Training FAQs

 

  1. Do I have to be a member of NYOC to take a training class?
  2. I am confused about the terms used to describe classes and titles. Can you simplify this for me?
  3. Which class should I sign up for? 
  4. What am I going to learn?
  5. What training methodology do you use?
  6. What should I bring to class?  
  7. What are the qualifications of your instructors? 
  8. How long will it take to train my dog?
  9. Is my dog too old to train?
  10. Is my dog too young to train?
  11. I have a small dog. Do you have separate classes for small and big dogs?
  12. Why do you allow noisy/unruly dogs in class?
  13. What if I have a shy/aggressive dog?
  14. What should I do if my dog has chronic health issues or gets sick after the training sessions begin?
  15. Is NYOC only for people who want their dogs to compete in Obedience Trials?

 


1. Do I have to be a member of NYOC to take a training class?

No, you don’t. We are happy to welcome non-members to any of our training classes.  Read the class descriptions to choose the appropriate class for you and your dog.


2. I am confused about the terms used to describe classes and titles. Can you simplify this for me?

The terms are confusing!  We have developed a chart of Obedience Terms to help you understand the jargon.  To learn more about Obedience and Rally Trials, read the FAQs under Obedience Trials.


3. Which class should I sign up for?

Most dog/handler teams without previous class-based training will benefit by starting with the Beginners 1 class, even if the dogs are already responding to some commands.  Dogs are situational learners and putting them into a high stimulus environment with lots of distractions (new place, new dogs, and new people in very close proximity) will take a bit of getting used to.  The more relaxed, introductory pace of our beginner classes will make for an easier adjustment, as well as giving you extra time to make sure your dog is having a positive experience.

If you and your dog have completed classes elsewhere, or you have successfully self-trained your dog and feel s/he is ready for more advanced work, ask to have the Training Director contact you to discuss which class would be appropriate for you.

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4. What am I going to learn?

We start with the basics necessary to safely control your dog: sit, stay, come, lie down, and heel (walk nicely beside you on the leash). We build from there in the more advanced classes by adding in distractions, working off-leash, and using hand signals.  More importantly, we are going to teach you to teach your dog that good things happen when s/he pays attention to you, that that training is fun, and that well-mannered dogs get to do more!

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5. What training methodology do you use?

NYOC’s training methodology reflects our Training Philosophy.

NYOC adheres to a positive-based training philosophy: dogs are rewarded for doing the right thing, not punished for doing the wrong thing.  Based on operant conditioning, exercises are taught using rewards.  Over time, the reward is phased out so the dog responds reliably even when you don’t have a treat.  However, continuing with an intermittent reward schedule ensures ongoing motivation for most dogs. We also teach you to use a short verbal marker (which acts like a clicker) to communicate to the dog when s/he has done the requested behaviour correctly.

During training classes, North York Obedience Club forbids any form of physical correction that inflicts pain on a dog. We also strongly discourage our students from using such corrections at all other times.  Instead, we show you how to redirect your dog and how to use appropriate corrections when necessary.

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6. What should I bring to class?  

The basics are a collar, leash, treats, and usually your dog. For exceptions to this, see the information below.

Collar: During class, dogs should be wearing flat collars without tags.  We find it easiest to have a dedicated training collar that your dog can wear during class (your dog should always have some sort of identification on when outside).  If necessary, dogs can wear a harness or head halter.  Choke-chain collars and shock collars are not allowed in classes. In very rare cases, where the safety of the dog’s handler is at risk (i.e., a mobility disability), we may allow for the use of a pinch collar.  This must be discussed in advance with the Training Director.

Leash: Dogs should be on six-foot leather or nylon leashes (four-foot leashes are too short for on-leash recalls and stand-for-exam exercises).  Thinner leashes are more manageable during class, but if your dog is a forger (a dog who pulls) make sure the leash is strong enough to restrain him/her. Flexible/retractable leashes are not to be used during classes.

Treats: For treats, we recommend something small and soft that you know your dog likes and is not too messy.  Small, because you may be giving lots of them soft because they are easier to swallow, especially while moving; not too messy for obvious reasons. These can be small cheese cubes, sliced hot-dogs or other meats cut into small chunks, commercial treats such as Ziwi Peak, Rollover or Natural Balance training bits, or anything else you know your dog likes and will be motivated to work for.  Crumbly biscuits are not encouraged, as pieces fall on the floor and then all the dogs start sniffing and snacking.

Your Dog:  Our classes are for you and your dog. There may be times however when your dog is not up to attending (i.e., tummy troubles, after spaying or other surgery, when a female dog is in heat – intact males do attend our classes). In these cases we recommend that you come to class without your dog.  This way you will know what was covered and can practice at home, thereby not falling behind your classmates when you return with your dog.

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7. What are the qualifications of your instructors? 

The NYOC training staff are all Club member volunteers who have gone through our classes, served as training observers and assistants for multiple sessions, and then started instructing classes under the supervision of senior instructors.  They are also some of the most active people in the dog sport community.  Almost all of them have trained dogs who have earned multiple titles in various areas of competition including formal obedience, rally-obedience, agility, tracking, field trialing and conformation.  Many still take classes themselves and attend training seminars and workshops to remain current with dog learning theory.  Of course, they also spend lots of time with other “dog people” discussing what works best in various situations.  All share a commitment to creating a happy and healthy bond between our community’s dogs and their families.  That’s why they volunteer their time.

