“Finley is a very active and demanding German Shepherd puppy. He came to us at 5 months old without any background information although we do know he was neglected and undernourished. Working with you has given us a good insight into why Finley acts the way he does and what we can do to help him overcome his issues - we are making progress. Thanks!” - Gordon & Frances
“It wasn't long after bringing Archie home, we knew that things were not going to be easy. Very smart, and very independent, we had trouble managing him from the very beginning. Worst of all, he learned very quickly, that he could get what he wanted by resource guarding resulting in a few biting incidents. We did our best the resources we could find, most helpfully "Mine! A practical guide to resource guarding" but what we lacked the understanding to adapt the curveballs that Archie was throwing us. Archie was also starting to expand his aggressive behaviors outside of just resource guarding which was making us feel like we had fewer and fewer options. Fortunately, before things got too dark, our vet recommended pivotal change.
Being skeptics by nature, the relationship Sparky told us we could have with Archie sounded too good to be true. Luckily for us our skepticism was misplaced. Change was and is hard, and we know we still are not at the finish line, but we can still scarcely believe how far we have come. Before the stress of being seconds away from an incident was ever present, now we are relaxed and confident we have the tools to manage his behavior. Most importantly we have the knowledge to continue to build our relationship with whatever curveballs Archie will throw at us.
We are thankful to Sparky, Jonah, and Alexi for guiding us through this difficult road and giving us the tools to continue on our own.” - Gary and Nancy
“My dog came into my life as a very anxious rescue dog. The first five years of his life were spent on the streets, where I gathered he was hairless from mange/stress, covered in dirt and terrified from a presumably abusive past, before spending time in an overcrowded overseas dog shelter. He was eventually brought to Toronto through a Canadian rescue and a wonderful foster family before finding his way to my home.
I thought his behaviour during our first few months together could be attributed to decompressing in a new and uncharted environment. My previous rescue dog didn’t have any issues adjusting, so why was he? He was shy and suspicious, but playful and sweet… with me. With men, children, and babies, he was seriously reactive – lunging, snarling, barking, and baring his teeth. With dogs, he was even more reactive – attempting to attack and growling ferociously whenever they were within eyeshot. He developed separation anxiety – howling, crying, barking, and obsessive scratching at any barrier anytime I was away. These behaviours increased in severity when I had to relocate cities and move from a house to a condo.
After unsuccessfully contacting various training facilities, all of which were unable or unwilling to take us on as clients, one of the facilities referred us to Sparky at PivotalChange.ca. When I called her, I was at my wit’s end –I loved this dog, but my life had deteriorated to the point where I couldn’t leave the house without him having a severe fear-based event. Our first call had Sparky explaining that the program had a 98% success rate and would give both of us the tools to get our lives back.
From day one of the program, Sparky and the team at PivotalChange.ca took a holistic, research-based, practical approach to his treatment and rehabilitation. He’s made more progress over the past few months than he had in the past year. The completely customized program started with a comprehensive review of his history, his behaviours, our routines, and our goals. From there, the team looked at everything – from improving his diet and sleep schedule to working on activities that would calm his mind, as well as working closely with our veterinarian for medications that would support his growth in the program.
Every day was tracked and analyzed, with us taking small steps that pushed his development in a way where he was growing in his comfort zone. I never felt overwhelmed – all the tasks and assignments were broken down into manageable sections and the team was always there to provide support. My dog still has a long road ahead of him, but the team’s support at PivotalChange.ca has been life changing.” - Katie
“We first contacted Sparky because we were becoming increasingly concerned about our dog Leo's growing fear and reaction to other dogs. As a puppy he would avoid other dogs or fixate on them and run from them. Eventually he became a dog that would bark incessantly and pull towards other dogs becoming more and more aggressive in these situations. What we didn't realise was that Leo was trying to guard us and protect us from every sound and every unknown person and object.
In eight short weeks working with Sparky and her team, we have learned so much about building healthy partnerships with Leo. we feel that we now have tools and training to help us to meet Leo's needs. Thanks to Sparky, we now know that Leo was not getting the rest he needed. He did not sleep soundly, waking up each time we moved or each time he heard a noise. We have learned more about reading Leo's cues and understanding his reactions and what he is trying to tell us.
