Fear Issues From COVID Lockdowns

We were expecting to see more fear related issues when the lockdowns happened with COVID and we did see a very large increase in fear cases as suspected.

Pups go through a socialization period from roughly 5 to 12 weeks of age. Whatever they see during that period and have a good experience with they tend to like later on. Whatever they have a bad experience or just no experience with, they tend to not like later on. This is why I can’t even count how many times I have had clients tell me they think their dog is racist because they only bark at black people or elderly people with walkers, etc. It largely has to do with what types of people the puppy saw during that socialization period. I have even had clients tell me their dog was racist towards white people because they lived in a neighbourhood that had virtually no white people living there.

During COVID when people were social distancing and just not going out to do as many activities the dogs didn’t see as many different things and people. Interestingly we even saw a number of pups that had been socialized as a puppy prior to lockdowns and as they got a bit older and there was more social distancing they still developed fear issues.

The 5 to 12 week mark is approximate and there are still a lot of variables at play. Some pups go through that socialization phase faster and some are slower. We see a number of Lab puppies and if we show them a horse at 8 weeks of age they sit there like a potato and don’t care at all. At 10 weeks they will be a little bit cautious. At 12 weeks even more cautious. At 16 to 20 weeks you are likely to see fear barking if they haven’t seen a big animal like a horse before.

What happens if a pup is fearful? Some will get scared and hide. Others will become reactive with barking and growling and can escalate to aggression where they attack things they are fearful of.

The biggest predictor of which way the pup will go is how quick they are at pattern recognition. If they are slow at pattern recognition in training they are more likely to be the type to run and hide. If they are very fast at pattern recognition then they are more likely to become reactive and aggressive.

The Aggression Issue – Many trainers these days advocate for reward only. Every technique has its own set of pros and cons. The problem with reward only training is that rewards are good at rewarding behaviour. Many of our clients who have dogs with fear issues have gone that route and made the fear reactivity worse because they are unknowingly rewarding reactive behaviour. We tell clients that it is like trying to drive your car everywhere with only the gas pedal. You are going to have a wreck.

There are a lot more variables at play to solve these issues. If you or anyone you know has this issue you can contact us to help you solve this problem. We teach clients how to understand the variables and modify their dogs behaviour for the better. It is common to have 2 fear related issues that get solved differently. So what works for one dog may not work for the other. As you see hundreds of these cases you start to see where the dogs group. As we put the dogs through some training scenarios we can quickly see where they are going to group and how quickly they will overcome the issue.

Contact us: Tyson@DogSquad.ca

Website: www.DogSquad.ca

The Most Important Dog Training Tool – Thinking

There are a lot of variables when it comes to training dogs. How quick a dog catches on. How much desire they have to please. What motivates them. What they dislike. The list goes on.

The point being, dogs differ. You will come across all different kinds of problems and you have to think your way through those problems.

The other part of thinking is taking all of the information you hear out there about how to train a dog and think, does this make sense? What are the pros and cons to this method, tool or ideology?

Training a dog is all about communicating effectively to your dog what you want them to do and also what they should not do for various reasons including their own safety.

One of the more recent things to enter dog training ideology is to not say “no” to your dog. That one has me baffled as to how anyone could think that is a good idea. That takes away about 50% of your ability to communicate. There are really 2 key things when you are training a dog:

  1. Positive – Tell them what you like them doing. Praise and reward that.
  2. Negative – Tell them what you don’t want them doing and add a consequence, only if needed.

I can give you a number of examples off the top of my head with just our own dog where it is necessary to tell him no. Don’t do that. He is a working line German Shepherd with very high prey drive. Here are the things I have told him not to do:

  1. Don’t eat the chickens – Our chickens get to roam the yard and have a great life. They have to coexist with the dog. He thought they were very fun to chase. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now they live peacefully together.
  2. Don’t chase the horses – We have 2 horses and they are not fond of being chased. They do silly things like run through fences and cause severe cuts or worse injuries. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now they live peacefully together.
  3. Don’t chase the barn cats – We have a number of barn cats to keep the mouse population down. They have to be free to roam and do their job. He thought they were fun to chase. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now they live peacefully together.
  4. Don’t chase the neighbours cows – If you want to end your life quickly as a farm dog, go and chase the neighbours livestock. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now the cows come over and hang their head over the fence on our property to say hi every now and then.
  5. Don’t go crazy and try to destroy a clients dog – Clients come here with dogs that are reactive or aggressive and do so towards our chickens, horses and cats. Our dog thought that wasn’t right and really looked like he was going to take a round out of those dogs. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. He is allowed to protect our yard when we are not working with client dogs in case a coyote or stray dog comes into our yard.

