Robert’s Responsible Dog Training

Drawing on 20 years of experience as a dog owner and trainer, Robert Fairhead offers professional dog training using positive reward-based methods.

Robert runs his 60-minute group classes in an open park setting in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. For training and safety purposes, dogs are trained on-leash, with a maximum of six dogs per class.*

* Note: Due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the limit is now four dogs per class until further notice.

Robert with his reactive rescue dog, Jet (October 2017).

Essentials Course

Robert’s Essentials Course is a structured six-week program, covering the essential skills to train and care for a dog.

Extension Classes

Following on from the Essentials Course, Robert’s Extension Classes offer optional, ongoing sessions to consolidate and extend the essential dog training skills.

Robert is a proud member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) Australia and shares their vision:

All dogs are effectively trained through dog-friendly techniques and therefore are lifelong companions in a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

Please note: Dogs must be aged five months or older and fully vaccinated to attend Robert’s Responsible Dog Training. And course fees are payable in advance.

Learn more about Responsible Dog Training >>>

Robert’s Essentials Course

The Essentials Course is a structured six-week program, covering the essential skills to train and care for a dog using positive reward-based methods

Each weekly group class is 60 minutes in duration and is run in an open park setting in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. For training and safety purposes, dogs are trained on-leash, with a maximum of six dogs per class.*

* Note: Due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the limit is now four dogs per class until further notice.

The program consists of a series of exercises and talking points. The first part of each class is spent revising and perfecting the previous lessons, before introducing and practising new skills. 

Exercises and talking points include:

  • How Dogs Learn
  • Benefits of Positive-Reward Based Training
  • Shaping Behaviour With Markers and Treats
  • Loose Leash Walking versus Close Heeling
  • Sit on command and Automatic Sits (at roadsides etc.)
  • Down/Drop and Stand on command
  • Sit, Down and Stand Stays, and Stay versus Wait
  • Recall (and strategies for when it doesn’t work)
  • Watch Me and Leave It (for food and other distractions).
Well-trained dogs sitting and waiting to cross a road.

Goals of the Essentials Course

The Essentials Course is designed to provide you with the skills for training and caring for your dog. And to help foster a lifelong bond between you and your dog. At the end of the course, you have the option to consolidate and extend your skills with Robert’s Extension Classes.

The cost for the six-week program is $240 (including GST).

Please note: Dogs must be aged five months or older and fully vaccinated to attend Robert’s Responsible Dog Training. And course fees are payable in advance.

Learn more about Responsible Dog Training >>>

Robert’s Extension Classes

Extension Classes offer a rolling two-week program to consolidate skills gained in the Essentials Course. These classes also extend a dog’s training with enrichment activities using positive reward-based methods

Like Robert’s Essentials Course, each weekly group class is 60 minutes in duration and is run in an open park setting in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. For learning and safety purposes, dogs are trained on-leash, with a maximum of six dogs per class.*

* Note: Due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the limit is now four dogs per class until further notice.

The program focuses on revising and perfecting exercises from the six-week Essentials Course. But time is also set aside to introduce and practise new enrichment activities.

Training enrichment activities include:

  • Group Heeling and Socialising
  • Weaving Between Obstacles and People
  • Hand Signals versus Voice Commands
  • Long Duration Sit, Down and Stand Stays
  • Fetch/Retrieve on command
  • Flag Relays and “Guide Dog” Training
  • Playtime Training and Tricks.
Robert's old Harry training for flag relay

Goals of Extension Classes

Extension Classes are designed to help you perfect the training skills gained from Robert’s Essentials Course. The classes are structured as optional, ongoing sessions, with enrichment activities to enhance the training experience for you and your dog.

The cost for the two-week program is $80 (including GST).

Please note: Dogs must be aged five months or older and fully vaccinated to attend Robert’s Responsible Dog Training. A prerequisite for participating in Extension Classes is completing the Essentials Course. And class fees are payable in advance.

Learn more about Responsible Dog Training >>>

Positive Reward-Based Training

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought when it comes to dog training: the traditional aversive approach and the more modern positive reward-based method.

