Category Archives: Uncategorized

Custom K9 Program

Our Custom K9 program is designed for those clients that want the experience of picking a puppy and selecting the training package that goes into developing the pup into the working K9 of their dreams. This program also offers a financing option for your next fully trained protection dog.  Clients are able to select any of the below packages to put their new puppy through.  

A puppy is selected from one of our available pups or reserved from an upcoming litter.  We will assist you in making the selection as not all pups are born equal.  Depending on your personal needs, the necessary genetic temperament of your puppy may vary. As such, we will ensure you end up selecting a pup that best fits your personal needs and desires.
Once you have selected your puppy, you purchase the pup and he or she remains here for the next stage of training and development.

Each level of training takes a certain amount of 

time. Our training is billed on a per month 

basis, however bigger packages receive a certain discount on our per month charge. 
Once you have selected a package we progress your dog through our training levels.
The total for the training package you select is divided into monthly payments due at the beginning of each month.


PUPPY FOUNDATIONS TRAINING  – Training time 4 weeks
$2800+ taxes
Your puppy begins his or her training journey here at Shield K9.  Your pup undergoes extensive socialization and environmental exposure.  This is the same program we put our prospective Police K9 prospects through. 

Your puppy also commences basic obedience and house training using primarily positive reinforcement to stimulate the pup’s interest and joy in learning. Basic Obedience commands including SIT, DOWN, STAY, PLACE, COME, KENNEL and Leash walking are addressed.
We also begin setting the foundation for protection work the pup will learn as he begins to mature and drive building.

Advanced Obedience / Protection Prep – Training time 14 weeks
$8500 + taxes
Your puppy now has basic puppy obedience and house training.  It’s time to take things further and make your pup’s obedience more reliable.  We now begin fine tuning the pup’s understanding of the obedience. He now begins to become more reliable and capable in his work. In this stage we introduce the E COLLAR and commence OFF LEASH 

The pup’s drive also continues to be developed and foundation protection work continues. By the end of this stage, your pup now has more training and ability then most adult dogs ever have.


LEVEL I FREEDOM DOG – Training time 4-5 months
$11,250 + taxes
In this package your dog goes through our FREEDOM TRAINING that stops people in their tracks as they can’t believe what they are seeing! Imagine being able to go anywhere with your pup off leash completely obedient to your every command. Not only will you have a beautiful dog, but you will also have the kind of obedience and control most people only ever see on TV or in the movies.


LEVEL II FAMILY PROTECTION DOG – Training time 7 – 8 months
$16,550 including dog + taxes
In this package your dog goes through our FREEDOM TRAINING that stops people in their tracks as well as our complete family protection package.
Your dog learns bitework fundamentals, grip development, aggression on command and the training to deter and engage in basic threat scenarios. The dog is socialized and prepared for life in the family home.

$24,250 including dog + taxes
In this portion of the training your dog is progressed to an advanced level of command and control. The dog is taught advanced fighting skills, how to deal with passive threats, advanced protection scenarios similar to what a Police K9 would learn and advanced tactical obedience.  Your dog is honed into a proficient working K9 that is capable of dealing with any threat scenario. This level of training is reserved only for puppies of the highest quality.

Your dog is now trained and ready to go home with you. It is now time for you to do anywhere from 1 to 5 sessions with a Shield K9 trainer to familiarize yourself with your new dog and ensure you understand how best to maintain the training and structure that has been instilled in your Custom K9 moving forward. We will be there with you every step of the way ensuring that you, your family and new dog have maximum success moving forward.  Delivery to your home is available for an extra cost.

How much does a Shield K9 Protection Dog cost?

Prices can range widely depending on what you are specifically looking for in terms of a dog and training. Prices are generally between $14,000 to $75,000 for a trained and
 health tested dog.

All our Protection K9’s come with a health guarantee and lifetime training support. We can deliver your new dog in person and provide a two-day familiarization course in handling and tactical application of your new K9 partner.

Are your dogs healthy?

All our dogs come with health certificates and X-Rays of their joints, proving their ability to stand up to the rigors of working to protect you and your family. We also provide a written health guarantee with your new dog.

Why buy Shield K9 dogs?

Many people simply believe that buying any German Shepherd or other guardian breed is all that is required for a good family protection dog. The sad reality is that most dogs, even from guardian type breeds, do not have the necessary working ability and character to seriously fulfill this role.

Most dogs available on the pet market have been bred exclusively for looks, dog shows or just to be nice pets. The traits necessary for real work, including family protection, have not been preserved and have thus vanished.

Our dogs are the 1%. We select these dogs on our buy trips to Europe as well as from our own breeding program. We go through hundreds of dogs to get to our final selections. We do not buy trained dogs as our training program in one of the best in the world. Instead, we buy the BEST genetic product. The dogs with the highest levels of courage, stability and willingness to do the job be it protection or police work. Our dogs are hand selected and trained for these tasks.

Want something family friendly that you can take to Starbucks? We have it.
Need a Tier one dog that you can go to war with? We have them.
Looking for a property protection dog? We have those too.

Our dogs and training are second to none. Give us a call today and we will help you find what you need.

All our dogs come from proven working bloodlines and have generations of real work and titles in their pedigrees.

How does shipping work?

If you reside a significant distance from Ontario, Canada, we will ship your dog to an airport near your place of residence. For clients in North America we can ship the dog via ground transport straight to your door.