I have worked with a number of clients whose dogs were aggressive or reactive to a various number of things. When you communicate not to do that some will stop immediately and not do it again. They had no idea we didn’t want them to do that. Once you let them know they are happy to comply. Lots will still persist and we have further methods to help better explain to them not to do that and then that solves the problem.

The clients I work with are often very good at thinking through problems on their own. Many of them have worked with previous trainers for certain problem behaviours and have often been told to do strange things like not say no. Then they will seek out other answers and this is where I end up working with many people in this same situation. We teach them how to effectively communicate with their dog which can include telling the dog not to do certain things.

So if you have someone tell you don’t say no to your dog you can determine if this is a good idea for your situation. Think about when you should say no and when you shouldn’t or when you might need to break things down for your dog. So far my brain has found “no” to be an invaluable tool that can greatly increase a dog’s freedom, happiness, and lifespan.


Covid Dog Training

Yes we are open during the increased restrictions of December 2020.

The pandemic has been a great time for many people to get a dog. In the past, clients would often take a week or two off work when getting a dog. Now that many people are working from home and have wanted a dog, they took advantage of their time at home to train.

The most important part of training a dog is to socialize them to distractions. It is particularly helpful when they are a puppy. When they are older, it just takes longer and can cause certain problems if they haven’t been socialized to certain things as a puppy. For right now I will address getting a puppy during the pandemic.

Two problems with getting a puppy right now:

  1. Winter – Thunderstorms and other common summer distractions like motorcycles and skateboards may not be seen during winter.
  2. Lockdown – Not as many people will be around in general.

Problems will always happen, we just have to figure a way around those problems. Some things that can be very helpful:

  1. YouTube – Find videos of thunderstorms, fireworks, skateboards, motorcycles, etc.
  2. Mimic the distraction – You can mimic children by getting down on the floor. Be loud, run around, wave your hands and anything else crazy you can think of. Wear different hats, hoods. Think of all the different people and items a dog will see in their lifetime and try to mimic those distractions as best you can if you can’t go straight to a source.

Puppies go through a socialization period from roughly 5 to 12 weeks of age. Whatever they see and hear during that time and have a good experience with they tend to like later on. Whatever they do not see or have a bad experience with they tend to not like later on.

When we work an 8 week old puppy around horses and chickens they often sit like a potato and do not care. At 10 weeks of age they will be a little more cautious. 12 weeks, more cautious yet. Often by 16 to 20 weeks you will see a lot of fear barking if they have not seen horses or chickens before.

This is why we quite often have clients tell us they think their dog is racist because they only bark at black people. It is due to the fact that they likely never saw any black people during their socialization period. Have had some say their dog only barks at elderly people with walkers. Had a client say their dog only barked at white people. Loved East Indian people as all of his neighbours were East Indian. Had a client that lived with her dog for the first 7 years in L.A. She said her dog would bark at anyone wearing a toque when she moved to Canada.

The catch 22 is a puppy is not fully vaccinated before 12 weeks of age. Therefore we want to mitigate risk of contracting a disease. Avoid nose to nose contact with other dogs and getting into any dog feces.

Some techniques that can work quite well:

  1. Vehicle – Pop the hatch in your SUV or open a door and hang out near some busy places with your pup in the vehicle. This lets them see the distractions safely from your vehicle.
  2. Carry – You can carry the pup through busy places.
  3. Blanket – Set down a blanket off to the side and sit on the blanket with your pup.

This can all help out tremendously in the development and training with a dog.

Training a dog is all about overcoming the seemingly never ending problems that arise. For that we are here to help.

If you have any dog training needs we are open during the December restrictions. We have a heated indoor training facility where we can social distance as well as wear masks (they will now be mandatory anyway).

We deal with very complex problems and have clients that will come from other provinces as well. We always love helping people get off on the right foot with their new dog. Whether that be a puppy from a breeder or a rescue, we can help them all.

E-mail us at Tyson@DogSquad.ca

Are You Rewarding Bad Behaviour Without Realizing?

Dogs vary in their abilities to recognize patterns and as a result it can cause different problems to occur when applying the same method of training to different dogs.