In aversive training, the dog performs the desired behaviour to avoid a negative consequence:

  • If a dog is straining on its leash, the owner jerks back, causing discomfort around the dog’s neck. This can be amplified by using a constriction collar, e.g. a choker chain. The dog learns to walk beside its owner to avoid discomfort.
  • Similarly, if a dog is jumping up on its owner or other people, the owner punishes the dog, verbally, physically or both. The dog stops jumping to avoid punishment.

Using Positive Methods

With positive reward-based training, your dog performs the desired behaviour because it receives positive reinforcement and rewards for doing so:

  • To encourage your dog to walk loose-leash, lure him or her beside your leg and reward with a treat. The dog learns walking calmly beside you earns rewards.
  • To discourage jumping, don’t punish your dog, ignore it. The dog learns jumping up is not earning rewards and tries something that worked in the past, like sitting. Reinforce the sit by rewarding your dog with a treat.
Jet and Bonnie and friends sitting for treat rewards

Contrasting Approaches

This is only a brief overview of these contrasting approaches to dog training, and advocates of both can argue it does not detail all the pros and cons. Others will contend there are variations within each. And then there is “balanced training”, which combines aspects of aversive and positive reward-based methods.

Robert used aversive techniques, including choker chains, in his early days as a dog trainer. However, as he learned new and more positive ways of interacting with dogs, Robert changed his thinking and training.

Which is why Robert’s Responsible Dog Training only uses positive reward-based methods. And why Robert is a proud member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) Australia.

Please note: You can learn more about the benefits of positive reward-based training on the RSPCA Australia and Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) websites.

Learn more about Responsible Dog Training >>>

Group Dog Training Classes

Group classes are a flexible, cost-effective way of training and socialising dogs in a controlled and supportive environment.

To help dogs learn and enjoy the training, Robert uses positive reward-based methods. And because he runs his group classes in an open park setting, for training and safety purposes dogs are trained on-leash with a maximum of six dogs per class.*

* Note: Due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the limit is now four dogs per class until further notice.

Most dogs work fine in group training classes, but some struggle with the close proximity of strange dogs and people, and can react negatively to the experience.

Signs of reactive dogs include:

  • The dog may be fearful and spend the whole class with tail tucked between its legs or hiding behind its owner
  • The dog may be anxious, barking and lunging at other dogs and possibly other class members and the trainer
  • The dog may become aggressive, similar to above, only in a “fight” rather than “flight” mode.
Dog working comfortably in a group training environment

Reactive Dogs and Group Training

If you have a reactive dog, then group classes might not be appropriate for you and your dog. However, please contact Robert to discuss your situation and, if necessary, he can recommend a specialist dog behaviourist to help with training your dog.

Footnote: Robert’s rescue dog, Jet, came with “baggage” when he was adopted as a two-and-half-year-old. Jet is still reactive but with patience, persistence and positive training, he is also a much-loved family dog who’s found his Forever Home.

Learn more about Responsible Dog Training >>>

About Robert Fairhead

Robert joined the Eastern Suburbs Dog Training Club in 1999 with his dear old black Lab, Harry. Having worked their way from the beginner to higher classes at the Club and gained obedience titles, Robert became a volunteer instructor in 2001.

After a dozen years of delivering the Club’s Adult Dog Beginner Classes, Robert coordinated the relaunch of the program in 2014 as the Responsible Dog Ownership (RDO) Course. He also helped integrate the Club’s Puppy Classes with the new RDO Course and introduce a bridging Foundation Class to aid the transition from the Puppies-RDO Program to the Club’s higher training classes.

For several years Robert ran the “Can I Pat That Dog?” school holidays workshop for children in Centennial Park. He is also an administrator for the Queens Park (Sydney) Dog Walkers group on Facebook.

Robert with his Best Mannered Dog, Harry (December 2000)

Responsible Dog Training

In addition to his volunteer roles, Robert established Robert’s Responsible Dog Training in 2019 to offer professional dog training, featuring:

* Note: Due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the maximum class size is now four dogs until further notice.

Robert is also a proud member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) Australia.

Beyond Dog Training

Away from dog training, Robert is an editor and writer at Tall And True, an online showcase and forum for writers, readers and publishers. And he blogs about life and dogs at RobertFairhead.com.

Robert is also the principal copywriter at Rocher Communications.

You can find Robert’s @mydogposts on Instagram and Twitter. A selection of his Instagram posts and writing on dogs is also available on the Blog page of this website.

Learn more about Responsible Dog Training >>>