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  • Nicola Smith

Dog Trainer in Toronto Answers Your Dog Training Questions

Last week we sat down in an Instagram LIVE session with Hanna, the founder of Mindful Dog Co.

Mindful Dog Co "prides itself on teaching people to better understand and communicate with their dogs, creating better relationships between humans and their canines, in addition to resolving unwanted behaviours."

We had wanted to do something with Hanna for a while, so when we finally nailed down a date, instead of choosing the topic, we decided to ask our viewers and clients; what question would they like to have answered if they could ask a Dog Trainer.

Here is are the questions that came up, and underneath is Hanna's response.


How to help a dog pulling while walking on-leash

Practicing Dog Walking on-leash
Dog Training Toronto

" The best way to start leash training with your dog is to start in your home. When you have that down, then move to your yard or another quiet environment. If you live in an apartment, you can practice in a hallway, or an empty parking lot is great too. The key is to start in an environment with as little distractions as possible and then work your way up. The reason your dog is pulling is that there are too many distractions around. You want to start where you have complete control over the environment. If you start leash training inside, you don't have to worry about anything else taking your dog's attention and work on teaching your dog to follow your lead. When you feel ready and think your dog is ready, move the training outside."

Hiring a reputable dog walker that practices proper leash walking can also help you with leash training.


Dogs running and playing outside off-leash
Dogs Playing off-leash

Any tips on how to advocate for dogs during play?

"You should choose dogs for your dog to play with that can match their energy. You should not put mismatched dogs together for play. For example, you wouldn't put a puppy German Shepperd with a 9-year-old pug. You want to pick dogs that are similar ages, energy levels and play styles. Do they want to chase? Do they want to wrestle? Do they want to run and play? It's a great idea to walk together first and then when they are a bit calmer and have indicated some interest in play, they can. It is also good to stop the play before it becomes too intense. You can take breaks during play. Get your dog to make eye contact with you, leash them if needed and then let them play again together. This helps to teach your dog to pay attention to you during play, that they should still pay attention to their handler when another dog is around. When this expectation is set it becomes much easier to get your dogs to take a break when they need to or when things become too intense. If you arent sure about your dog being off-leash, use a long leash and build trust with that on first"

A couple with their dog
Consistency with two handlers

Do you have any tips for maintaining consistency and training when you have two handlers?

"The most important thing is that each handler is consistent with what they are doing. Between two people, it is natural that there will be different communication styles and different energy styles. It is ok and normal to be different, but you should have the same expectations for your dog of what is ok and not ok."


Cute puppy gaurding his bone
Puppy Resource Gaurding

What do you recommend for behaviour modification with a younger pup who resource guards his toys from his older brother?

"This is extremely common in a two-dog household that one of the dogs or both will resource guard toys or affection, food or even space. The key to this is to always advocate for both dog's space. Never expect them to work it out on their own. They are not capable of working it out on their own because they do not have words. The owner must be the referee. When giving them toys or bones, give them to them in different spaces of the room. Try having them hold a 'place command' while enjoying their toy or treat. This will relieve the pressure of the dogs feeling like they have to guard their treat or toy. If one dog finishes before the other dog and gets up off their 'place' get up and go in between them and direct your dog back to their 'place'"


What do you recommend for neighbouring dogs who are possessive between fences?

"You can only control so much. If you have a dog on the other side of the fence that is going at your dog, you might not be able to do anything about that dog. What you can do is up the management of your own dog. You could put your dog on a long leash so that if your dog starts to escalate at all to the dog on the other side of the fence, you can redirect your dog back to you."


How do I stop my dog from jumping up on people? Even people we pass on the sidewalk?

"Generally speaking, a dog that is jumping up as described is jumping up because they are very social, and they have been rewarded in the past for greeting other people by being excited. If you know your dog will jump on people passing by, do not give them all 6 feet of the leash. While walking, try holding the leash shorter and go in between you and the other person. So that in the worst case, your dog will jump on you instead of the other person you are passing.

It is essential that in greetings, we advocate for our dog's space. You should not let people excitedly approach your dogs because that will confuse your dog about what a greeting should look like. The greeting should be calm. Reward your dog for calm behaviour."

Socializing your dog with a new dog
Socializing your dog

How do you introduce a shelter dog to a new dog when you do not know their history?

"Socialization is important in a training plan. If you are not sure how your dog will react to new dogs, you should pick a dog to socialize them with who is super chill. An ideal dog to use would be over the age of 5, pretty chill, and doesn't have a background of any reactivity. It would help if you also started the meet-up with a walk outside on-leash. If your rescue dog seems uncomfortable, you can have yourself, and your friend or family member with the other dog walk in between the dogs. As the rescue dog gets more comfortable, you can move so that only one person is in between the dogs. When ready, the dogs can walk beside each other with space between them, and as the comfort grows, you can move the dogs closer to eventually walking beside each other. You should always read your dog's body language. If they are trying to avoid the other dog, it means they need more space. If they are sniffing, that is great. Ideally, the dogs sniff each other, nose to butt. If they are side-eyeing and the body language is intense, it is better to give them space as they may react. Walking is a great way to get dogs acquainted because it gives them a job, keeps them moving so that tension does not build up and makes them feel like they are part of the same pack. If you think your dog has a bite risk, you should muzzle condition your dog"

If you are interested in watching the video Hanna and I did together, it is available on our Instagram in the IGTV section.

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