Reward Training – The idea behind reward training is to reward good behaviour. You make it so much fun that they just want to do the good behaviour. As a result the idea is they just won’t have time to do bad behaviours and just choose good behaviours.

Bad Behaviours – What happens when a dog does an undesired behaviour? One of the main techniques with Reward Training is to redirect the dog to a good behaviour.

Problem – The better a dog’s pattern recognition often the more problems you see with redirection. It is more likely this dog realizes that whenever they do a bad behaviour (according to us) there is always some kind of a reward to follow.

Which dogs fare the best with Reward Training? – The less pattern recognition a dog has, then the less likely it is that if they did something bad and you redirected that they would figure this pattern out. Also for reasons that would take me far too long to explain here, dogs with less pattern recognition also tend to challenge less so there is less need to redirect in the first place.

Funny examples – Some of my favorite examples over the years:

  1. Client with a Cocker spaniel – One family member was convinced he was the dumbest dog in the world. When I got to the house, the Dad was a smoker. The dog would steal his cigarette lighter and run off with it. If the Dad didn’t notice, the dog would drop the lighter, bark and pick the lighter back up. The Dad would walk to the cookie jar, the dog would bring the lighter back. The dog would drop the lighter, take the cookie and run off with it. I told them he seems pretty smart to me.
  2. Bell at the door – Had a client come that said one day she was eating supper, the dog rang the bell at the door to be let out. She went to let him out, he ran to the table, jumped up and ate her steak. This isn’t really a redirection issue, just a funny example of a dog really understanding patterns.
  3. Clicker Training – A client came with a 7 month old Brittany Spaniel. Told me he took a clicker class and hated it. I asked him why as I have never heard anyone say they hate a clicker class. It is really about reward training, clicking good behaviour and giving treats, not something most people would complain about. He said his dog was doing a bit of jumping. The trainer told him to tell the dog “Off”, then click and treat. He said the jumping is now way worse than it ever was. I told him, that is because you are rewarding jumping. He said, “That’s what I told the trainer!” But the trainer said, “No, this will work.” I told him, not for his dog, his dog was a little too smart for that. If his dog wasn’t as smart he might have thought just sitting paid really well and done more of that. But his dog was smart enough to recognize the pattern, I jump, you say off, I sit, then I get a treat.

Human example – I had a friend come to visit once, had a 2 year old boy. Ahead of time she went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of presents and wrapped them all up. Whenever he would throw a temper tantrum she would tell him, “If you are good, I will give you a present.” I thought, “Oh no.” I have never seen so many temper tantrums out of a 2 year old in my life. A couple days in, he decided he wanted 2 presents, she said, “No, you only get one.” I thought, good, she is making a stand. Then there was a full blow meltdown. “Ok, if you calm down I will give you 2 presents.” He was excellent at pattern recognition 😉 .

We specialize in these dogs – We love working with dogs that have high pattern recognition. You definitely need to understand a lot more about dog training with these dogs. If you or a friend you know of has a dog that you suspect is very good at pattern recognition and causing issues, we can help. Especially if the dog has been through one or more other dog trainers.

One saying we have written on our training board is, “Is the dog training me or am I training the dog?” It can switch quickly and we train people on what to look for.

Distraction Training

For the first time this Great Dane sees an animal that is seemingly closer in size to him than all of the dogs he passes on a walk.

One of the top requests we get with dog training is overcoming distractions. A dog can listen great in the house but as soon as you go outside and distractions present themselves, it can look like utter chaos.

People often make things difficult on themselves by attempting to heel a dog that doesn’t know heel, when they are hyper, in their own neighbourhood, past high level distractions. You almost couldn’t make that harder if you tried.

In my lifetime I have already seen quite the change with dogs and how they are trained. As a kid I wanted a dog. We lived in a small farm town and at that time it was just thought of that if you live in town you don’t have a dog. You only have a dog if you live on a farm. So I wanted to move to a farm so we could get a dog. Now when I travel back home I see a lot of dogs in town.

When dogs lived on a farm the distractions pretty well stayed the same. You might get the odd deer going through, or a coyote passing close by. The dogs would bark and chase it off. The farm was their territory and they had that imaginary line in their minds as to what it was, and they protected that line. Pretty simple.

Now with dogs living in urban settings, you are walking through all kinds of territories, and all kinds of dogs and people are passing through their territory as well. The stimulus has increased greatly over what it once was.