We can also travel with your new dog, deliver him in person and provide on site training for several days to ensure you are fully comfortable handling your new partner.
Depending on the dog you are purchasing, there may be an extra cost associated with this.

What should I expect from my Protection Dog?

A quality protection dog should have the following features:​

  • Safe and social with the family.
  • Provides an active deterrent through his presence alone, just the sight of one of our dogs is enough to quell most criminal urges.
  • Always alert to potential intruders and alerts his owners to the presence of potential bad guys.
  • Will engage an aggressor or intruder if commanded by his handler.
  • Reliable obedience which makes him safe out in public and with the family.

What is the process of getting a Protection Dog?

Review our available dogs and contact us if you have any questions.

Many of our dogs already have training in place and as such dogs can be made available in as little as a weeks time. During the final stages in the training process we encourage you to come down and have a few familiarization sessions with your new K9 protector.

If you do not reside in the area, not to worry. We can provide video instruction and familiarization with your new dog.
When it’s time to take your dog home, you will have multiple delivery options which we outline in the shipping section below.

Board & Train Cheat Sheet

Download this article

Key Points

  • Moving forward your job is to make accountability with the dog in relation to the obedience and overall behavior of the dog.
  • You achieve accountability with a combination of Motivation and Obligation.
  • Motivation is created with praise and food or toy rewards, you do not use these things to bribe the dog into compliance but to reward the dog for a job well done after completion of a command or a good behavior choice.
  • Obligation is created by correcting the dog for failure to comply with a known command. Corrections take the form of the remote collar or prong collar and are delivered with an intensity commensurate with the situation.
  • 99% of behavior issues are a result of poor management, follow our management guidelines to the letter in relation to your dog to ensure optimal behavior.
  • You will never give your dog a formal command without having a means to ensure his or her compliance that means having a leash or remote collar on your dog at all times.
  • All undesirable behaviors like aggression are to be punished as you were shown in the return session immediately, do not allow even the smallest bad behavior to go unpunished.
  • Start every outing with your dog with obedience for 5 to 10 minutes prior to releasing your dog to play.
  • Do NOT leave the remote collar in the same place on your dog’s neck for longer then 3 hours.


CHEEP – Marks the moment your dog has done something to earn a treat. Simply mark the moment the dog does something you want to reward then give the dog a treat.

NO – Is the marker for punishment. Say NO the moment the dog does something undesirable then apply the punisher.

GOOD – Is a verbal marker for desirable behavior that reinforces for the dog that he is doing something desirable.

OK – Marks the end of a stay. Your dog must maintain any behavior he is asked to until you mark OK. If the dog breaks a behavior prior to hearing OK mark with a NO and replace the dog in the behavior.


Ensure the collar is fitted snugly to the dog’s neck. When you are walking the box should be on the left side of the dog’s neck if the dog is a left side dog.
Do not leave the e collar in the same place longer then 3 hours, remember to loosen it and move it every 3 hours.

When using your collar for general obedience the level should be such that you see the dog act like they received a leash correction. Generally, it looks like a twitch. We do not want the dog to over react, just respond productively to the stim.

When your dog is ignoring your commands or failing under certain circumstances to respond to the stim turn up the collar significantly, catch the dog high a few times to make accountability then go back down.

The E Collar should be put on 10-15 minutes prior to any use and you should NEVER give your dog commands without the e collar on for at least 6 months.

Structured Walk

Please ensure you do at least one structured walk with your dog every day. The structured walk is essential for the new respect based relationship you are forging with your dog. Every walk should be a healthy mix between loose leash walking and heeling.

Loose Leash Walking
Never allow the dog to make tension on the leash whether you are still or in motion. Any time the dog pulls on the leash deliver a quick pop to the leash in the opposite direction of the pulling dog and simultaneously push the remote collar to deliver a correction.

If the dog ignores the correction simply turn up the collar quickly and deliver another correction while again popping back on the leash or push the red button to boost the level.

Remember, please say your dogs name if you need your dog to move towards you and simply stim the dog if he or she fails to come to you. Remember to praise the dog for compliance. NO PULLING EVER!

**REMEMBER start all heeling patterns at a slow pace do not move faster until you and the dog are moving well. If you start to lose the dog for any reason SLOW DOWN again and correct the dog as necessary if he fails to adjust his pace to yours.

When you give the dog the heel command the dog must come to the left side (unless you have a right side dog). The dog must then stay next to you whether you are still or in motion. The dog’s shoulder must never pass your shoulder.

The dog must sit when you stop. The dog is not to sniff the ground or move at a different speed then you. If the dog fails in this criteria or attempts to leave you for a distraction and immediate correction is delivered via the remote collar at a level sufficient for the dog to comply.

Remember, if the dog is excited or distracted a higher level is warranted then the usual level you use with the dog. If the dog gets away from you and is more then 3 to 4 feet away use the dogs name to call him back then command him to heel again.

Place Command

If you have a young dog or a dog with behavioral issues in the home like issues with aggression, resource guarding or the door the place command is something you should practice every day whether you need it or not. Point the dog to the desired place which must be an elevated object that is discernable to the dog.

Place is anything you decide it is however you must take the dog to the object and show the dog the item then have the dog get on and off the place a few times so he knows what you want before leaving the dog on place.

If the dog attempts to leave the place simply say NO PLACE and give your dog a continuous remote collar correction until he gets back on the desired object. If the dog appears confused or attempts to leave simply continue tapping the collar go and physically place the dog either with a leash or the dog’s flat collar back on the place. Stop stimming the dog when he is back on the place.