One of the most helpful parts of working with Sparky was seeing her handle Leo in different ways and in different situations. This helped us to see what Leo was capable of and what the possibilities were. Sparky followed up each session with activities that we could practice with Leo to help build and further strengthen our relationship and communication skills.
We are amazed at how Leo has changed and at how much we have grown in our own knowledge and skills in such a short time under Sparky's tutelage. We are still working on improving some skills and helping Leo to control his impulses, but we feel that we now have tools to keep working on our own. Knowing the Sparky is a phone call or email away should we ever need her guidance is very comforting. Thank you for everything” - Victoria and Jim
“Amanda and I came to the program because we felt Oliver becoming reactive to people, other dogs. Oliver didn't seem to want to walk around the neighbourhood unless he saw his dog friends first. We needed help. This program was very much an education session for myself. It helped me to understand Oliver's signals and what he was trying to tell me. It helped me to realize where Oliver needed help. It wasn't that "Oliver doesn't want to", it was that Oliver needed help. I was not seeing that. Working this program helped me to see that and work with Oliver, gain his trust and be his protector, teacher, friend. I finally understood and now I can help guide Oliver through situations he is not comfortable with, we relate to each other so well, Oliver trusts me. It is such a wonderful feeling. My heart is full, I love Oliver so much and enjoy every minute with him.” - Lori and Amanda
When we first contacted Sparky and her team we raised concerns about our dogs aggressive behaviour and other behavioural concerns. Sparky and Julie helped us learn to understand what our dog was trying to communicate and how we should respond. They showed us how to build up trust with our dog and tools we could use to help deal with his heightened anxiety. Julie was great at listening to our concerns and adapting her approach if ever our dog’s response was straying away from progress. When we started the program we were very stressed out about our dogs behaviour and on edge that he might have an aggressive outburst at any point. Through working with (PivotalChange.ca Team) we have seen a massive improvement in his behaviour and general demeanour. We truly are able to relax and enjoy having our dog around now thanks to the guidance provided by (PivotalChange.ca Team). Even weeks after the program has ended, we are still using the tools they provided to keep improving our dogs behaviour. Thanks again for everything you all have helped us with. - Kristin and Alex
“My wife and I signed up for Sparky’s program hoping to change some problem behaviors exhibited by our juvenile standard poodle. After an 11-week program, we not only walked away with a changed dog, but also a changed owner. Not only has Rusty, our dog become much calmer, he has also made great progress learning the value of impulse control and how to look to his owner companion for guidance and direction. I learned that my positive training efforts were not enough to establish the relationship I wanted with my dog. I did not know that dogs have a complex language all their own, and with understanding and practice, I could learn to read what dogs communicate to other dogs and to their human companion. This knowledge proved to be invaluable. Training my dog became much more nuanced and rewarding. Rusty became much more responsive and attentive. Does Rusty still occasionally exhibit some of the behaviors we tried to change. Of course. Behavior change requires time and effort. Rusty has made great progress and he’ll continue to improve as we put into practice the foundational tools and information Sparky shared with us during these fun and truly rewarding weeks. I have no hesitation recommending her as a talented dog behaviorist. I think any dog owner can benefit from this program provided they are willing to change their own behavior as part of changing their dog’s behavior and be prepared to do a considerable amount of homework during the program. In my experience, doing the homework was critical for success.” - Bill Van Gelder
“My chocolate lab just turned two. He was purchased impulsively at eight weeks old from a sketchy Kijiji ad. I grew up with two very docile labrador’s and figured my first lab would be the same. He was not. It became very apparent right away that this little pup was going to be a significant amount of work. My partner and I were literally at our wit’s end within the first two weeks of owning him. Significant cuts to not only our hands and arms but sometimes faces and ears from the razor sharp velociraptor like teeth were a constant reality due to this little creatures insatiable appetite for human skin. He was an adorable little puppy who everybody wanted to pet and cuddle but were unable to because the poor dog was just relentless with his nipping, biting and overly overtly aggressive form of what we could only defend as simple “normal puppy behaviour”.