With any new thing a dog sees they will often wonder if it is predator or prey; friend or foe. As a human it would be as if you felt you had to greet every person on a walk and were unsure if they were friendly or not. Would they just want to shake hands and say hi, or would they want to hurt you? With rabbits and squirrels it would be as if you saw toy RC cars with a thousand dollars in cash strapped to it driving around. If you chase it and caught it, you just might be able to keep that thousand dollars for yourself. The odd new distraction a dog had never seen before would be as if you saw the odd rhinoceros in a backyard. Then what you thought was the most venomous snake crossing your path. Maybe a killer robot.

Things where you just couldn’t help but stare and concentrate on. If someone you were with was talking to you, you wouldn’t hear them because you were concentrating so much on these distractions.

We ask a lot of our dogs these days. We want them to walk nicely (which is one of the hardest behaviours to master) while they are hyper, walking through a bunch of other territories, with all kinds of distractions. When you understand how dogs think it is no wonder so many dogs struggle with this.

With clients we go over how to properly increase distractions, what things to start with, and how to troubleshoot problems as you progress. No two dogs are the same. We have worked with thousands of dogs at our location near the same distractions and you can get wildly different results. What works for one will not work at all for another. The key is understanding the different types of dogs, how they think, and the tools and techniques available to overcome those issues.

We especially seem to help a lot of clients whose dogs are not food motivated, or maybe they come snatch a treat and run off again.

Some of the more memorable requests of clients we helped:

One of our clients had their dog get hit by a car, rolled underneath the car, but didn’t hurt him. Then he thought he was invincible and could really take on any car. We taught him to stay on the acreage and not chase cars anymore.

Had a client whose dog chased a grizzly bear. Did not come back when called. Luckily in that case the dog didn’t come running back with bear in tow.

Another lived on a property southwest of Calgary. 2pm in the afternoon was out for a quad ride with his dogs. One stopped to poo so he waited for that dog. The other ran ahead. Heard a yelp. Cougar killed his dog. Incredibly sad. Had to teach the dogs to all stay very close when out and not wander ahead or behind.

Had a client from BC who spent a lot of time in the bush. He said his dogs learned the “come” command meant that dad has spotted a deer and doesn’t want us to chase, but instead of not chasing it let’s run off like maniacs looking for it! We retrained what the word “come” meant 🙂 .

Lastly was a client who lived on an acreage and his dog liked to chase his horses. The neighbour was moving his cows back in a month and told him if the dog chased his cows he would shoot the dog. Taught the dog to leave the horses and cows alone.

Point being, sometimes getting a dog to listen or overcome distractions can mean the difference between life and death.

If your dog is struggling with distractions send us an e-mail at Tyson@DogSquad.ca or give us a call 1-403-224-2224. It is one of my favorite things to help clients overcome. Give your dog the gift of having an amazing life because you trust them to listen and take them to all kinds of cool places.

Your Dream Dog

Dog riding a quad.

What is your dream dog? What things would you like your dream dog to know? Most dogs fall way short of their potential. We get some clients that want to go fishing with their dog, others may want a dog that does off-leash heel or a dog you can trust off-leash anywhere. Sometimes we get specialized requests to start them for tracking, diabetes alert or training their own service dog.

There are only a few key components to training your dream dog:

  1. Command itself.
  2. Distractions.
  3. Respect.

Teaching the command itself is often the easiest component. Dogs are smart, you break things down, they learn pretty quick. There are a number of different tricks that will help you break down anything so your dog understands it.

Distractions is another big category. The command often doesn’t take long but now will the dog do it everywhere? Teaching the dog to ignore distractions and focus on the task at hand is one of the biggest challenges people face when training dogs. Some distractions are just really fun for the dog to engage.

The final component is respect. When your dog respects you, wants to please and make you happy, they become a dream to work with. If they want to do things their way and are not too concerned about pleasing you then training can be quite frustrating.

We have a new to us dog that was slated to become an RCMP police dog, his hips didn’t meet the spec for what they like to see so he needed to find a new home. Somewhere that can handle a high drive dog. German Shepherds can become crazy if you don’t know what you are doing. Some are much easier to train than others.

The new dog will be fun, I really like his temperament. Some of the challenges for us are in how the RCMP raise their dogs. Obedience and rules are minimal. Basically the come command is one of the only things that is trained and that is for safety. They are still allowed to jump and bite. Another interesting problem we encountered is they start preliminary bite work training pretty young. So when you get excited and run around he thinks you are a tug toy and he gets to run and bite you.

