Robert’s Responsible Dog Training

Drawing on 20 years of experience as a dog owner and trainer, Robert Fairhead delivers Responsible Dog Training using positive reward-based methods.

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

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

Robert’s Essentials Course

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

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

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

Exercises and talking points include:

  • How Dogs Learn
  • Benefits of Positive-Reward Based Training
  • Force-free 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
  • Watch Me and Leave It — for food and other distractions.

The goal of Robert’s 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 can consolidate and extend your skills in his optional Extension Classes.

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

Contact Robert about the Essentials Course >>>

Robert’s Extension Classes

This two-week program consolidates the dog training skills covered 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 training class is one hour in duration and takes place in an open park setting in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Dogs are trained on-leash, with a limit of six dogs per class.

Most of the class is spent revising and perfecting exercises from the six-week Essentials Course. But time is also set aside to introduce and practise enrichment activities.

Training enrichment activities include:

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

The goal of Robert’s Extension Classes is to hone your dog training skills gained from his 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: Dogs must be aged five months or older and vaccinated to participate in Robert’s Responsible Dog Training. And dogs and handlers must have completed the Essentials Course before joining the Extension Classes.

Contact Robert about the 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 Methods.

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). To avoid this, the dog learns to walk beside the ower.
  • Similarly, to discourage jumping up, an owner punishes the dog, either verbally, physically or both. To avoid punishment, the dog stops performing the undesirable behaviour.

Using Positive Reward-Based Methods

With 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 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 up, the owner does not punish the dog but ignores it. The dog realises jumping up 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 “schools of thought”, and advocates of both approaches 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 uses Positive Reward-Based Methods in his Responsible Dog Training programs.

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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 Positive Reward-Based Training >>>

Group 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 Group Training Classes, Robert uses positive reward-based methods.

And as Robert’s Responsible Dog Training is run in an open park setting, 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 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 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 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 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 behaviouralist to assist you with your dog.

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Footnote: Robert’s rescue dog, Jet, came with “baggage” when he was adopted as a two-and-half-year-old. Five years on, Jet is still reactive in certain situations, but with patience, persistence and positive training, he is also a much-loved family dog.

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.

Robert with his 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.

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 a “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 delivers professional Responsible Dog Training using positive reward-based methods in an open park setting in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

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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 >>>