Robert’s Responsible Dog Training

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

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

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

Robert’s Essentials Course

A structured six-week program on the essentials of owning and training a dog.

Read more about the Essentials Course >>>

Robert’s Extension Classes

A two-week program to consolidate and extend the skills learned in the Essentials Course. 

Read more about Extension Classes >>>

Please note: Dogs must be aged five months or older and fully vaccinated to join Robert’s classes.

Contact Robert about Responsible Dog Training >>>

Robert’s Essentials Course

This structured six-week program covers the essentials of owning and training a dog using positive reward-based methods.

A pair of well-trained dogs sitting and waiting to cross a road.

Each weekly group dog training class is one hour in duration and is run in an open park setting in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Dogs are trained on-leash, with a limit of six dogs per class.

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

Exercises and talking points include:

  • How Dogs Learn
  • Benefits of Positive-Reward Based Training
  • Force-free Training Equipment
  • Shaping Behaviour With Markers and Treats 
  • Loose Leash Walking versus Close Heeling
  • Sit Command and Automatic Sits (at roadsides etc.)
  • Down/Drop and Stand Commands
  • 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).

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 create a lifelong bond between you and your dog.

At the end of the six weeks, you have the option to consolidate and extend your skills with Robert’s Extension Classes.

Please note: Dogs must be aged five months or older and fully vaccinated to join Robert’s classes.

Contact Robert about the Essentials Course >>>

Robert’s Extension Classes

This two-week program consolidates the skills learned in Robert’s Essentials Course and extends them with enrichment activities using positive reward-based methods.

Robert's old Harry training for Flag Relay.

Like the Essentials Course, each weekly group dog training class is one hour in duration and is run in an open park setting in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Dogs are trained on-leash, with a limit of six dogs per class.

The program focuses on 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:

  • Loose Leash Heeling
  • 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.

Goal of Extension Classes

Extension Classes are designed to hone the skills gained from Robert’s Essentials Course.

The classes are structured as an optional, ongoing two-week program, with enrichment activities to enhance the experience for you and your dog.

Please note: Please note: Dogs must be aged five months or older and fully vaccinated to join Robert’s classes. And the Essentials Course must be completed before participating in Extension Classes.

Contact Robert about Extension Classes >>>

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.

Jet and Bonnie and friends sitting calmly waiting for their treat rewards.

In aversive training, the dog learns to perform 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, to discourage behaviour like jumping, an owner punishes the dog, verbally, physically or both. The dog stops jumping to avoid punishment.

Using Positive Reward-Based Methods

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

  • To stop a dog straining on its leash, the owner lures the dog beside his or her leg and rewards it with a treat. The dog learns to walk beside its owner to earn more treats. In time these become variable rewards (like poker machine payouts).
  • To discourage jumping, the owner does not punish the dog but ignores it. The dog realises jumping is not earning treats, so it tries something that worked in the past, like sitting, and the owner reinforces this desirable behaviour by rewarding the dog.

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 aversive and positive reward-based methods.

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

Which is why Robert only uses positive reward-based methods in his responsible dog training program.

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

Contact Robert 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.

A dog working comfortably in a group training environment.

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

Most dogs work fine in group 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 class with its 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.

If you have a reactive dog, then group dog training 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 assist you with 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 in certain situations, but with patience, persistence and positive training, he is also a much loved family dog who has found his forever home.

Contact Robert about Responsible Dog Training >>>

About Robert Fairhead

Robert joined the Eastern Suburbs Dog Training Club in 1999 with his dear old dog, Harry, and in 2001 became a volunteer instructor.

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

After a dozen years of delivering the club’s Adult Dog Beginners Classes, Robert coordinated the revamp and relaunch 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 Advanced Training Classes.

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

Robert’s Responsible Dog Training

In addition to his volunteer roles, Robert offers professional dog training services using positive reward-based methods in an open park setting in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

Away from dog training, Robert is an editor and writer at TallAndTrue.com, and blogs about life (and dogs) at RobertFairhead.com.

Contact Robert about Responsible Dog Training >>>