The first time I had my wife run around with a whistle and waving a stick, you should have seen that guy fire up. Kids running and screaming were also fair game. This is all in prey drive so it is just a game to them. When we went to go see him for the first time the office went to gun run and close a gate, the dog chased after and jumped up to bite him on the arm. The office says “Just so you know, he has started his bite work training.” We are getting him to understand that kids running and screaming is ok and part of everyday life and no you are not allowed to chase them down and bite them. Although as a parent there are days that could be….. Wait a minute, maybe I could have just told the kids they can’t scream when playing otherwise the dog would bite them… Have to rethink my game plan here.

What is my dream dog? I like a dog that knows their obedience to some far distance and high level distractions. Essentially that I can trust the dog off-leash anywhere I want to go. Might teach him to ride on the quad when going down trails. We love doing tracking where we have friends come over, give them a walkie-talkie and tell them to go hide in the field, then we track them down. The kids love playing hide and seek with a dog too. Except for that one time they hid by a giant ant hill and my son kicked the ant hill. By the time we rolled in tracking them we heard screaming and crying and my wife had the boys almost stripped naked brushing the ants off. My oldest son crying saying “This is not the best day ever!”

It’s just fun working on your dream goals with your dog. People often get frustrated because they lack communication with their dog. They might think they are being stubborn when they are not. They might not know how to earn the respect of their dog or how to break the task down A to B.

Helping people achieve their dream dog is what we do. I love it when a client comes in and says “Not sure if we can teach the dog this, but I would love it if they could do this.”

What is your dream dog? What do you want to achieve?

Cold Weather Dog Training – Socializing Puppies

As fall approaches and the temperatures drop it can be much less appealing to head outside and train. If your dog is already trained and socialized properly then you are in the management stage of training and this won’t matter so much.

Puppies are the ones that can suffer the most at this stage if you keep them indoors. They go through a socialization period from roughly 5 weeks of age to 12 weeks of age. Whatever they see within that time and have a good experience with they will tend to like later on. Whatever they have a bad experience or no experience with they will tend to not like later on.

So just by not having seen certain things can cause fear issues in dogs. This is why it is more common for dogs born in the fall or winter to be afraid of thunderstorms. They went through their socialization period not having heard them. This is also an example of why some people will tell me they think their dog is racist, they only bark at black people. This is merely for the fact that the dog often did not see any black people during their socialization period. Same goes for barking at people with walkers or canes, etc.

In the Spring and Summer it is easy to get outside and expose your pup to these things.

So come fall and winter it is still extremely important to socialize. Don’t wait till Spring, you will have missed your chance to take advantage of this critical stage. YouTube is a great way to find all different kinds of sounds. Make sure you still get out to socialize.

If you would like to learn other tips and tricks to make this easier and ensure your dog is very well socialized and trained, come see us. But whatever you do, make sure you socialize your pup. Missing out on this stage can cause huge fear based problems.

You can contact us for training at Tyson@DogSquad.ca

Happy training!

Training Your Own Service Dog in Alberta

There is a great need for service dogs and up until last year you had to go through an approved organization and the wait list could be over 3 years.  The laws have changed to allow a person to challenge the exam with their own dog and have their dog certified.

We get a lot of people contacting us about training their own service dog so we thought this article might be helpful for anyone who would like to train their own service dog. Things you should know that you probably won’t find anywhere else.

In general the dog needs:

  1. Obedience – Should be proficient at their obedience commands.
  2. Distractions – Should be able to perform all obedience commands in the public and to fairly high distractions.
  3. Keeps to themselves and does not engage anyone else of the public.
  4. Stays within 24 inches of the handler unless part of the assistance dictates otherwise.
  5. Can perform 3 or more specialty tasks to help the handler.

One thing to keep in mind is that obedience is one of the easiest parts of training. Most dogs can be taught each obedience command in 5 days tops. From there it is a matter of distraction training where the dog will perform all of these commands in the distractions you would encounter in the public.

When a client comes here for training for a 4 hour session, 99% of dogs can prove they understand recall, heel, sit, down and stay, but that doesn’t mean they will do the commands everywhere. As we show clients when you increase a distraction level, mistakes go up. Then the dog starts to listen and perform well. We then increase the distractions again and the mistakes go up. This pattern will repeat itself all the way through training.