I was under the assumption that this puppy behaviour would simply pass after a few months and things would calm down. Well needless to say I was wrong. Things got worse as the dog got bigger, stronger and more persistent with what we initially described as “neediness”. Not only did the dog have no control when interacting with people in terms of nipping and biting, he would jump up on people, bark aggressively if he was not getting attention from anyone and also he was notorious for chewing everything.
I’ll admit that he was often the sweetest little boy when he was in a comfortable place and it was just my partner and I. Unfortunately his lack of impulse control, aggressive behaviour and overall extreme anxiousness in all other situations made me realize this dog is a liability and has ostracized us from a normal young adult life. We were avoiding people, not inviting friends over and unable to leave the house in fear of what might happen.
We tried to train him on our own, that was challenging. To be honest it did not work. The other problem is that everyone on the planet has their own opinion on how to train a dog. Some say dominate the dog, some say only use positive reinforcement, some say make them face their issues head on so they get used to it. Youtube, Cesar Milan, stimulation overload!
Finally I dropped my ego and decided I needed help. After a brief stint with a dog trainer which was once again unsuccessful, I contacted Sparky, an animal behaviourist. Potentially one of the best decisions of my life. Sparky was able to give us an insight into the neuroscience behind our “crazy” dog. She helped us to understand why he was having so much difficulty making good decisions, controlling his impulses and being unable to calm down. Sparky gave us a foundation of exercises and routines to implement as we began working to develop a partnership with the dog. I think that was the key element, a partnership between us, the dog and Sparky. The program was difficult no doubt. Sparky’s expectations of both us and the dog required a serious commitment and resiliency for when things get difficult.
Once the program was complete our dog still required lots of work and time but the changes we saw in him gave us hope. We just had what we can say was an extremely successful Christmas holiday with the dog, we spent time at relatives houses with him, had friends and family over to our house on many occasions and the little guy was incredible. There is no doubt in my mind that without Sparky’s help our dog would have had a very different future. Thank you Sparky! If you are like me you love animals and would likely give your life to save your own dog. And I absolutely would have. I had friends and family suggesting I give the dog up for adoption on multiple occasions. In my mind I knew that wasn’t even close to being an option yet I was constantly defending myself and the dog as to why I should keep him. Don’t give up. The bond we have with our dog is so incredibly powerful and we are all stronger for having gone through this experience together. Here is to more time spent engaging with the dog and making sure he has the best life possible!” - Graeme Smith
After a serious bite incident with our dog, Thomas, we called PivotalChange.ca to speak to Sparky. We were literally at cross-roads of having him put him down because we were committed to not have a dog who could harm others. Thomas is a big bundle of love, most of the time, but as part of our work-family and our own family we needed to do everything we could to help him change.
We were highly skeptical at first because our work with other trainers and other family dogs always seemed to require dominant-alpha type training and rough-handling. We didn't like it but at that time, 20 years ago, it was the way professionals worked. Reading the testimonials and understanding there may be equally effective and gentler ways was hard to believe but we decided to give it a try because our dog was important to us, a family member.
Sparky arrived to work with us and with our staff at our office. What we appreciated about the program was she genuinely cared for our dog but everything she did was backed in science. She taught us the new science behind the dog's psychology and the way they behave, every step of the way. Sparky worked with all of us to show us how to communicate with Thomas in a way he understood. Thomas began to change as we learned how to talk to him and make him understand.
Today we've all learned how to respect Thomas, communicate clearly with him and handle him gently. We've even been able do some important grooming needs which he never let us do before. All of us have learned you don't need to be rough with a dog to teach it. Thomas is happier and we've committed to be his advocate and protector when he is scared.
