By Jane Heintzman and Tamara Miller (This article originally appeared in the June 2022 edition of the New Edinburgh News)
In-person training returns at Happy Fido Co.
In the two years since COVID emerged, the substantial cohort of “pandemic puppies” acquired by many local families has settled in, and many are now familiar figures on our streets and in the dog parks. While most pups will have adjusted reasonably well, some may have rough edges and canine quirks to be sorted out. One challenge many may face as they head back to the office is separation anxiety.
But help is close at hand. In the April 2021 edition of the New Edinburgh News, we first introduced Happy Fido Company (happyfidocompany.com), a local, force-free, science-based dog training business, emphasizing positive reinforcement in its approach to training.
Since launching her business, owner and certified trainer Fumie Watanabe has had to navigate the constraints of pandemic protocols, and to move online to deliver her core programs and one-on-one consultations. But thankfully, as the world begins to re-open, she is now able to gradually reintroduce in-person training and one-on-one consultations.
Last March, Fumie teamed up with trainer Claudia Jodouin. Both are currently teaching beginner and intermediate level Canine Agility Classes at Keshet Kennels in Carlsbad Springs, Ont. (keshetkennels.com). Classes are offered from May through July, and start up again in September with a fall program.
In addition to offering full-service dog boarding and daycare facilities, as well as dog training programs, Keshet Kennels is a rescue operation, providing a refuge for large-breed dogs which are most at risk of being euthanized when given up by their owners. Fumie and Claudia are generously donating a portion of the proceeds from their agility classes to Keshet’s rescue program.
Fumie is enthusiastic about the benefits of agility training for dogs – and their owners! “Canine agility is a teamwork sport activity; the handler needs to give a cue to the dog telling it where to go next, and the dog needs to wait for the cue,” she explains. “Agility training is a great way to build communication skills. The dogs develop focus, paying close attention to their handlers, as well as body-awareness navigating the obstacles.” A prerequisite for agility classes is completion of a basic obedience program focusing on the familiar mantra of “sit, stay, down, come” and the foundations of impulse control.
While most dogs benefit greatly from agility training, Fumie notes a few exceptions: 1) dogs in their crucial, early development stages (up to 12 months of age); 2) dogs experiencing physical discomfort; and 3) some very large breeds such as Newfoundlands and Saint Bernards, for whom the agility equipment is simply too small.
In her one-on-one consultations to date, “reactivity” is at the top of the behaviour issues list. Reactive dogs typically overreact in a variety of circumstances, ranging from encounters with other dogs or strangers, to loud or startling noises, and even inanimate objects they may perceive as a threat.
The majority of dog owners (myself included!) are all too familiar with the challenging behaviours associated with reactivity: lunging, barking, growling, or wild over-excitement. In most cases, these behaviours are driven by underlying fears or lack of socialization. “These are like panic attacks,” explains Fumie, emphasizing that “there is no quick fix.” Behaviour modification for reactive dogs can be a long process, using training methods rooted in an understanding of animal-behaviour psychology.
“First, the owner must understand the emotional struggles of the reactive dog, and then apply the appropriate training methods to modify the dog’s negative emotional associations with the reactivity triggers,” says Fumie. “Changing the negative emotion to modify the behaviour takes time. It’s like going through psychotherapy in a way, totally different from obedience training.” She is justifiably pleased to have had some success in this work; in one recent case, her behaviour modification training helped to socialize a formerly overreactive dog sufficiently to participate comfortably in group agility classes.
In our neighbourhood, the off-leash area in Stanley Park is a natural magnet for dog owners and their charges, where (ideally at least!) both humans and dogs can mingle sociably with neighbours. But a word of caution before you and your pooch plunge into that melee. “The true definition of socialization means letting the dogs have positive experiences with the environment, which greatly differs from just exposing the dogs to the environment,” says Fumie. So, if your companion seems exceptionally fearful of other dogs or strangers, or if they seem prone to aggressive behaviour, seek advice from a professional before taking it into that milieu. If it’s not fun for your dog, it’s a safe bet that it won’t be fun for you either!
