unleash your dog's spirit 


Wednesday, 18 June 2014 00:00

Paul, Gillian and Callie

Hi I'm Callie,

Here's a brief background on me, I lived outside for the first couple of months of my life and because of the environment I was exposed to, I became timid. I was rescued by ARF and adopted at 3 months – which is pretty cool since I was afraid to let people near me, pet me or make eye contact. My new family took me to puppy classes and training at Dogma. At first I was hesitant to let the trainers pet me, but they approached me slowly (and with tasty treats) and it didn't take me too long to figure out that they were kind. Then came the first playtime....the other dogs wanted to play and it scared the daylights out of me, so the thoughtful trainers put me in to play with the smaller dogs so I could feel more confident. I'm very grateful that they considered how scared I was and allowed me to grow and blossom at my own rate. And grow and blossom I did....turns out, people are pretty darn nice, and it is so much fun to play with other dogs of all shapes and sizes...who knew?? I feel confident now and know that I'm a good dog. I no longer tuck my tail and run for protection, I approach people and things confidently, and I get so excited as we take the corner into the Dogma parking lot!

A side note from Callie's parents: Callie now is a completely different dog from Callie at 3 months. For anyone considering a pet, don't turn away from a timid dog. Watching her personality develop has been amazing, she's fun, adventurous, and quite frankly a total goof. It is always tempting to go after the playful puppy that's bouncing around and having fun, but don't disregard the quiet one in the corner ... they just need some help bringing out their personalities, and it doesn't take long! Kudos to the fantastic trainers at Dogma for understanding dogs so well, for customizing their approach to each individual dog, and giving us dog owners the knowledge we need.

A note from Megan: the entire team has spoken frequently about how far Callie has come in her training and overall confidence. It is all because of the dedication her parents have had to keep her coming to classes and learn how to help her. She is a lucky girl and we are lucky to have such a wonderful family to teach and learn from in our classes. Thank you!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 00:00

Sharon and Abby

We had recently lost our dog Nicki, who had been a family member for 14 years. I was heart-broken and not having a dog in our lives was making me miserable and apparently, according to family around me, very cranky. It was time to get another dog. During a blizzard I convinced everyone (somehow) we should drive to Petsmart in Beacon Hill to look at the puppies. As it turned out Oops-A-Daisy had not gotten there due to the storm. For some reason I decided we should drive to the Petsmart on MacLeod Trail.

We walked in and there must have been about 10 puppies there. They were all sitting at the front of the cage wagging their tails and jumping – enjoying all the attention they were getting. Then I spotted one little puppy at the back of the cage – all alone – the saddest little puppy I had ever seen. And I know without a doubt that Abby had 'found us and a home'.

Abby was one of ARF's -31 degree litter and was an insecure, and fearful little puppy. We brought her home and I was determined to help her in any way that we could and I started phoning around for information on classes, playtimes, advice from any place I could get it. . .Fortunately for Abby I called dogma and spoke to Megan. We talked about confidence building, fearfulness, the ways that puppies learn, training options , and playclasses. She was so knowledgeable, and understanding I knew that's where we needed to go. She recommended we start with Puppy Playtime.

Our first playtime – yikes – I recall having to carry Abby in and out because she wouldn't even walk in the door and for the first few minutes I'm sure she wanted to dig a hole in the wall to hide. That didn't last long though – I guess both of us felt the atmosphere was so warm and welcoming – that she blossomed. Everyone was so friendly and kind. As I met other dog owners I soon realized that most of them are 'dogma regulars' and as far as I was concerned, that was for good reason. We then and there became regulars at Puppy Playtime and registered for some classes. As we moved through the levels (Puppy Class, Puppy Spirit and a Fear and Reactivity class – which gave us useful tools for understanding) Abby's confidence and mine increased in heaps and bounds. The classes were all so positive, and Megan, Drae and the rest of the staff reiterated time and time again to always set these puppies up for success. That to me was the bottom line. I couldn't even venture a guess as to how many questions I asked the staff – everyone was always so patient and would offer suggestions – 'try this' or you could 'try this'. Abby and I could tell immediately that these were all people who genuinely love dogs – and really what more do you need to know !! We became so confident we even got involved in an Elvis' Hound Dog routine (this was a huge thing for Abby – crowds, strange people) which was a great bonding experience for us and we had a blast. She learned how to weave in that routine – and she proudly displays it every chance she gets! (sometimes when you aren't even expecting it !)...