Which Dog To Pick?

Some dogs are going to be much easier than others to train for passing the service dog test in Alberta. Which dog you pick can make or break your chances of having your own trained service dog.

We classify dogs into 3 main types:

  1. Alpha – Top dog, will use aggression to maintain their position.
  2. Beta – Not the top dog but would take over if there is no suitable leader.
  3. Omega – Has no desire to be boss. Always wants to please and follow.

If you are going to train your own service dog, an Omega will give you the best odds of passing the test. Omegas naturally will not go to seek attention from others but they will accept attention from others. Ironically they are the least intelligent of the 3 categories, Alphas are the most intelligent and will give you the most amount of problems.

People mistakenly think they want a smart dog so they are easy to train, in actuality you want a dog with a high desire to please, they are the easiest to train. The saying “I hope I have a smart dog so they are easy to train” stemmed from the days when Force was primarily used for training. If the dog was smart enough they would figure out what you were trying to get them to do before you would break spirit in the dog. They could do the desired behaviour to get the corrections to stop. If the dog wasn’t quite smart enough and you were using forceful corrections you would often break spirit in the dog before they would figure out what you were trying to get them to do. These dogs would often go into avoidance to move away from you to show respect which to some looks like being stubborn so they would correct them harder.

This is why there is still the argument between Force and Reward trainers. It just depends on which category of dog you are working with as to which may be needed.

In order to be an organization that trains or tests service dogs this is the first requirement on the list from the Alberta Training Standard for Organizations to be Eligible for the Qualified List:

“The organization uses training methods that support the ethical and humane treatment of service dogs that do not cause fear, pain or other negative responses in the dog, for example, no shock collar, prong collar or similar equipment is to be used in the training or testing of a service dog.”

That leaves you with the option of Reward Training. The dogs that do best with only Reward Training are Omegas. Once they learn what you want they just want to keep doing that to make you happy.

If you did Reward Training only with a Beta they will learn very quickly but also learn to manipulate. They are smart enough to learn if they do a bad behaviour you will redirect them with a treat or a toy, in essence, rewarding the negative behaviour (we have friends that would offer their child a present when they were throwing a temper tantrum if they behaved – I’ve never seen a child throw so many tantrums and receive so many presents). Betas will need the tiniest bit of consequence to polish off their training but it sounds like none of that is allowed to train your own service dog.

Alphas are out of the question as a service dog. If a dog has shown any aggression towards other people or animals of any kind you would be best to not waste any time training this dog for a service dog position. These dogs are excellent as police dogs and guardian dogs but really unsuited for service dog status.

Ironically we had an organization in Alberta contact us to certify therapy dogs and the requirements were:

  1. 10 years experience as a dog trainer.
  2. Could not be a reward trainer.

Force training will typically give better obedience and respect. Dogs are taught there is a consequence if they don’t do as they are told.

Reward training will give spirit and character. They will be full of personality but they won’t necessarily respect you or have the obedience you wish to achieve (more true for Betas and Alphas but not Omegas).

In many cases when a service dog was being trained a vest would be used on the dog (actually required for service dogs) and the dog was taught when the vest was on the rules were strict and there was a consequence for not following through. Doing this training for a year or more the dog was conditioned to think if the vest was on they were in work mode and the rules were strict. When the vest was taken off they had freedom.

We had a client who paid $16,000 for a service dog out of province for her child (didn’t want to wait 3 years) and the dog was great with vest on but as soon as the vest came off the dog didn’t want to listen, would pull on leash and a list of other undesirable behaviours. She came for training to learn how to get the dog to listen better when the vest was off. This dog was a Beta. She wouldn’t have had an issue if this dog was Omega or possibly very low Beta.

Betas – have desire to challenge, will tug, go up to people, jump on people, nip, engage other dogs, try to take food, pull on leash among other things. All of these things can fail the dog as a service dog.

Omegas – have no desire to challenge, will not tug, do not go up to strangers on their own accord, will not jump on people, will not go up to other dogs, will not easily take food in your presence (often have to look away from them while offering a treat), will follow on leash. They are very naturally suited as a service dog for Alberta.

We specialize in training Betas because if you either use all reward or all force you will cause problems. You have to know the right amounts of each one to use to maintain a happy dog that is respectful and obedient.