Visit happyfidocompany.com; search HappyFidoCo on Facebook and Instagram; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or appointments. –JH
Brandi Cowl: Counselling, Yoga and Wellness
Brandi Cowl’s purpose in life is to cultivate health and happiness, both in herself and in others. She has had an interest in health and wellness for many years – she has been teaching yoga since 2003, she became a life coach in 2008 and a health coach in 2012. She’s also published a book: The Modern Yogi, A Guide to Living on Purpose and With Intention (available on Amazon!) and has spent 10 years working with the federal government.
Now, having recently returned to the neighbourbood after her husband’s posting in San Francisco, Brandi has become a professional counsellor. She tells the New Edinburgh News that she is excited to be in Lindenlea to launch her business and connect with the community. Through her counselling practice, she weaves together the emotional and cognitive elements elements of counselling, with the healing and mindfulness elements of yoga, and the action-oriented work of coaching.
Brandi notes that as people begin to emerge from the pandemic, it can be a difficult time. On the one hand it’s exciting, but it can also be stressful and anxiety-inducing. Brandi assures us we are not alone in this situation and that she can work with clients to reduce their stress, anxiety and depression.
She offers one-on-one counselling, both in-person and virtually. Her areas of focus include ADHD; anxiety; depression; reducing stress; and building self-confidence. She can also help folks who may be dealing with such major life events as job loss, relocation, or retirement. She can help clients cultivate ongoing healthy habits, such as staying active, getting enough sleep, and cultivating mindfulness.
Brandi has also launched a group support practice called “calm and connect.” The idea is to get a small group together to share thoughts, feelings, challenges, and insecurities in a safe and supportive environment, working with a different theme each week. The practice offers tools to reduce stress and anxiety, but it’s also a forum to foster connection. The small-group format allows time for everyone to contribute. Everyone is heard and seen. Feedback on the group practice has been powerful: the format makes people feel less alone and more supported. It speaks to the power of hearing others’ stories.
It’s worth noting that Brandi also offers a monthly yoga program: members receive a new yoga video straight to their inbox each month. If you’re interested in trying this out, Brandi can set you up with a free, month-long trial!
Brandi is currently accepting new clients for her counselling practice. Reach her at email@example.com or check out brandicowl.com where you can also learn more about her “Calm and Connect” group practice. –TM
AIM Fitness: what motivates you to move?
Meg Stickl started AIM Fitness in 2013, having worked with seniors since she was 12 years old. In her experience, she noticed many seniors struggling with mobility-related health issues. She saw an opportunity to help people stay in their homes and empower them to move every day.
Meg’s company has been mobile from the start, and she began by offering personal training in peoples’ homes. She worked hard to help people understand that fitness doesn’t have to be difficult – daily stretching and simple movement are important. From individual visits she expanded to offer group fitness classes in condos and events in seniors’ residences. Her presentations focus on three topics: preventing falls; building healthy habits that last; and getting and staying motivated over the age of 65.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Meg had to adjust her business model as approximately 75 per cent of her clients paused their in-home services. However, it ended up changing things for the better! The pause gave her time to create an online membership for those aged 50+, where people pay $46.99/month +HST for access to videos on demand. Meg now has more than 150 videos and is still creating new content: three new videos per week. She also offers a $7 seven-day trial for anyone curious about joining.
The beauty of this membership program is the feeling of community that Meg fosters through inspiring weekly emails, as well as fitness challenges, and monthly Zoom calls with the membership. She recently held a two-year anniversary celebration with her members!
To folks new to exercise, or who are worried about injuring themselves or being unable to keep up, Meg wants you to know that the AIM approach – shared by her staff of personal trainers working from Kanata to Orleans – is gentle and accommodating of injuries and mobility issues. She challenges people to consider what motivates them to be active. For some clients it’s about keeping up with their grandkids; for others, it’s travel. Whatever the reason, once clients start, their feedback is the same: I wish I’d known how easy it was to get started!
Interested in learning more or booking a free consultation? Reach AIM Fitness at 613-869-3246 or fill out the consult form at activitiesinmotion.ca. –TM