As the program ended, we both reflected Sparky had made a powerful impact on our lives and Thomas' behaviour, and likely saved his life. We wanted to share our story to help anyone facing hard decision if their dog bites someone. There is hope. It takes work but you will learn a lot. - Janice and Frank (Due to privacy request, real names have been changed)
“When Nigel arrived in our home in January from Redemption Paws we knew he had come from a horrendous past. He was rescued from a hoarding situation. He had sores, was malnourished and very scared. For four-months I worked with him and slowly saw his personality emerge. And, then, as he felt safer, there were issues. I knew I needed expert help and reached out to Sparky at Pivotalchange.ca. Sparky explained rescues, once they feel secure, begin to deal with some of their fears, and in Nigel's case, I had seen him become vicious with other dogs who came to my home. Also, he was becoming dangerously close to attacking my guests.
Sparky taught me how to be Nigel's advocate when we have guests over, making sure they realized how to interact with a fearful dog. I took the lessons from Sparky and taught Nigel how to manage his emotions so he no longer became angry with people. I learned how to help him become calmer when people come to the door - although Sparky was his very favorite and sometimes he couldn't quite control himself when greeting her. Nigel was such a fast learner once I could communicate with him effectively. Like, he quickly learned to look to me when he becomes concerned about anything, outside and inside. I learned how to have a conversation with Nigel about being handled, teaching me to respect his choices not to be touched when he didn't want to be. It was really fascinating to watch Nigel making decisions on his own and communicating 'yes' and 'no' to things I asked. I could see over the weeks, he was changing the way he thought about things, was feeling less scared, and enjoying making choices about other dogs he liked or didn't like. Sparky also taught us a lot of fun games to build up his confidence and you could see him really enjoying these. My family and friends have noticed a big difference in Nigel in the time we worked through the program. I would highly recommend PivotalChange.ca for anyone dealing with the complexities of a new rescue” - Harrison Nolan
Sparky was recommended to me to help us provide fear & force free, and positive reinforcement program for my dog Sako. He is a big guy and in his first year he has had a couple of incidents which has led him to be aggressive towards other large dogs. He would get really excited at wildlife too, hauling me when on lead. I was hesitant to use an online face-to-face service at first, but after my first phone call with Sparky I felt she knew what we had going on and would be able to help. Sparky was able to teach me effectively how to become Sako's protector, teacher and coach, all through Zoom. She used drawings, videos and presentations, and also her own dog, to show me how to work with Sako and help him not be so fearful outside, to listen more and to remain calm. At one point while I was on a walk, three deer crossed the street and with the training we have learned, Sako was able to watch them cross without any pulling, and keeping his attention on me. I would recommend PivotalChange.ca online program for anyone who wants to see real changes in their dog's lives" - Greg Ferguson, British Columbia, Canada
“Zena was rescued from Attawapiskat, Ontario and I adopted her from the Moosonee Puppy Rescue in Bracebridge. I knew she had at least one litter if not more. I was told other dogs had likely preyed on them. It was heartbreaking, but when I looked at Zena I just knew she was special. We bonded right away but it was clear Zena was very scared and barked like mad at other dogs or people with dogs and we have a lot of foot traffic. She also pulled on leash which was painful. I needed help and found Sparky.
Sparky and Behaviour Tech, Rosemary, made sure to guide me through the program to change Zena's behaviours, and in some cases, mine too. One, or both of them, met with me on nearly a weekly basis and I began to see all the things I needed to learn to help Zena. It was a lot of work. In the weeks to follow I began communicating better and I could see her responding, calming down and looking for help. From setting up a safe spot for her, to helping her when she was upset, to moving her away from the front door and explaining in doggie terms I didn't need her to bark at people. We ran through a lot of practice session with me and Zena to become knowledgeable and gain skills to manage Zena when she was scared.
The program worked. It doesn't just end though. It is a lifetime of health routines that keep my Zena happy and loving her new life. I love this sweet dog and Sparky and Rosemary really helped me make her life better." - Petra Moore
"I chose to work with Sparky because she was recommended by a trainer who said that I needed special help in aggression control. Angel (my dog) had become unsafe with other dogs and small animals – I did not see this behaviour when I first adopted her. Angel was shy and afraid of everything but as she gained confidence some interesting traits started to appear…
Choosing to work with Sparky was a perfect choice for us – she gradually brought me through the training needed to change Angels’ aggressive behaviour so that I wasn’t always on high alert every time we left the house.