If you have a dog that has issues staying on the place leave a leash on the dog even if you are using the remote collar. If the dog continues to attempt to leave place simply escalate the level of correction for leaving. Do this quickly and catch the dog on a significantly higher level and you will see the behavior end quickly.

Do not leave the dog on place unsupervised otherwise you will not be able to correct him or her for leaving. If you want to get to the point where you make your dog strong on place unsupervised, proof the command by pointing a WiFi camera or baby monitor at the place and simply correct the dog for attempting to leave on a higher level. Generally, only one or two instances are necessary for proofing this.


Your dog’s name is the recall command. For the sake of this writeup we will assume your dogs name is FIDO. To call your dog simply say FIDO, if the dog turns to come to you immediate begin praising the dog loudly and enthusiastically. When the dog gets to you either release him again with an OK or command him to SIT or HEEL.

*I recommend marking with a CHEEP every so often when your dog comes to you and rewarding your dog with a tasty treat. This helps to maintain that motivation that is also important to your dogs success.

If your dog fails a recall due to wilful disobedience or distraction simply repeat your dog’s name FIDO and add a remote collar stimulation. Continue calling your dog and pairing the dogs name with a remote collar stimulation until the dog turns to come, then praise the dog profusely all the way back to you. If the dog ignores your remote collar correction simply turn up the level.

RULE # 1: NEVER stop stimming the dog on the remote if he does ANYTHING other then come towards you. If you stop you will confuse the dog and possibly teach her to even run from the stim.

In the case of disobedience, do not climb up the levels slowly go up quickly until you see the dog react to the collar and cease ignoring the recall. Example, if your dog is at 10 on the collar normally and ignores a recall I will quickly turn the dial up without even looking before repeating FIDO and simultaneously correcting the dog on the collar.

If the dog continues to ignore the recall depress the remote collar button and swiftly turn up the collar until the dog stops and turns. Then immediately stop correcting the dog and praise enthusiastically all the way back.

RULE # 2: Always stim the dog for ignoring a recall command, you must continue to repeat the dogs name and tap the collar simultaneously until the dog stops and turns.


Sit, Down, Stay

When you give positional commands like sit or down ensure the dog immediately assumes the position then praise. If the dog fails to comply immediately repeat the command and stim the dog at the same time. If the dog breaks the position mark the moment with a NO and repeat the command SIT/DOWN with stim.

If the dog fails the command keep repeating the command and stimming the dog until he reassumes the command. If the dog continues to fail continue tapping the collar and physically assist the dog into the position then praise the dog.

If you have put your dog into a down or sit stay and the dog breaks the position and runs to you immediately mark with a NO and take the dog by the collar and firmly take the dog back to the position you originally placed him and replace him in the position he was supposed to be in. Always keep your eye on the dog while he is in a stay, the second the dog attempts to break and mark NO and repeat the command with a stim.

Aggressive Reactive Dogs

If you have an aggressive dog, management in the house and correct behavior on the structured walk is the keys to success. Your dog has been trained to be obedient and also trained to be neutral to his or her triggers. Your job is to maintain the obedience and also follow up with any corrections for any undesirable behavior.

The obedience and structure we have put on your dog is essential to keeping your dog in the correct state of mind. Maintaining the obedience, structure and not allowing your dog to break these behaviors and expectations will prevent 99% of the aggression problems. Please refer to the obedience sections for how to maintain the obedience in the home and on the walk.

Finally, but of no less importance you must punish your dog for any undesirable behavior. An effective punishment is something your dog deems intolerable. You have been shown how to use the bonker and a remote collar in the context of punishment. Remember, before any punishment you must mark with a NO prior to applying the punishment so your dog completely understands why it happened.

Remember, its your job to keep your dog safe. Do NOT allow strangers or other dogs to physically interact with your dog depending on whether your dog is dog or human aggressive. You also must punish any instance of growling, barking or aggression of any kind, do NOT allow these behaviors to pass or it will get worse.

It is your job to watch your dog while in public. If you notice your dog hyper fixating on a target immediately snap your dog out of it by taking a few steps back and calling your dog. You can also ask your dog to look up at you by simply saying his name. If your dog fails to follow your instructions, immediately correct your dog until they show immediate attention to you.

There is nothing wrong with allowing your dog to look at people or other dogs but its important to be aware of any hyper fixation and correct the dog for this or snap him or her out of it. Hyper fixation is the precursor to aggression. Allow it and your dog will start reverting.

On a walk most dogs will start pulling prior to any reactive display. Correct pulling the way you were shown. You may have to use a higher level on the collar because the more aroused a dog gets the less responsive to the collar they become. Quickly correcting the pulling is essential to eliminate the behavior. I see so many people allowing their dog to pull towards other dogs and people and wondering why the dog is becoming reactive. REMOVE THE PULLING and the aggression will follow.

Common Problems

I just got my dog home and he is ignoring all my commands and is reverting.

Your dog is used to misbehaving with you and in your home. Your dog knows what he is expected to do. It is time to make structure and accountability in your home environment. Remove all affection, put your dog on place in the house and hold him accountable to that. When you take your dog out take everything very slowly ONE behavior at a time. Correct the dog firmly for every failure and ensure he completes every behavior correctly. Do NOT accept halfway. Anything less then complete obedience is unacceptable. If you allow it things will quickly snowball and you will lose all control.

