Before em-“bark”-ing on any of our services, we’ll schedule a free meet-n-greet by phone or at your home with you and your dog. We’ll ask about your dog’s history, temperament, and health, discuss your specific needs and schedule, and go over the Services Agreement. You can tell us where anything relevant is kept, such as the collar, crate, food & water dishes, etc. We ask that you have your dog’s current vaccination records handy. It typically takes about 30 minutes to cover everything.
Introduction to Off-Leash Pack Walks
The Off-Leash Pack Walks (OLPW) are a fun and exciting adventure, but your dog is being exposed to a lot of new experiences at once: new people, new dogs, new vehicle, and a new park with its own sights, smells and sounds! And this is in addition to a considerable amount of exercise and new rules to figure out. Your dog’s first four walks with us are considered Introductory Walks, and during this time they will be the only new dog in the pack so that the other experienced dogs can help them with their learning.
Dogs starting the OLPW are supplied with a comfortable anti-pulling harness to wear during the Introductory Walks, and are trained for off-leash recall using a step-by-step approach. Beginning with the leash on, dogs gradually earn freedom as they demonstrate reliable recall at each stage until we’re confident they will come when we call.
Our Graduated Off Leash Training Process
On-Leash. Regardless of your dog’s previous off-leash experience and sociability, the first walk is always on-leash. Dogs stay on-leash until they are responding consistently to their name and are at ease with their new surroundings and friends. A dog’s willingness to accept treats is often a good indicator of their comfort level, as dogs won’t eat when they’re stressed. (Of course, some dogs are just particular about *which* treats they’ll eat, and this why we take the time to get to know each dog and their personaility!)
Free-Leash. When dogs are ready, we drop the leash, but leave it attached to the harness. They are able to play and explore, but we have quick access to the leash if we need to step in for any reason. During this stage, we practice exercises (such as hide-and-seek, for example) that teach dogs to look for the Dog Walker and to follow along *without* being called. Our goal with OLPWs is minimal to no intervention from the Dog Walker; dogs watch where the Dog Walker is going and come without being asked.
Off-Leash! When dogs have successfully completed the first two stages, the harness and leash come off and the dogs are offically members of the pack! Going forward, your dog will just need to wear its usual collar with identification tags while we’re at the park. We continue to reinforce and maintain recall and good behaviour on each walk. Established dogs *love* demonstrating by example to assist us with this!
Reinforcement & Corrections
Since clients can’t always be present to see how we train and work with the dogs, we want to ensure you know how your dog is being treated (pun completely intended!). All our interactions with dogs are done with an emphasis on learning and respect. We set dogs up for success by giving them clear and consistent boundaries, and following through with reinforcement or correction tailored to each dog.
Some examples of the training methods we use:
It’s less what you say than how you say it when speaking to dogs. We use our tone of voice to convey information to the dogs proportionate to the situation, and err on the side of less is more. Dogs have a wonderful time on the outings and generally don’t need us to narrate their experience to them! Commands are given clearly and expected to be actioned each time.
Treats & Food Rewards
Treats are typically only used to reinforce and reward recall. Dogs get more treats when they are new and actively working on recall training, and we pare it down to 2-3 small treats each walk (the size of a thumbnail or smaller). We carry Wellness Pure Bites and Arf-ful Good! Dehyrated Liver treats.
Waiting & Release Commands
Dogs are regularly asked to wait (usually while sitting) to practice patience and remain in a relaxed disposition. We have dogs wait calmly when clipping and unclipping leashes, going in and out of doors and the vehicle, during brushing, and before accepting treats.
We use Time-Outs to give overly excited or distracted dogs a breather to calm down and refocus. We’ll have dogs sit and stay, possibly on-leash or off-leash, until they visibly relax and can stop visually fixating on whatever has overexcited them (for example, a squirrel or another dog).