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8. How long will it take to train my dog?

You’ll be surprised at how much you and your dog can accomplish after successfully completing Beginners I and II classes.  Of course, this will require a commitment on your part to practice daily what you are learning with your dog  (two or three fifteen-minute sessions is optimal).  Simply showing up once a week without practicing will not get you the results you desire, nor is it fair to your dog.  To build on the basics and ensure reliability, the Intermediate class is strongly recommended after Beginners I and II.  Many of our students – human and canine, find this the most enjoyable class to take of all, as both the handler and dog know what is expected and it becomes a way to practice skills while having fun.

Although you may “graduate” from classes, realize that your dog will be learning for the rest of his/her life.  You will need to continue to provide gentle guidance, positive reinforcement for behaviours you wish to maintain, and ensure a safe environment for as long as you are fortunate enough to have your dog.

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9. Is my dog too old to train?

Absolutely not.  Unless your dog suffers from CCD – Canine Cognitive Disorder (similar to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in humans), he/she is still capable of learning.  It may take a little longer and require more repetitions, but with patience and understanding most dogs can learn what you are asking and how to comply.  If you have adopted an adult dog, realize that your new friend may have to “unlearn” some old habits that do not conform to the new environment.  These adult dogs are not being bad; they just haven’t been taught to do things the way you would like.  The best way to remedy this is through positive training at any age not punishment.

Big or small, we train them all!

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10. Is my dog too young to train?

Probably not. The most recent research shows that puppies can successfully begin gentle training much younger than previously thought. Sixteen weeks is optimal for our Beginners 1 class where, for health and sanitary reasons, we require your puppy to be house-trained and have completed his/her second round of vaccinations before starting.  When offered, our Puppy Kindergarten class will accept puppies as young as nine weeks.

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11.  I have a small dog. Do you have separate classes for small and big dogs?

Sharing time and space with a trained dog, no matter what the size, is a pleasure, not to mention safer for the dog and any people he/she interacts with. (Trust us, your vet will be extremely grateful for a well-mannered patient – little teeth hurt, too!). Small dogs and big dogs share the outside world all the time – the vet’s office, dog parks, walking on the street. At NYOC we believe it is best to let them get comfortable with one another in a controlled, safe environment like a dog class. Therefore, we mix sizes in our classes and make sure everyone adapts accordingly – you’d be surprised how bossy some Yorkies can be!

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12. Why do you allow noisy/unruly dogs in class? 

Much like children, dogs are individuals with unique personalities shaped by a variety of factors.  These include genetics, parenting styles (both canine and human), exposure to different stimuli and levels of socialization (life experiences).  Some dogs come in ready to focus on learning, others just want to play; some are anxious, others grumpy at missing their favourite TV shows (or, more likely, the couch in front of the TV).  How do dogs communicate these feelings?  Barking, play bows, lunging, heading for the exit, planting their bums and going on strike, even on occasion growling and snapping. Sort of like the first day of school after summer vacation.  All of these dogs need to learn acceptable manners and how to listen properly.  That is why they are in class!  We teach you how to get and keep your dog’s attention, how to redirect behaviour when necessary and how to set your dog up for success. It is mandatory that each handler be able to physically maintain control over his/her dog at all times.  That is why we will, on occasion, suggest a different member of the family handle the dog during class. And relax, usually by week three things have quieted down considerably.

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13. What if I have a shy/aggressive dog?

We are accustomed to dealing with dogs that are not initially at ease around other dogs or people.  Usually, through a combination of behavioural adjustment methods, confidence building and gradual proximity exercises, dogs learn to accept this new experience.  We will NOT employ “flooding” techniques (a short-term, stress inducing solution), so time, patience and commitment on your part will be required. It is imperative that you let us know in advance if your dog has these problems so that we can take appropriate measures to ensure a safe and successful experience for all participants.

Our classes are not designed for, nor will they be effective in, treating dogs with severe aggression issues.  If, in our opinion, a dog poses a safety risk, we reserve the right to withdraw that dog from our classes. In such a case we will issue a partial refund.

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14. What should I do if my dog has chronic health issues or gets sick after the training sessions begin?

If your dog has a chronic health condition eg epilepsy, deafness, be sure to include this information on the Dog Handler Profile form that is part of the registration form.

If your dog is sick, please don’t bring him/her to class. If you are unsure, check with your veterinarian and let your instructor know.  We encourage you to come to the class and observe so that you will know what to practise with your dog at home when s/he is well.

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15. Is NYOC only for people who want their dogs to compete in Obedience Trials?

Definitely not. Although NYOC hosts a Canadian Kennel Club sanctioned Obedience Trial annually, our training classes are for anyone who wants a well-behaved dog.  Our classes do integrate competitive obedience exercises, but these are all applicable to real world situations and foster better control over your canine companion. Plus, it looks awfully impressive!  If you are interested in competing, we can help you with that too.

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