Joint hikes and training sessions can be fun, but you should also carve out individual time so you can bond with each dog.

What To Do If Your Dogs Can’t Get Along

Feuds between family dogs can range from mildly stressful to life-threatening. If either of your dogs’ lives are at risk, it would not be humane to keep them together. Even careful management with crates and gates can eventually backfire.

It’s perfectly normal if your dogs aren’t best friends, as long as they can live together peacefully. Not all dogs like to snuggle and play together. Dogs typically prefer the company of humans to that of other dogs.

A positive reinforcement based dog trainer can help you identify any fear or anxiety-related issues, learn your dogs’ triggers, and create a plan for managing and modifying behaviours. Aggression is often caused by fear – fear of losing resources, for example. It is possible to resolve these fears with controlled behaviour modification, but this should only be done with the help of a trainer – sometimes, misguided efforts at fixing behaviours can actually make them worse.

If you need help keeping the peace in your multi-dog household, contact Healthy Houndz today for progressive dog training in Toronto and North York.