Abby is a sweet gentle little dog – gaining confidence all the time – we still have some issues that we need to deal with but intend on working through these in upcoming classes and to continue on with our successes. As far as playtime is concerned she now has a 'BFF"- Khali, and will even encourage shy dogs to 'come out of the corner'..'sometimes trying to drag them out by the scruff of the neck'.. (Drae always laughs at that).. I guess we are now dogma Regulars ourselves.

Note from Megan: Watching Sharon and Abby grow together has been such a rewarding experience. To think of scared little Abby when I first met her, to the brave, happy girl you see now is unbelievable. Sharon is a testament to the outcome when you commit and put the time into training and working with your dog – and that this can be incredibly fun for both! All of us at dogma adore her and Abby and are always thrilled when they take part in another class or event. She has taken the time to understand Abby's fears, how to work her through them and all while being so amazingly patient and compassionate. This success story means a great deal to our entire team and we are all so proud of them both! We love having them be an integral part of the 'dogma regulars'! Keep up the good work and we look forward to continued playtimes and dancing in the future :)!!

Thursday, 12 June 2014 00:00

Sarah and Aiden

I was very proud of Aiden (and myself!) this summer. After practicing hard for 8 months I entered Aiden in two agility trials this summer. Aiden came to me as a 3 yr old just last year and has some issues with reactivity, which makes taking him to a dog show extra challenging! I was so proud of him at both trials. He remained focused on me, and all our hard work training paid of as we got 3 Qualifying runs towards his title, and he took a Second Place and a First place!

For the (off leash) agility competitions Aiden needed to learn each piece of equipment individuality then we needed to put the pieces together so he could run a whole course.

Aiden came to me with a good obedience foundation but probably a lack of "real world experience", so he hadn't been exposed to a lot of new places/people or other dogs. We are still working on this, but I took him to agility practices/classes in as many different places as possible so that he could be exposed to lots of different settings with other dogs and other people.

FOCUS was my key to succes with him at agility. I needed his attention on me! So much going on at an outdoor trial that I needed to be able to keep him looking at me rather than focusing on the other dogs and other peope outside the ring. So we worked alot on that.....when we see other dogs/people he looks at me and gets a special treat....now I do have an "auto look". I had to keep agility super fun for him with lots of treat and toy rewards, so agility would be more rewarding than running off to bark at people/dogs!

Before Aiden could even go to agility classes he needed to learn the basics. I signed him up for Basic Obedience at dogma. Here he learned all the basics sit, down, stay, come, focus, and name attention. All of which I use in his agility practices. Most importantly, was learning and classes and working with me became fun for him because he learned using positive reinforcement methods. Aiden was unsure of other dogs at first. So having him in various dogma classes and in supervised playtimes really helped him learn appropriate doggy play.

Note from Megan: "When I first met Aiden he was an anxious nervous boy. He was unsure of new people and new dogs and would snap at them if he became to overwhelmed. We worked with him to integrate him back in with his canine companions. It took only four sessions and he has been attending daycare regularly since then! The agility has really built his confidence. It has been so great watching Sarah's dedication to him and how with all of her hard work, he has become a confident, happy agility star!"

Thursday, 12 June 2014 00:00

Kathy and Ivy

Here is our success story about one of our dogs, Ivy. We adopted her from a local rescue organization over a year ago. She came to us as the sweetest little puppy that loved us, our close friends and family and of course of first dog, Thunder. The first week or so we had her we never noticed any real fear, we would have friends over, go on walks, all the things you should do to socialize a pup. Then slowly we started noticing her shy away from new people and new situations, she didn't want to have much to do with outside world. She loved her people and her doggy friends and that was that!

I enrolled her in Puppy Classes ASAP at dogma. I figured that would do the trick, but she was still shy and never really came out of her shell. It broke our hearts to see her take being a dog so serious and not letting loose and playing with the other puppies. She would just look at me with these big worried eyes waiting to go home. I really thought I messed up somewhere with her. Where did I go wrong? My first dog was so easy...

When Ivy was about 8 months I noticed dogma was holding a Facing Fear class. It was exactly what we needed! Our first class was great and one thing that stuck out is when Megan said simply that some dogs are just more sensitive than others, they have phobias just like us humans. From that class on I felt better and better with raising a fearful dog. We learned techniques to calm our dogs and ourselves and slowly introduce them back into our society. I learned so much with those classes I started gaining the confidence I needed to handle situations that come with having a fearful pup. I have to add, they were a lot of fun too!

