• Nicola Smith

Toronto work from home ideas with your dog


What a crazy time we are in! Even two weeks ago, most people could not have anticipated that today, most of us would be working from home, practicing social distancing and in many cases be in isolation. Suddenly, we have spare time. What will we choose to do? How can we occupy ourselves productively? Undoubtedly there are things waiting to be done: organizing that closet you never get to, learning to play the guitar, paint or write, or implement a home exercise routine or meditation practice.

I, for one, would like to suggest that this is a terrific opportunity to spend time on some extra training with your dog, maybe even teach them a new trick. While most of us may be finding the recent directives taxing, I can only imagine that our dogs are ecstatic to have us home all day, providing them with 24/7 companionship! Brushing up on some obedience training will keep us all positively engaged, strengthening our bonds and help us in the long run when life eventually gets back to normal and life becomes too busy again. Here are some ideas; things that have worked for me in my own training with my dogs. Although I am not a certified trainer, I am speaking from my own experience, as a Toronto dog walker and a dog owner of many dogs.


Proper Leash Walking


While there may be different ideas as to what proper leash walking is, to me it means your dog is not pulling you down the street, crisscrossing all over the place or making sudden jumps or movements that pull you around. It means that your dog is walking beside you, or if not beside you, at least there is no tension on the leash in front of you.


Why is this important? If you have a medium to large dog pulling you around, your dog can easily cause you injury, including serious back injuries. It also means that your dog is leading your walk. Moreover, they will have the opportunity to get at whatever they want before you have a chance to discern whether it’s safe or not.


If you have a small dog, proper leash walking can be just as important for their own safety. A small dog crisscrossing all over the place could cause you to trip and potentially hurt them in the process. It is imperative for our own protection as well as theirs, that we teach our dogs to walk properly on-leash. Also, isn’t it less stressful and therefore more enjoyable to walk a dog that is not pulling you everywhere?


Use treats to train your dog to walk properly while on-leash. Practice walking with your dog beside you while holding a treat in your hand just above their nose where you hold the leash. Let them know the treat is there, but that you need their full attention and expect them to walk beside you. How do you that? If they walk ahead of you, or you lose their attention, simply change directions. Change directions every time and as many times as you need to. Make sure you give them tiny little bits of treats with your free hands when they are walking the way they are supposed to. I would practice this on a quiet street where there are few distractions; as they get better at it, you can switch where you are training and gradually increase the level of distractions around you. Considering what is going on right now, streets should be far less traveled to practice on.


Teaching your dog to "leave it"


The “leave it” command is vitally important as it could save your dog’s life. This is one of the first commands I taught my dogs. “Drop it” is another imperative command but let's teach them to “leave it” as well. This may well save them swallowing a stray chicken bone some careless person discarded on the street.


Have your treats ready. You will need a higher value treat and then also a lower value treat that will work as your “leave it” bait. I start practicing this by sitting down beside my dog. I will place the bait treat on the ground and cover it with a cupped hand. My dog is going to start to smell where the treat is, and when my dog takes a second to look up at me, I reward them with the higher value treat. I keep rewarding as long as their attention remains on me. The next time their attention goes back down to the treat, I introduce the “leave it” command. When they look up at me, I reward them with treats. Do this repeatedly enough times until you think your dog is ready try it without your hand covering the treat. When you have done this enough times and your dog is ready, you can practice by leaving bait treats around your place, walk around and practice the “leave it” command until perfect. I made a quick little video showing you how I did this with Tyson. Watch below:




Teach your dog to speak:


This one can take a bit longer to learn because your dog needs to want to bark and figure that out on their own. Start with a high-value treat, letting them know you have it, and basically wait for them to make some kind of noise. They are going to eventually do this, because they are frustrated and trying to communicate with you. Once you get that first communication from them, praise them profusely while rewarding them with a treat. After I get that first “speak” or any communication vocally from them, I start adding the command as I’m going. When they make any noise at all or even just start the motions to speak, you reward this. Repeat as many times as needed till it intensifies into what you are looking for. I made a video below of my first time teaching this to Tyson.




Have them learn how to sit pretty


This one is a cute crowd-pleaser that everyone always loves. It’s also super easy but it just takes some time because your dog has to build its core support to perfect it. Have your dog sit down and use a treat to guide your dog's nose upward and back so that it’s back is arched off the ground and front paws off the floor. If your dog needs some support to hold this trick, use your arm that you are not using for treats to help balance your dog. Do this repeatedly until your dog understands that they have to take this position on their own without your support.


These ideas are fantastic ways to tire your dog out and great for building your bond. Remember to keep training sessions short so that you can keep a good focus going. I hope these ideas will help during this time at home with your dog. We hope that you are all staying inside, staying warm and staying safe.