For example, if my dog cannot lie down at the door while I get ready we are not leaving the house until he does that properly. If my dog cannot walk down the driveway properly in a correct heel then we are not getting onto the sidewalk.

My dog does stops listening when other dogs and people are around.

Your dog knows the expectations, if he is getting over aroused slow everything down, dial up the collar significantly, catch the dog a few times when he is incorrect in his obedience then turn your collar back down to the normal level. Usually it only takes a few sharp corrections to bring your dog back down to planet earth. Keep your dog in obedience until he is visibly calmer.

My dog keeps doing certain things I don’t like, for example jumping.

If you want to remove undesirable behavior of any kind you must apply a punishment to said behavior. Remember to mark the behavior with NO then apply the punisher as you were shown in the return session.

My dog doesn’t listen without the e collar on.

Why are you telling your dogs to do things without the collar or some form of control on him? You are setting the dog up for failure and showing the dog that he only has to listen with equipment on.

Obedience is a habit and you must spend months instilling this habit before ever putting the dog in the position to ignore you successfully. Your job is to always ensure you are in a position to correct your dog for failing to comply with your instructions.

The Problem with Purely Positive/Force Free Training #3 – Motivation, what could go wrong?

The fundamental basis behind all positive training systems is using motivators to teach and strengthen behaviors. A motivator is anything that your dog desires, usually food or a toy. The trainer offers the motivator to the dog after he performs the desired behavior thus making that behavior more likely. Seems simple enough, what could go wrong?

The trouble with relying exclusively on motivators to train your dog is that they change day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute. Your dog might love hot dogs more than anything most of the time but at some point he is going to temporarily prefer to satisfy a competing motivator. In addition, distractions that capture the focus of our dogs like a running squirrel for instance can cause your dog to lose the ability to perceive the motivation you have in the moment. At that point you will have already lost the dog to the distraction.

Sally and Bowser have been going to Positive Paws Training School for several months. Bowser just graduated from Grade 3 and Sally is very proud. Sally has taught Bowser to come to her when he hears the words “BOWSER HERE”, she then gives him a treat.

Bowser has got to the point where he always comes to Sally at the dog training school and also in her backyard where she practised with him every day.

Sally decides to take Bowser for a walk. They are walking when Bowser spots another dog being walked by neighbor across the street. Bowser barks excitedly and runs towards the other dog yanking the leash out of Sally’s hand.

Sally hastily yells “BOWSER HERE!!” Bowser ignores Sally and continues across the road to meet the neighbor’s dog thus endangering himself and any drivers using the road.

Why did this Happen? Bowser knows the HERE command. He has been taught the command motivationally and shown this by always coming to Sally in training and at home where they practiced. Sally even had treats on the walk which Bowser could smell in her pocket!

Here is what happened. Sally ran into what is called a competing motivator. Basically Bowser was more motivated by the prospect of greeting the neighbor’s dog then he was by the treat Sally would give him for returning. Thus he chose to satisfy his primary interest or motivation in that critical moment. Not only this, but Bowser also learned that he does not always have to heed Sally’s HERE command if he doesn’t feel like it.

At this juncture many Force Free / Purely Positive training advocates would say Sally should have trained Bowser in progressively more distracting environments, slowly escalating the level of distraction and rewarding his compliance. Presumably, Sally would use a long line to prevent Bowser from running away during this training. It should also be noted that this would require a heavy time investment from Sally to see any kind of consistency with this approach.

Here is where it all falls apart. Dogs are intelligent creatures. They know they get fed every day, most dogs get treats every day and none of our pets are anywhere close to the realm of starvation. Even a dog with a very high desire to eat treats is going to run into competing motivators that temporarily supplant his desire to eat said treats, like the neighbor dog or a squirrel.

Let’s face it, Bowser does not get to see that dog every day, he likes meeting dogs, he is not going to starve to death anytime soon and he probably even had a few treats earlier that day. Let’s even assume that Sally was very motivated and did a lot of training under varying levels of distraction with Bowser.

While this might make it more likely that he will come, it is still far from a surety. Every time Bowser gets away with ignoring Sally, he will become more likely to do it again. After all the Force Free / Purely Positive approach completely eschews any kind of correction.

In the end Bowser, like most dogs will come to Sally only when he feels like it. Even the most highly pack oriented dog won’t always feel like coming when called and we cannot blame them if we do not show them that there are consequences to ignoring known commands. Dogs trained like this can never be trusted 100%, especially off leash.

Remember, just because your dog has been taught a behavior does not mean he will always choose to preform that behavior when you ask it of him. Regardless of how motivational the teaching process was.

Now let’s revisit the same scenario but in this case Sally comes to train here at Shield K9.

Scenario 2:
Bowser is taught to come to Sally when he hears the words “Bowser HERE”. Bowser is rewarded with a treat every time he returns to Sally. Bowser also wears a 20 foot long line during his recall training. If for some reason Bowser ever makes the choice to not return immediately to Sally when she issues the command “HERE”, she pops the long line attached to his collar until he turns and heads towards her at which point she rewards him.

After a week, Sally and Bowser go outdoors around distractions and practice recalls. Once again, every time Sally gives the recall “Bowser HERE”, and he does not immediately turn and come back to Sally she pops the long line attached to his collar until he complies and returns to Sally.

Bowser is always rewarded when he recalls to Sally whether or not she uses the long line to ensure his compliance. Bowser quickly learns that whether or not he feels like a treat he must return to Sally every single time he hears the words “Bowser HERE”.

