Robert’s Responsible Dog Training

Based on 20 years of experience as a dog owner and trainer, Robert has developed a program of Responsible Dog Training using positive reward-based methods.

With my adopted, reactive lab, Jet (October 2017).

These group training classes are run in an open park environment in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

To keep the classes as controlled and effective as possible, dogs are trained on-leash and there is a limit of six dogs per class.

Essentials Course

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

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Extension Classes

A two-week program to consolidate and extend the essentials with enrichment activities.

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Please note: Dogs must be aged five months or older and fully vaccinated to participate in Robert’s Responsible Dog Training.

Contact Robert about Responsible Dog Training >>>

Robert’s Essentials Course

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

Bonnie and Jet sitting, waiting to walk across road.

Each weekly group training class is one hour in duration and takes place in an open park environment in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

To keep the classes as controlled and effective as possible, training is done with dogs on-leash and there is a limit of six dogs per class.

The first part of each class is spent revising the previous week’s exercises before introducing and practising new exercises and skills.

Essentials Course exercises and talking points include:

  • How Dogs Learn, Benefits of Positive-Reward Based Training and Recommended Training Equipment
  • Use of Markers and Treats to shape behaviour
  • Loose Leash Walking and Close Heeling
  • Sit on command and automatically 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
  • Sit and Stand for handling by a stranger, e.g. a Vet
  • Watch Me and Leave It — for food and other distractions.

The goal of the Essentials Course is to provide you with the essential skills for training and caring for your dog.

At the end of the six-weeks, you have the option to consolidate and extend your skills in my Extension Classes.

Please note: Dogs must be aged five months or older and fully vaccinated to participate in my Essentials Course.

Contact Robert about the Essentials Course >>>

Robert’s Extension Classes

This two-week program consolidates the skills covered in the Essentials Course and extends the training with enrichment activities, all using positive reward-based methods.

Harry training for Flag Relay.

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

The first half of an Extension Class is spent revising and perfecting exercises from the six-week essential skills program.

In the second half of the class, a variety of enrichment activities are introduced and revised.

Extension Class activities include:

  • Food Refusal/Leave It – walking past food on the ground
  • Loose Leash (“leash free”) Close Heeling
  • Group Heeling and Socialising
  • Weaving between cones and people
  • Voice Commands versus Hand Signals
  • Longer duration Sit, Down and Stand Stays
  • Fetch/Retrieve on Command
  • Flag Racing and “Guide Dog” Training
  • Playtime Training

The goal of the Extension Classes is to hone your training skills learnt in the Essentials Course.

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

Please note: Dogs must be aged five months or older and fully vaccinated to participate in my Extension Classes. And dogs and handlers must have completed the Essentials Course.

Contact Robert about the Extension Class >>>

Positive Reward-Based Training

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought when it comes to dog training: the traditional aversive approach versus the more modern Positive Reward-Based Methods.

Jet and Bonnie and friends sitting for their treat rewards.

In aversive training, the dog learns to perform the desired behaviour to avoid a negative consequence. If my dog, Jet, pulls on his leash, I jerk on the leash, causing discomfort around his neck — this can be amplified by using a constriction collar (e.g. a choker chain). To avoid discomfort, Jet learns to walk beside me. 

Similarly, to discourage a behaviour, like jumping up, I punish Jet, either verbally (“NO!”), physically, or both. To avoid punishment, Jet stops performing the undesirable behaviour.

I do not recommend nor use aversive methods in my Responsible Dog Training.

Using Positive Reward-Based Methods

In Positive Reward-Based Training, the dog performs the desired behaviour because it receives positive reinforcement and rewards (e.g. treats) for doing so.

To stop Jet pulling on his leash, I lure him beside my leg and reward him with a treat. To gain more treats, Jet learns to walk beside me. In time the treats become variable rewards (like poker machine payouts).

To discourage behaviour like jumping up, I do not punish Jet, I ignore him. Jet realises jumping up is not earning treats, so he tries something else that has worked in the past, like sitting, and I reinforce this desirable behaviour by rewarding Jet.

This is only a brief overview of these contrasting “schools of thought”. Advocates of both can argue I haven’t detailed all the pros and cons. Others will add there are variations within each. And then there is Balanced Training, which combines Aversive and Reward-Based Methods.

In my early days of dog training, I used Aversive Techniques, including choker chains. However, I changed my approach over the years, as I learned new and more positive ways of interacting with dogs.

Which is why I use Positive Reward-Based Methods in my Responsible Dog Training.

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Please note: For more information on Positive Reward-Based Training, visit the RSPCA Australia and Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) websites.

Contact Robert about Positive Reward-Based Training >>>

Group Training Classes

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

Dog working comfortably in a group training environment.

To ensure dogs are focused and keen to learn, my Group Training Classes are delivered using positive reward-based methods.

And as training takes place in an open park area, to keep the classes as controlled as possible, dogs are trained on-leash with a limit of six dogs per class.

Most dogs work fine in Group Training, but some struggle with the proximity of strange dogs and people, and can react negatively to the experience.

Signs of stress in group classes include:

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

If you have a reactive dog, then my Group Training Classes may not be appropriate for you and your dog.

However, please contact me, we can discuss your situation and, if necessary, I can recommend a specialist dog behaviouralist to assist you with your dog.

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Footnote: my rescue lab, Jet, came with “baggage” when adopted as a two-and-half-year-old (we were his fourth family). Five years on, Jet is still reactive, but with patience, persistence and positive training, he’s also a much-loved family dog.

My experience with Jet is another reason why I use positive reward-based methods in my Responsible Dog Training.

Contact Robert about Group Training Classes >>>

About Robert Fairhead

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

My Best Mannered Dog, Harry (December 2000).

After a dozen years of delivering the club’s Adult Dog Beginners Classes, Robert helped revamp and relaunch the program in 2014 as the Responsible Dog Ownership (RDO) Course.

Robert 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 Obedience Training Classes.

For several years Robert also ran a Can I Pat That Dog? school-holidays workshop.

Robert’s Responsible Dog Training

Independent from his volunteer role at the dog club, Robert now provides professional Responsible Dog Training based on his 20 years as a dog owner and trainer.

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

Contact Robert about Responsible Dog Training >>>