The way the laws are written for training your own service dog make it extremely difficult to have a Beta pass the test. They don’t need a lot of consequence but they do need a little. If a person without dog training experience (even with) could train a Beta on their own to pass the test with no consequences we would be extremely impressed.

The Take Away

For the average person we would recommend:

  1. The less intelligent of a dog the better. They don’t have the intelligence to manipulate.
  2. Strong desire to please – Sometimes you can find dogs that have such a strong desire to please and have intelligence. We would call these the “unicorns” almost mythical type creature 🙂
  3. Low energy – They are required to stay with the handler. Typically walking or laying next to them. A highly energetic dog would not be suitable for this.

We have a lot of people contact us who want to train their own service dog for Alberta and already have the dog. Based on the dogs personality, many we can tell would be virtually impossible to have pass the test. So if you are reading this and wanting to train your own service dog make sure you pick the right dog because dogs vary widely in personality and traits. We hate to see people put in a lot of time and effort to only be discouraged when the dog cannot pass the test.

This can be like trying to get a Ferrari to win the Baja 1000 desert race. Fast car, great for some races, but not a desert race.

Do You Have to Say Commands Loud?

It is common to hear you need to say a command loud or with authority to your dog to get them to listen. The assumption being that when you say it loud the dog views you as an authoritative figure and will listen to you.

So if you say it quietly or with a softer voice does that mean you are seen as weak and not a position of authority?

We have found an alternate theory that appears to be the correct theory. Let me explain.

There is a Core Rule we follow called the A to B Rule. This means you want to get your dog to do your goal (B) and your starting point (A) is the easiest version you can get your dog to do.

Dogs won’t do what you want automatically in most cases, they need to be taught through a process.

When you do increase a level of difficulty moving from A to B, since there are often multiple steps to get towards B, a dog will make mistakes. For example a dog can learn to do sit or down in the house no problem but as soon as you go outside they won’t do it at all. Outside they are distracted. It can take a bit before they will focus and listen. Next thing you know the dog is doing great outside.

Then you go to practice sit or down near other dogs or people and your dog is no longer listening. Again the distractions have increased. With practice the dog can start listening around dogs or people. There are many tips to help with that but that would require several different articles to cover that.

Here is where we find saying commands loud or with force comes in. A dog is often trained to do their commands at home with no distractions and once they understand we expect that they should do them anywhere.

So now when you go outside and give a sit or down command and your dog doesn’t listen we think they are being stubborn. This is often where saying the command loudly comes into effect. By saying it loud you will increase the amount the dog listens and to start with they will definitely comply better by saying it loud.

But is it necessary?

The way we set it up: We practice commands in low distraction just like mentioned above. However when we increase distractions we know a dog will make mistakes so we keep saying it in a regular tone of voice and use the other tricks of the trade to get the dog to focus on us. Once they are listening well we then increase distractions again. Same thing, dog stops listening and you go through the same process.

We teach the dog that even if we say the command in a regular voice we will still make them follow through. This teaches them to listen with a regular tone of voice.

To make this even better we use a Super Proofing technique which is a part of the A to B Rule. For this we will start saying the commands in a whisper. Start in low distractions first and work you way up A to B like we did with regular commands. Once a dog listens to whisper commands a regular tone of voice command will seem like a piece of cake.

Where Raising Voice Goes Wrong

By raising your voice when distractions are first increased we start teaching a dog that we will only make them follow through once we raise our voice. To start with they don’t understand what we want anyway. But by raising your voice they get into the habit of only listening when your voice is raised.

This would be similar to the parent you see that always yells at their child and the child eventually tunes them out and the yelling isn’t all that effective.

We were working with a client that we explained this theory to and he laughed and said he raised his kids the same. He said he only raised his voice about 3 times with them when they were younger and he said any time he did they started crying because they knew he really meant business.

We had an incident a few summers back where we had 3 dogs outside and a badger came to the corner of our house. The dogs went running over, badger bit a dog, dog bit the badger back, badger let go. When I saw this I came running outside and yelled “Leave it!” The dogs immediately ran away from the badger. My wife called the dogs in the house and I chased the badger away.

I never raise my voice but when I do the dogs really know to listen. This helps out with safety. Had I always raised my voice the dogs would have thought it was just like any regular day. But since I never do they really know to pay attention.

So there you have my theory on saying commands loud. I have trained numerous dogs to listen in a regular voice or whisper commands with high level distractions. No need to raise a voice.