Sally decides that she wants full off leash control and reliability with Bowser and chooses to introduce the Remote Collar to her training. Over the next 2 weeks Bowser has been collar conditioned and also taught how to make the collar stimulation stop.

Now Sally and a Shield K9 trainer take Bowser to the local park which is full of smells and distractions. Bowser is off lead and is wearing his new remote collar. Bowser spots some geese on a nearby patch of field and runs off to investigate. Sally gives the command “BOWSER HERE”.

Bowser, who is one sharp doggy, knows he isn’t wearing his long line and that he wants to see the geese more then eat a treat. He decides that just this once he will ignore Sally and keeps running. Bowser receives a low level electronic stimulation which continues until he turns around and heads towards Sally.

At this point Sally praises and rewards him with a treat. Training continues for the next couple of weeks and Bowser quickly learns that while he is rewarded for coming to Stacey there is also a consequence for ignoring her.

Fast forward to the incident just before Bowser runs across the road in the first scenario. Sally is walking Bowser. He catches sight of the neighbor dog and since he really loves playing with that dog, decides to head for him at full speed yanking the leash out of Sally’s hand.

Sally quickly yells “Bowser HERE”. Bowser without even thinking about it does a 180 degree turn and returns to her side before getting out onto the street. He still wants to see the neighbor’s dog but he knows that there is only ONE choice. That is to comply with the recall command. After all. he has never learned any other way nor been allowed to ever ignore a command. Obedience to all commands is almost an involuntary reflex to Bowser.

I leave it up you, dear readers to determine which version of Bowser and Sally are ultimately better off. Feel free to view video examples of this work on our video page.

Head Trainer – Shield K9

The Problem with Purely Positive/Force Free Training #2 – Science Based…or is it?

Let us first address the concept of science based training.  Many force free training advocates will tell you that their approach is supported by science.  That animals trained with positive reinforcement are proven to learn new behaviors more quickly then if they are punished.  Guess what!  This is absolutely true. Unfortunately this is not the complete truth.

BF Skinner is the noted behaviorist best known for his development of the learning theory, ‘Operant Conditioning’ which is recognized as one of the most comprehensive behavior theories in existence today. 

Skinner noted that humans and animals learned new things more quickly when they were rewarded as opposed to punished.  There has also been similar research to support this assertion with a variety of animals including marine mammals.

However, here is where they don’t tell you the entire truth.  There are FOUR quadrants to Operant Conditioning.  They are as follows:

  1. Positive Reinforcement
    Strengthens a behavior by providing a consequence an individual finds rewarding. For example, your dog is hungry.  He sits and you give him a piece of food.  He is now more likely to sit.
  2. Negative Reinforcement
    The removal of an unpleasant reinforcer can also strengthen behavior. This is known as negative reinforcement because it is the removal of an adverse stimulus which is ‘rewarding’ to the animal or person. Negative reinforcement strengthens behavior because it stops or removes an unpleasant experience. Example, you pull up on your dog’s leash and tell him to sit.  When he sits you relax the leash. He is now more likely to sit when he hears the command to avoid the leash pressure.
  3. Positive Punishment
    Sometimes referred to as punishment by application, involves the presentation of an unfavorable event or outcome in order to weaken the response it follows. Example, your dog chases the cat.  When he chases the cat you smack him on the nose.  He is now less likely to chase the cat because of this consequence.
  4. Negative Punishment
    Also known as punishment by removal, occurs when an favorable event or outcome is removed after a behavior occurs. Example, you are holding a toy your dog wants, you tell him to sit, instead he lies down.  You don’t give him the toy.  He is now less likely to lie down next time you tell him to sit because he did not get the toy for lying down.
In both cases of punishment, the behavior decreases.    

As dog trainers we are in the business of creating, managing and reducing various behaviors.  Skinner proved that both reinforcement and punishment both impacted behavior. Failing to recognize and use ALL four quadrants of Operant Conditioning is an incomplete approach to dog training.

If all dog training involved, was creating one new behavior after another then indeed the exclusively positive / force free approach would have more traction.  However, dog training not only involves teaching new behaviors like down or heel but it also involves making those behaviors RELIABLE or in some cases completely removing unproductive behaviors such as aggression. Positive reinforcement is not always the best tool to address all of these functions.


Scenario 1: 
Mike has a terrier named Bruno.  Bruno barks in the house every time a car drives by.  Mike is getting complaints from the neighbors about the noise.  He seeks help from a local trainer. 

She tells him to issue a voice interrupter to Bruno’s barking behavior (basically when Bruno barks, Mike interrupts him with a word like “hey” or “no”) and to praise and give him treats when he is quiet. Mike tries this for 2 weeks.

After a few days of minor improvement things go south and if anything Mike notes an increase in the barking. He finds it difficult to always be on top of Bruno as he is often busy around the house. Also, Bruno still barks when he is away from home.

Why did this not work?  Several things are at work here:

a) Bruno like many dogs derives satisfaction out of barking, while he probably knows that Mike does not like this behavior, he also knows that there are no real consequences for this action. Thus like many dogs he chooses to satisfy his need to bark.

b) Bruno was rewarded with food and attention once he stopped barking. This should theoretically have made it more likely that he remained quiet.  The problem here is that all positive reinforcement has a beginning and an end.  Mike cannot stay with Bruno and ceaselessly stuff food into his mouth.  Nor can he pet him 12 hours a day. 

