When you get a dog, no matter if it’s a puppy or a senior, training is so important. Dogs need to have boundaries, which sets them (and you) up for a fun, successful and happy life.
One of the first things we did when we brought Gant home was enroll him in a puppy training class. For six weeks, I went from not knowing how to teach him to sit to seeing him be the first dog to pass the whole course.
So today, I am introducing Paw and Order Dog Training and Behaviour Consulting, a company based in Canada. Nicole, the founder, will give us some background on her business, as well as tips and tricks for effectively training your dog.
Tell us a little About Yourself.
My name is Nicole Courson, CDBC, KPA-CTP. I live in Nelson, British Columbia (Canada) and I train in Nelson and the surrounding area, the region called the West Kootenays.
Paw and Order is the name of my company (full name Paw and Order Dog Training and Behaviour Consulting). I officially founded the business in 2017, but had been training dogs casually or for other companies for years prior to that. I am a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) as well as a Karen Pryor Certified Training Partner.
How long have you been a dog trainer?
I have been dabbling in training my dogs, friends’ dogs, or shelter dogs for over a decade but received formal guidance and started accepting payment for my work (thereby being “professional”, in a sense) in 2013. I am a huge advocate for education and didn’t want to call myself a dog trainer until I knew I was qualified to do so.
My services include private training, group obedience classes, and day training or board and train packages, where I work with the dog primarily myself rather than coaching the dog owner through a full training program. I do work with obedience, manners and puppy training, but my primary work is with problem behaviors such as anxiety, aggression, and reactivity issues.
What got you interested in dog training?
Ever since I went with my dad and our labrador to an obedience class as a kid, I was interested in animal training. I grew up with dogs and horses, and the relationships I built with those animals made a lifelong impression on me.
Why is it so important to train your dog?
Training our dogs is a responsibility, plain and simple, as soon as we bring them into our homes. Training may mean different things to different families, but it’s important we give our dogs the skills and knowledge they need to be able to live peacefully with us in our environment. It keeps them safe, keeps us at ease, and the relationship of trust we build through teaching them these things is second to none.
How do you assess the best needs for a dog prior to training?
I talk to their owners and whenever possible observe the dog when the dog is at ease in their owner’s presence. People know what problems they want to address, and dogs demonstrate their responses to their environment, so I can offer solutions that take their real life needs and abilities into account.
What are the advantages of a group class vs. private training?
Group classes have the distraction aspect of a social setting which helps dogs learn to focus on their handlers despite activity around them. Private training is custom designed for your individual dog and lifestyle… so groups are great if it’s basic obedience and social manners you want, and private lessons are better for lifestyle behavior changes or problem behaviors.
What is the most common type of training you do for dogs?
I do a lot of work with aggression and anxiety behaviors… I work with a lot of clients whose dogs are reactive to people or to other dogs, to help them navigate social situations with more pleasant alternatives to barking, snapping, or biting.
Here’s Mason. He was found as a stray, rescued and sent to a kennel, where she pulled him. After Nicole worked with him, he was adopted by a loving family.
What is the most important trick or skill a dog should learn?
It varies dog to dog… I always say to clients “all I care about is how you want to live with your dog”. People have different rules and that’s okay. That said, my favourite go-to behavior is a simple sit. An automatic or easily cued and fluent sit is useful in countless situations.
What is the first trick most dogs learn? Why?
I think many start with a sit, because it’s something puppies offer naturally and owners are able to capitalize on that.
What is a common mistake people do when training their dog?
The most common mistake is just being inconsistent. Bless their hearts, our dogs often learn despite us. But we will change cues (for example, sometimes we may say “sit”, others “sit down”, yet others “hey now pal, I said SIT”. we don’t always stand or move in the same way when giving the dog cues, and then we wonder why they aren’t consistent themselves. All good animal trainers are constantly working on this.
What trick should a dog NOT learn?
Hm. That’s a tricky question because again, my training philosophy is “It’s all in how you want to live with your dog”, which leaves a lot of room. I think to me it’s more that you can teach your dog to behave however you like, as long as you ensure you don’t put them into a situation where that behavior isn’t going to be acceptable.
Do you mostly work with puppies, young dogs, adults or a mix of both?
A mix, definitely. My group classes include a puppy class and then a manners class that is usually adolescent or young adult dogs, but I’ve had all ages and mg private lessons clients range from 8 weeks old to 15 years.
What is the easiest trick for a dog to learn?
In my experience, a nose-to-hand target. You present your hand, your dog touches it with their nose. Most dogs see their owner’s hand coming and as it so often holds food or gives affection, the majority of dogs will reach out towards the hand and that can be marked and reinforced.
Nox, the German Shepherd, is showing off the skill of touching his nose to Nicole’s hand.
What is the hardest trick for a dog to learn?
This one varies so greatly based on the dog… for example my 95 lb deep-chested dog really struggles to ‘sit pretty’ but he can jump through hoops no problem, while my corgi currently has the most trouble with holding a treat on her nose. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that animals are all individuals!
Can you really teach “an old dog new tricks”?
You sure can! I’ve had dog clients over 14 years old learn new things in a 5 minute training session that stuck, no problem. Last year I even taught a 16 year old cat how to sit on cue and give a high five. Animals love to learn and engage their whole lives.
See the video for a cute trick she taught this adorable cat!
Can you give a brief trick or training tip a dog lover could use right now with their dog?
That hand target I mentioned is awesome. It can be used to get your dog’s full attention, to finish a recall, to redirect them off of something else… there are endless applications. Just present your hand right in front of your dog and when they nose towards it, mark and reinforce! Soon you have a dog that sees you reach down and runs to boop their nose into your palm (or finger, or wrist, or whatever you choose). Dogs like to DO something, and this one is an easy win for everyone involved!
Nicole’s dogs, Baxter, a mixed breed, and Lani, a corgi outside