Sparky taught me how to walk Angel without the lungeing and pulling that was taking a huge toll on my back and shoulders. All the training was from a place of gentleness and love, her approach is completely force-free. Any unwanted behaviour from Angel was redirected and followed by a positive action that could be praised – so we both could feel good about the training, even when the results weren’t yet in place. I learned a lot! Sparky explained the myths (many) and the facts – I was surprised more than once!
When I began working with Sparky, I was already experienced, I had always had a dog and I thought I knew quite a bit about training but the methods she used were new to me and eventually very successful. I had taken on the challenge of working with Angel, a rescue from the horrors of the Korean Meat Market and she had suffered a lot of physical and emotional trauma. Sparky helped me every visit with new takeaways such as impulse control work on recall, how to reinforce positive behaviour, I was encouraged to PLAY with Angel and challenge her with mental stimulation…. I was shown how to help Angel overcome her fears. Throughout the program, I saw the enormous benefits of spending time and working with my dog. I was incredibly impressed with how well the program worked and how the time and love paid off for both of us. We have made huge progress and I will continue to use her philosophy and training tools.
I highly recommend Sparky’s program for anyone who has a dog with challenging behaviours or who simply wants to see the best possible version of their dog – we get what we give.” - Kelly Dominato
“Sparky has been so amazing at helping us with our older dog of 10 years who is fearful of other dogs. She is also been helping us integrate our new puppy with our older dog. I don't know what we would have done without her. Other trainers discouraged us from getting a new puppy with our older dog. Sparky has made the transition so smooth and continues to help us recondition our older dogs protective and fearful behaviour. Our 2 dogs can now play and be together which we never thought was possible. Thank you Sparky for all your help!” - Christy Barber
“Worried about our dog Katie, we have been delighted with her change. She is a totally different dog, less fearful and more confident. Katie was very aggressive toward other dogs after being attacked 2 years ago. We realized Katie would be willing to fight any dog and knew this would be a problem in our upcoming move to Toronto, where dogs abound. Taking her anywhere, even on walks, had become very stressful. We needed help, and heard about Sparky at PivotalChange.ca. We called to learn more about her services, and it became clear to us on our first call she would be able to help Katie. Now after completing the Behaviour Modification Program, we would highly recommend Sparky’s PivotalChange.ca as the way to go!" - Mackenzie & Alec
"I had my first full session with Sparky today. She was amazing. She answered all my questions with evidence based responses which really impressed me. Clearly she knows her stuff!" - Lori Vaudry
“Sparky came to help our family when we were overcome with issues that we were dealing with regarding Sadie, our lovely Aussie (Australian Shepherd) who was attacked by two dogs during the summer and pulling while on her leash. We had resorted to the shock collar but that did not seem to correct the problem.
It all started with a phone call the middle of September out of desperation. Sparky explained to us she was not your typical trainer, her training is solely based on behavioral training, not using any training devices such as bark collars and shock collars. Our first meeting was at the end of September where Sparky did an assessment of our needs, watch how we all interacted and to get a feeling of what Sadie's requirements were.
The second meeting was on her property and Sparky allowed us to interact with her beautiful dog, Sunshine.
Each meeting consisted of a new tool that we were taught and introduced to Sadie. Sadie enjoyed learning and we enjoyed teaching her.
Sparky showed us the signs to look for and how to work with Sadie to overcome her fear of other dogs and how to control her leash pulling with treats and simple commands and phrases.
We still have work to do with Sadie around other dogs but with the behavioral training that Sparky has provided us, we are more in tune with Sadie's responses and how she reacts around other dogs. Thanks again Sparky. - Jacki, Rick and Sadie.
My husband and I have a mellow 12 year old Lab/Terrier dog, Molly, who is not socialized, and used to being 'the only child.' This winter we decided to adopt Chelsea, a one year old rescue Husky/German Shepard mix with lots of puppy energy. Chelsea saw Molly as a playmate but Molly felt very threatened by her. As a result, we were very concerned that they would get into a fight. Therefore, we kept them separated in our house. We were at a loss as to how to integrate them.