When the motivation ceases Bruno has no more reason to be quiet.  If anything Bruno likely figured out that his barking initiates the chain of events that lead to him getting attention and treats.  Thus the solution to the problem actually made it worse.

c) Mike, like most people, is busy and cannot always be nearby Bruno to follow the local trainer’s strategy.  This means that Bruno is receiving inconsistent feedback for his actions. Not only that, science tells us that dogs learn best when the consequences to their actions both positive or negative, occur within 2-3 seconds of the action. Unless Mike is the Flash he won’t always be able to make it to Bruno in time.

Scenario 2: 
Mike has a terrier named Bruno.  Bruno barks in the house every time a car drives by.  Mike is getting complaints from the neighbors about the noise.  He seeks help from Shield K9.  The trainer there recommends that Mike obtain a Bark Collar for Bruno.  In addition the trainer also teaches Mike a protocol to respond to Bruno’s barking. 

The second Bruno barks, Mike issues a verbal correction followed by a physical correction if the barking does not stop. Mike repeats these steps as often as required.  Mike immediately notes that the frequency of Bruno’s barking decreases.  Especially when he is in the vicinity.  However, Bruno still barks when Mike is out of the house. 

Mike also purchases the Bark Collar and follows the trainer’s collar conditioning protocol for a week before actually turning the collar on.  Within the first hour the collar is turned on Bruno hears a car go by and reflexively barks.  The collar delivers a medium electric stimulation.  This startles Bruno.  He Barks again and receives the same consequence.  Two weeks into the training Bruno no longer barks in the house.

Why did this work? There was no motivational techniques used.  Surely Bruno would learn more effectively to be quiet when taught motivationally.

a) Bruno learns that the consequence for barking is an electric stimulation he finds unpleasant. This means that he is receiving positive punishment for his barking behavior. Initially this causes him some stress, however over a week or so he comprehends that only barking causes the positive punishment and thus understands how to avoid it. 

Once he knows how to make the unpleasant stimulation cease, he no longer has to worry about it.

b) Mike’s goal was to make the barking cease, in other words he wanted to terminate / reduce that behavior.  He was not teaching a new behavior but instead removing one.  Bruno already knows how to be quiet, teaching him to be quiet again is therefor a pointless exercise. 

We know based on Skinners behavior theory of Operant Conditioning that punishment is the most effective way to reduce or remove behavior.

Science tells us that we can affect behavior both through reinforcement or punishment.  Bruno, like many dogs is simply exercising choice.  His choice was to bark which was the wrong one from Mike and the neighbor’s perspective.  When that option was removed he reverted to the only other choice he had which was to be quiet.

I will never disagree that the scientific method is the best way to train dogs.  I see it every day in my practice.  However, I cannot choose to ignore a whole portion of proven behavior theory simply because it makes me uncomfortable or emotional.  Nor should any trainer!

Shield K9 Head Trainer

The Problem with Purely Positive/Force Free Training #1 – Intro

In this series of articles I speak to some of the common thinking errors and myths perpetrated by the purely positive or force free type training community.  Allow me to preface this series by saying that I am well aware of how to use a clicker, treats, toys, manage thresholds, stimulation, and motivation in dog training. In fact I use many of these training tools in my own practice often in concert with other techniques.

In this series of articles we examine this topic in depth.  I will endeavour to use many real world examples to illustrate my points and keep things interesting.

You just bought a puppy or brought a dog home from the shelter and it’s time to look into getting your new four legged friend some training.  A quick google search and you start seeing certain phrases repeat themselves and almost all the training websites and blogs you go to. 

Positive training, force free, clicker training, science based, free shaping and I am sure some others I am forgetting.  You are new to this whole training thing or maybe you have been through a class with a previous dog, either way your interest is piqued.  You call up one of these trainers or do some more research on google.

The basic themes you quickly pickup from your research is that the only way to properly train your new dog is through positive reinforcement exclusively using motivation and removing all forms of punishment or corrections.  Any form of punishment or correction is abuse and violence.  Punishment elicits pain and fear.  Good trainers do not need pain and fear to train dogs.  Dogs are our friends and we don’t hurt our friends.  Science has proven dogs learn more quickly through motivation and positive reinforcement.  All positive training is science based and any training that incorporates corrections is stone age Neolithic barbarism that should be condemned.

If that doesn’t convince you or scare you away from any alternate form of training I don’t know what will.  The truth is most dog owners don’t even bother with anything more than the most perfunctory research.  They read or hear some form of what I wrote above and take it as gospel.  Let’s not forget the fact that most people love their dogs like family and the thought of only training with love and treats is appealing in and of itself. 

These people sign up for such training and results are often inconsistent or non-existent when they have their dogs out in the real world.  After all, they have been assured online or by their trainer that there is no other way to train a dog.  So what else can they expect or do?

Most dog owners make do with problem behaviors, inconsistent obedience and just learn to manage.  Things aren’t perfect but hey, you love your dog and are willing to make some sacrifices to your life style.  Or worse, your dog develops serious or dangerous behavioral issues and you end up having to isolate, rehome or even put the dog down.

I am here to tell you that all that stuff you were told or read is misleading, incomplete or utter lies. I often compare purely positive / force free type training to the type of parents who started cropping up in the 60s that advocated against disciplining children in any way, making every experience happy and positive and sheltering the children from any kind of responsibility or adversity.  After all, the results of such an approach in dogs and children are often the same.