So now, Ivy being 16 months, she is a different dog. It only takes minutes for her to warm up to a new person in the house. We go on walks and she almost never panics if someone walks by us, or a garge door opens. Even huge buses zoom by us and she won't even flinch. She still has her moments but they are few and far between and I know how to handle them.

There is something to be said about having a fearful dog. They are truly faithful to their people and I believe if she could, would do anything for me. I love seeing her get her confidence and she surprises me all the time. Her big thing now is meeting other dogs. I am comfortable taking her to a quiet dog park and she will meet just about every dog there, sometimes even do a play bow or chase! So great to see her act like a puppy finally!

I can see why some humans wouldn't want to deal with a fearful dog as they require a tremendous amount of patience and understanding. I'm telling you it is so worth it in the end. Ivy is the first one there if I need cheering up or when I'm sick, or even when I just need a break from it all she will sleep on her bed, with one eye on me just to make sure I'm okay. The fear classes at dogma were my answer. I learned about my dog and how to handle her, I learned patience and gained confidence in myself which has spilled over in my day to day life. I can't wait to see how far she has come a year from now, I will keep you posted!

Note from Megan: Kathy and James have been so dedicated to Ivy and Thunder. They are always looking to learn more about dogs and are always looking for more ways to work with and interact appropriately with them. Their commitment to their dogs' well-being is inspiring. Thunder and Ivy are lucky dogs to have been adopted by such wonderful people!


Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00

Tiffany and Jake

My name is Tiffany, and this is Jake, our little mutt. We found Jake just over 2 years ago as a very skinny stray who stole mine and my Fiancé's heart! We were just going to hold on to him until we could find him a home and we all know how that goes... anyways as he started getting more comfortable with us we started to see his issues come out of the woodwork. He was very scared of people , mostly men and if someone stuck there face too close or gave any eye contact he would snap.

He was very reactive to people and dog's on leash. We couldn't walk by anyone without him lunging and snarling. He also was a giant jerk to dogs off leash, and due to the fact he is a herding breed and needs to run this caused a lot of issues. We still took him at first but he fought with every dog he met, so we had to start taking him at quiet times or outside of the city. But we always had that fear we would run into somebody.

At this time we knew nothing about dog training except for what we saw on Cesar which ended up making our lives so much worse. We followed Cesar's "directions" and every time Jake reacted he got alpha rolled or corrected which just made him fight and react worse. He actually bit a woman on the street during one of his outbreaks. So I started looking into training and thank god we found dogma!

We signed Jake up for Resolving Reactivity with Megan, and not even a week after our first class and changing how we were treating him, we saw a huge difference in him! Jake was just a scared little dog who acted out because this world was super scary! So all this time he was reacting because he was scared and we punished him for it. It still breaks our hearts knowing we put him through that and didn't have too! Anyways we took Jake through 6 weeks of Resolving Reactivity and by the end he was able to take treats from men and would even wag his tail coming into class!

Next we registered for Reactivity Agility and this is where we saw the biggest change. From the first day where we had to coax him to do anything to the last class where he could run off leash in a room full of dogs and finished the course in the fastest time – I for sure teared up! We also completed Reactivity Agility 2 and Resolving Reactivity Outdoors. After working with Jake through dogma and at home he is now such an amazing boy. We go off leash and he loves all dogs! He now jumps up in people's faces to give kisses, he is totally non reactive to anything on a leash (maybe not squirrels but getting better) and even goes to daycare sometimes. I can't thank Megan & dogma enough for what they have done for us and Jake! She taught me how to cure Jake's fears not punish them out and I will always be grateful!

Note from Megan: It makes our jobs very easy and so rewarding when we deal with such dedicated and committed parents like Tiffany and Trevor. We just coach and give the information and they do all the work. It makes us so happy to see such results and what can happen when we spend the time to understand and work with, not against, our dogs' behavioural concerns. Good job!


Megan’s Musings are by Megan Armstrong, Owner/Operator of dogma

Megan became one of Calgary's only Certified Pet Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA) in 2005. The CPDT designation means her programs are based on humane training practices and the latest scientific knowledge about dog training. In other words, Megan's dog training expertise is grounded in a thorough, extensive education and examination process. 

View Megan's bio