We are the new breed of dog trainers.
Classes meet in the basement of St Paul and the Redeemer,
4945 S Dorchester in Hyde Park (Chicago)
Canis Sapiens Dog Training's ultimate goal is to help you have a great relationship with your dog. To reach this goal, we want you to understand your dog better and to be able to fix problem behaviors without damaging the relationship you have with your dog. Even in our group classes, owners are guided through protocols to meet their personal needs and goals. Many schools teach you a checklist of skills whether you need them or not. We realize that the owner defines what a "good dog" is and we can help you learn how to mold your dream companion.
A successful trainer keeps in mind that dogs and humans learn differently. At Canis Sapiens, we will teach you how dogs learn. Dogs only have a rudimentary ability to understand language and don’t generalize as well as humans do which can result in communication difficulties. But don't be discouraged! Dogs are very trainable and soon you'll get the hang of your new role as a dog trainer.
You may think your dog is being stubborn or stupid or dominant, but usually when you think this about your dog it is due to a breakdown in communication rather than a purposefully disobedient dog.
We at Canis Sapiens give you the tools to make it easy for your dog to learn. We begin with a verbal "yes" at the exact moment your dog does something right. We follow each verbal "yes" with a reward, usually a treat.
We have small class sizes so we can give you individual attention. Not all dogs like the same rewards; we can help you figure out what works best for your dog. We will also help you improve your timing, if necessary, and make sure you are rewarding your dog for doing what you want. Below, John Fisher gives examples of people rewarding behaviors that they don't want:
"I have seen dogs that can open handbags and pinch the contents, dogs who desperately need a pee when the owners are on the phone, dogs who engage in manic tail chasing or shadow watching when visitors are present and even a dog who could let out the loudest burp if everyone ignored it. If you were to ask the owners to train the dogs to perform these feats, they wouldn’t know where to start, but in fact they have inadvertently trained them, because they didn’t understand the main principle of reinforcement training - a reward is anything which the SUBJECT perceives to be rewarding,"
Our school sets you and your dog up to succeed. Sue Ailsby says it so well: “[Your dog] isn't supposed to be wrong so you can fix it, she's supposed to be right so you can reinforce it.” We therefore don’t move to a 3-second stay until we are convinced your dog understands a 2-second stay. We don’t walk 4 feet away from our dog until we are sure she can stay if we take one small step to one side. Our school slogan is “Festina lente,” which means, “Hurry slowly.” We increase the difficulty of the assigned tasks only when the dog understands what is expected at the current level and is getting it right most of the time.
Sometimes dogs come to our classes who aren’t immediately ready to learn the regular curriculum because the other dogs in the class scare them or excite them and they can’t concentrate on their work. Some dogs arrive who are frightened of people. We work on these issues first because learning is not easily accomplished if you are scared or excited. Using food rewards often helps these dogs because it is extremely difficult to be very scared or very excited and eat at the same time.
Some dogs learn easily in our class environment, and yet there will always be some distraction that your dog cannot resist. It is often very effective to give your dog what he desires most, after he has done what you asked. Learning basic canine body language will help you understand your dog's feelings. Having this information will also make training your dog easier. Communicating across species lines can be frustrating at times, but once you hone your timing and your ability to "talk dog," you will be rewarded with a well-trained dog who trusts you and listens to you!