Unfortunately, I do not have the time to write the book this topic deserves however I will attempt to speak to a lot of the issues, errors and results of purely positive / force free type training.  I will be writing a series of articles to discuss this topic in depth.

Stay tuned!

Off-Leash Dog Control

“My entire philosophy and training system is designed to make life with your dog easy for BOTH of you.”
– Haz Othman

Imagine a dog that promptly obeys you whether he is next to you or 100 yards away. That comes when he is called, does not make pointless noise or destroys your house. This is only possible through a balanced training approach. 

I don’t rely on bribery nor do I rely on punishment.  Instead I utilize a consequence based system that teaches the dog how to make the right choice (MY choice) every time.  This makes things very black and white for your dog and is thus very easy for him to understand.  Most clients see the change immediately once the dog is brought into my system.

Picture for a moment yourself hiking in the woods with your pooch, let’s call her Fluffy.  The sun is shining, the birds are singing and your dog is at her happiest, off leash, running to her heart’s content, sniffing new scents and just being a dog.

Suddenly, you hear noise up ahead and look up to see a couple with their two Labs headed down the path in your direction.  Your dog Fluffy looks up, notes the two Labs 80 yards ahead and bolts down the path to meet them.  You don’t know these dog. 

Are they friendly or aggressive?  Will their owners appreciate your dog’s abrupt incursion into their space?  Too much potential for things to go wrong.  You make your decision.

Your Command rings out, “Fluffy COME”. Fluffy who is by now 50 yards down the path and closing with the new dogs fast, does an abrupt 180 degree turn and heads back to you.  “Fluffy, HEEL”, Fluffy comes into position, her neck almost touching your left thigh her body parallel to yours. 

She stays there matching your walking pace precisely as you continue without stopping down the path.  You note the two Labs are being leashed by their owners and are barking and jumping excitedly towards your dog.  You move over to the side of the path and give the strange Labs and their owners some space. 

You continue at a steady pace passing the excited dogs and their two owners while their slightly confused expressions track Fluffy who has remained at your side in a perfect Heel position despite the fact that she was sprinting towards their dogs only seconds earlier.

Fluffy stays in heel despite the antics of their dogs, once you have gone a safe distance past this distraction you give Fluffy the Break Marker signalling to her that she can go play. Fluffy leaves your side and bounds off into the woods again to resume her enjoyment of Mother Nature.

This is an example of what complete off leash control offers means to us here at Shield K9.  It’s not voodoo or rocket science.  Just simple training that makes sense to both you and your dog. 

We take the guess work out of every exercise, reward what we like, correct behaviors we don’t like and make everything easy for the handler and dog.  We use modern tools, train dogs quickly and properly the first time. In our system you don’t waste your time and money for many months or even years struggling to make your dog behave.

We offer an alternative to most mainstream pet training.  A healthy balance of modern techniques, tools and effective methods that have been proven over decades.  The Shield K9 program makes living a happy stress free life with your canine companion a reality.

Haz Othman,
Shield K9 Head Trainer

Fixing The Reactive Dog

Does your dog bark, growl or lunge when he or she catches sight of another dog?  Do you walk your dog at odd hours to avoid running into other dog walkers?

If any of this sounds familiar you might have a REACTIVE dog.

Dogs that are termed reactive will commonly show aggressive type behaviours when they see their particular poison.  This can be other dogs, humans or in some cases both. We see a lot of reactive dogs in our practice.  You could even go so far as to say it is our bread and butter.

The world of dog training is full of many theories and supposed experts on this topic.  A quick google search will yield numerous articles and write-ups on this subject that claim to have the panacea to this common issue.  

With all these experts and readily available information one would assume dog reactivity would be an easily solvable issue that any half decent trainer or motivated owner could fix.  Why then is this problem so rampant?  Why do we see frustrated owners going so far as to completely isolate their dog, using psychotropic medications or even euthanasia?

The answer is simple, most mainstream dog training and the supposed experts who tout it are not equipped with skills, mindset or experience to handle this issue.  It is one thing to read about what should happen and then regurgitate it on your blog or website and its quite another to actually go out and achieve tangible results with reactive / aggressive dogs.

Enough with the preamble let’s get to the meat of the issue.  Below you will find my recipe to addressing the reactive dog.

Before we get into the how let us briefly explore the why. In 99% of dog reactivity cases the dog’s behaviour is based in fear.  The reactive dog is generally an insecure dog regardless of how ferocious a display she exhibits. 

The goal of the aggressive display is to dissuade the target from any kind of social interaction.  Essentially, your dog wants the target to GO AWAY.  Reactive aggressive displays are how he or she has learned to achieve this goal.

Stop forcing social interaction!

Keeping the above information in mind, this makes sense.  We see this all the time with reactive dog owners.  They try to drag their dog through as many social interactions with the dog’s target as possible.  The dog will not “get used to it”.  If anything this will actually feed into your dog’s belief that other dogs or people are bad news regardless how many treats you give him or her.

Set reasonable goals.

Understandably, most owners want their dog to be like the easygoing dog they had growing up or the neighbor’s social happy go lucky Golden Doodle.  The first thing I say to all prospective clients is my goal is not to make antisocial dogs social. 

My goal is for you to be able to take your dog out in public and be able to do all the things a normal dog gets to do like hikes, car rides, fetch etc.  Your dog should be able to behave himself in close proximity to other human beings and dogs.  Meeting and playing with strange humans or dogs is not a necessity. 