When distractions are raised a dog will always make mistakes. This means they don’t understand what you want anyway. This is where most people start raising their voice, some start even before this. The dog then gets into the habit of only listening when your voice is raised.

Tip: Only give a command if you can make the dog follow through on the command. The most common place to start yelling commands is when a dog is off-leash and not listening. There are some easy fixes to completely prevent that or fix it if it has become a problem. We cover this in recall training with clients.

Energy Spectrum – Are You Training Your Dog at the Right Energy Level?

We find that how energetic a dog is makes a big difference in what you should be training.

Let’s say you want to train your dog how to Loose Leash Walk. Many people think if their dog is hyper they should take them for a walk and also work at teaching their dog to walk nicely on leash. This is one of the hardest times to train walking is when the dog is super hyper.

By exercising the dog first a person will find it much easier to train loose leash walking.

This is the order we go in for training:

  1. Hyper (dog wants to run) – Recall, Fetch, Tug, Agility, Tracking, Pulling Sports
  2. Lively (dog feels like walking) – Loose Leash Walking
  3. Medium (dog feels like sitting) – Work on sitting
  4. Relaxing (dog feels like down) – Work on down.
  5. Mellowing Out (dog feels like staying in one spot) – Work on stay.
  6. Getting tired – Greeting Guests (less likely to jump and get excited when guests come over.
  7. Really tired (dog is passed out) – Work on separation anxiety or desensitizing to distractions.

So even if a dog is passed out tired, this is when we will load the dog in the vehicle and go for a car ride. They are sleepy, lay down and remain calm and quiet. This becomes the dogs habit when getting into a vehicle. Usually if the dog is hyper a person may load them up to take them somewhere like a park to run. The dog’s habit when they get in a vehicle is to be super excited, possibly barking or whining.

We developed this technique when we were doing Board and Train. If you only have 4 weeks to train a dog that knows nothing to knowing all of their commands extremely well you want to ensure that every single second the dog is doing a good behaviour. Trying to fight the Energy Spectrum just created a nightmare. Imagine you want to train a dog to stay and you are doing it when the dog is hyper. The dog wants to leave their spot, or they may bark or whine. If they keep practicing those negative behaviours, they will get better at those negative behaviours. If you train stay when the dog is getting sleepy, their habit is to be calm and quiet when told to stay.

So take it from me, if you want to make your life easy, follow the Energy Spectrum. If you fight it, it will make your life much more difficult.

In the case of training stay, you eventually want the dog to stay even if they are hyper. The way we would deal with this is by working on stay during week one when the dog was good and tired to help build the habit. Week two we would work on stay when the dog was half full of energy. Week three we would work on stay when they were 3/4 to full energy. You build the dog’s energy back in as if it were a distraction, since it is a distraction.

So next time you go to take your dog for a walk when they are hyper and not great on leash you should really rethink and maybe go play tug or fetch instead. Maybe have them pull weights or run them on the treadmill. Take them somewhere to run and burn off steam. Then go for your walk. I already spent years making this mistake for you. I can tell you it doesn’t work very well. This mistake is excellent at producing frustration or creating new swear words. Maybe your day at work went way too good that day and you really need to bring it down a few notches. If that is the case take a dog that is not trained and super hyper and go for a walk. That should bring it down a few notches to a mediocre or glum day if that is what you are going for.

If you need advice on making any other mistakes, let me know. I am an Expert Mistake Maker. They say Edison failed 1000 times when making the light bulb and when asked about it he didn’t view them as mistakes he said “I know 1000 ways how not to make a light bulb”.

If there’s a way to do something wrong, I’ll find it. However all of these mistake are not in vain. Clients do benefit from them. Not only can I tell you what ways work well, I can tell you many ways that do not work well. Sometimes knowing the things not to do are as important or more important than knowing what to do. “Don’t stick your finger in there, it will chop your finger off.” Good to know, I’ll keep my finger out of there then.

When you have two hyper huskies each tied to the opposite end of a 100 foot rope. Make sure you are paying attention and don’t let that rope lay behind you while the huskies take off in front of you or you will end up on your back winded, looking at the sky and worried about these huskies running away from you the longer you stay on the ground out of breath. How do I know that? You bet, been there done that. That’s another thing you can cross off your list not to try 🙂

Well this was fun. Hope you have a great day! (Remember if it was too good a day, make sure you take a hyper untrained dog for a walk).