This led us to seeking out Sparky's help. Through her program we learned how to give Molly the assurance she needed. Sparky showed us how to have Molly understand that she was protected by us and NOT vulnerable to what she perceived as Chelsea's threat.
As well, we were guided by Sparky to show Chelsea that she was to leave Molly alone (not to try to engage in rough puppy play).
The end result is that we have a happy home. Molly feels comfortable being around Chelsea, and Chelsea leaves Molly alone. They now share the same areas throughout our house. They are comfortable walking side by side outside too.
Sparky was exceptionally professional at all times; always available for answering our questions along the way.
We have benefited greatly showing Chelsea ways to behave with various methods as building our bond with her.
I particularly enjoy all the positive methods we have learned regarding our training with Chelsea. Our understanding of our dogs' behaviours is greater for this program. - Joanne and Fred
“Over the holidays, our family remarked on the significant change in our dog, Tilley. She was much more confident, calmer, and well-behaved. We told them we had started working with a Dog Behaviorist, Sparky, who was recommended by one of the local trainers. Sparky placed us into her 3-month program to help Tilley with her fear of cars. She would spin uncontrollably and lunge after cars going by. We also wanted her to walk better, and to stop stealing clothes. The depth of knowledge and training Sparky provided us gave us everything we needed to help Tilley. We are now able to read Tilley's signals and communicate with her more effectively. We know now what is needed to guide and support Tilley through her fears and to show her what we want in a gentle way. We enjoyed the experience working with Sparky and would recommend her to anyone looking for solutions to their dog’s problems.” - Carlie & Todd Willford
“Now that we have completed the program we would like to express our appreciation. We were skeptical at the start but we are more than satisfied with all the effort and work you put into helping us better understand our dog’s behavior. And of course, the training we received that showed us how to work with our dog. We learned why our dog behaves the way she does and how we can help her deal with her issues. We realize that we have a lot more work to do but we are confident with the tools that you provided us, that we will have a more relaxed and happier dog. We enjoyed the experience and we would highly recommend your services. - Cathy and Bob
“When we reached out to Sparky we were concerned about the behaviour with our dog might be a danger to others. We tried training collars, taking advice from others, researching on google what to do, but nothing worked. We engaged Sparky to help us out with her force-free Comprehensive Behaviour Program. Now we have a dog we feel comfortable around. We now get in front of her behaviours before they get out of hand. We also know how to manage new events that might result in her becoming reactive.
The best part about working with Sparky is she was able to explain why our dog was doing what she was doing and how we can help her. We had to make some changes in our life but it was worth it. Throughout the months, Sparky responded back quickly to all our questions and provided great ideas to resolve problems that arose. And, an added bonus, our dog is no longer incontinent which was likely due to her overall anxiousness.
For those considering hiring Sparky to help them, we would definitely recommend her. Make sure she is the first place to go before trying anything else - it will save you time and money and lower your frustration. She will guide you to resolve your dog's behaviour, no matter how challenging.” - Mike and Christine Kittl
“Working with Sparky and team has taught me so much. Honestly, Abby is a whole different dog. Just amazing" - Bev Bogeart
“I met with Sparky about my Yorkshire Terrier who was driving us to despair with his constant barking. We felt we had tried everything. She partnered with us, developed a plan that worked for our family, and then trained and coached us. We were delighted with the results. The difference now is significant with noticeable reduction in his barking, he is more courageous and calm, and just seems happier. Sparky is easy to talk to, explains everything well and was very reassuring that we would have success even when nothing else had worked. We have no hesitation in recommending Sparky." - Ragan Zilic-Lovegrove
“Thank you Sparky for your help with Juneau! Our one-on-one sessions with you have assisted us to better understand what he is communicating, and your training plan to strengthen our bond and positively guide his behaviour is working. We have seen amazing results when we consistently apply the methods, and he absolutely loves the mental stimulation games!" - Dan & Tracey Christian