That being said many dog reactive dogs that come through my program do become accepting of social interactions with other dogs.

Forget the past, focus on the present!

Many owners have a story that they tell themselves and others about why their dog is reactive. Harrowing tales of abuse before he was rescued or that time she was attacked by another dog when she was a puppy. 

The truth is reactivity can be a function of experience OR genetics and is often a result of both.  I have seen many dogs that were reactive from 8 weeks old.  The why no longer matters, focus on the now.  Your dog has a problem now, so fix it and stop making excuses!

Obedience, obedience and more obedience.

Is your dog obedient?  Not some of the time. Not only when you have treats or he is wearing his halti, but all of the time? Will he come, heel, sit and down reliably on and off leash?  I have yet to see a reactive dog that was what I would term reliably obedient.  The most important step to addressing the reactive dog is making completely reliable obedience.

Most reactive dogs are scanning for targets the second they step out the door.  A reliably obedient dog is focused on his handler’s next command or the behaviour he is preforming in the moment. For example, if your dog is in a correct heel how can he be barking and lunging at other dogs?  The answer is he cannot, it is one or the other. 

Reliable obedience is achieved through a balanced training approach.  That means the dog experiences both good consequences and bad consequences for the choices he or she makes. The reliably obedient dog follows the handler’s instructions regardless of the distractions present.  Remember, your dog does not need to be social in order to be obedient.

So your dog is obedient, now what?

Now it’s time to start bringing the target of your dog’s reactivity into the picture and having your dog remain in obedience while the target is present.  This is done in incremental stages. 

In the beginning we start at a distance from the target and ask the dog to preform obedience behaviours such as heeling or a down.  If the dog reacts to the target he will no longer be in obedience and should then receive a consequence for failure to remain in the desired behaviour. 

For example, if your dog is in a heel at your side and he spots another dog he has two choices.  Remain in the heel at your side, or react to the other dog’s presence.  There is a positive consequence for the first choice and a negative one for the second.

The consequence your dog receives if he chooses option two is not for displaying aggression to the target.  It is for leaving the heel or whatever behaviour you asked him to perform at the time. 

This is where your dog starts to learn that he must listen and be reliable in his obedience regardless of whether or not the target is present. More importantly, he is learning that attention to the handler is his primary focus on the walk not scanning for targets.  Once your dog is doing this reasonably well it is time to begin closing the distance to the target.

Contingent punishment.

In this stage you begin to punish the dog anytime he or she makes the choice to react to the target. Through repetition, the dog quickly learns what behaviour causes the punishment and what does not.

The common mistake made here, is often the handler or trainer does not know how to effectively and productively deliver punishment to remove an undesirable behaviour.  This can create confusion in the dog and create unnecessary conflict, stress or even exacerbate the reactivity.  Seeking help from proven professionals is strongly recommended.

As mentioned above in the obedience section, I prefer to initially punish the dog for failure to remain in a known obedience pattern as opposed to just waiting for the dog to react to the target and then punishing him.  A dog that is reactive needs something to occupy their brain.  When I punish the dog for his or her reactivity to the target I want to also provide the dog with an alternate behaviour to fall back to.  That is always controlled obedience.

Avoid bribery!

This is a common mistake made by many trainers and dog owners.  The common assumption is that if you feed the dog every time another dog or stranger comes into sight this will somehow make your dog start to associate other dogs and people with positive experiences vs fear and insecurity. Sadly, this is not the case.  

Do not get me wrong, the delivery of positive reinforcement can be productive if used when the dog is offering desirable behaviours.  Examples of this would be a dog that holds a Heel or Sit while the target passes by.  However, do not fall into the trap of requiring bribery in order to get the dog to behave. 

With proper training, your dog should be quickly offering correct obedience behaviours in the presence of the target with or without the presence of food rewards.

Repetition and consistency.

Now that you have all the pieces in place in place it’s time to rinse and repeat this process until the reactive behaviour is completely eradicated.  This means maintenance of obedience and structure while on outings. 

Consistent application of contingent punishment for reactive behaviour as well as failure to comply with obedience commands.  In other words hold the dog accountable for the choices he or she makes.  There is always a consequence for everything. 

Variable application of positive reinforcement is also recommended. That means continuously praising your dog for a job well done and by all means still bring food or toy rewards back into the picture from time to time.  This will keep your dog happy and motivated.

Do not fall prey to the emotional blackmail

This is prevalent among dog trainers, rescues and fur parents. I see this over and over again.  Reactive dog owners attempting to resolve their dogs issue with incomplete training systems based on Utopian philosophy and emotional ideals vs reality.  The concept that if you apply any form of punishment to your dog that you are somehow abusive.

Punishment has been scientifically proven over and over to be the most effective way to remove behaviours.  It is an essential part of any training system.  Any trainer that tells you differently is either lying to you, incompetent or misinformed. 

Remember, effective training is fast because the dog understands the consequences to his or her choices.  Both the good and the bad.  Without a down how can there be an up?


Dog reactivity is best resolved by a multi pronged approach. Reliable obedience, contingent punishment, reinforcement, consistency and repetition are all necessary components to addressing the reactive dog. 

Remember, the actual process of training the obedience and removing the reactivity should be complete in a matter of months if not less.  Effective training and behaviour adjustment should not take long because it’s clear to the dog.

Haz Othman,
Head Trainer – Shield K9