About us

The team and our values

There are two trainers on our team: Stephen Fiset and Nina Esmery. Stephen started training dogs in 2016, Nina in 2018. We met through our first dog training job, where we did in-home consultations and group classes. We took to discussing the more complex cases and asking for a second opinion there. We’ve been working as a team for a while, now!

Fun fact: Stephen gave a ton of group classes back then. He’s the one who trained Nina to give her first puppy classes!

We always have the same goals, throughout our work:

  • There are no perfect dogs, just good fits for each family.
  • Open communication with our clients. Training and living with a dog can sometimes get depressing, draining, or frustrating. We feel it’s essential for you to be able to express those feelings. You should also be able to count of our telling you what we think of the situation, as well as what we do and don’t recommend.
  • Strict ethical and moral rules: dogs and humans have to be respected throughout the process. Everyone has their own limits, and that is normal.
  • Comprehensible explanations. Our goal is for your to understand what we’ll do, why, why it works and how to adjust it in the future. This way, our clients are often equipped to deal with regressions or new behavioral challenges.

Today, we primarily work with reactive dogs, because that is unfortunately what is most in demand in Montreal. It is also the issue with which we are specialized. Nina works most often with the reactive adults, Stephen in preventing the issue with puppies, before it ever appears.

We are located in Verdun, but offer in-home visits in Verdun, Lasalle, the South-West, NDG, Westmount, Ville-Marie, and Plateau Mont-Royal. Our group classes take place at Pawse pet boutique in Point-Saint-Charles.

We both greatly value working with shelters and rescues, and try to catch every opportunity to help these organizations. We offer our services to the foster families of SOS Corgi Canada, and we regularly foster cats from shelters such as Proanima. We also partnered with the Les Chiens Togo foundation, for their TOGO card 2024!

The story of A Lick of Sense

Stephen created A Lick of Sense in 2019, offering online services. The goal was to offer as much useful information about dog training, to as many people as possible.

In June 2022, our services were adapted to offer in-home training on the island of Montreal. Nina joined the team to help with administration and development. Little by little, she her schedule opened up, and she can now to take private clients as well.

Since it’s second launch in 2022, A Lick of Sense as already helped over one hundred families and their dogs in private. We’ve also come across hundreds of dogs throughout our various events and group activities. We’ve been to dog-related festivals, offered free QnA events in dog parks and in pet stores, and are always looking forward to the next project!

Why only use positive methods?

This is a very common question! Are we “limiting ourselves” by not using punishment as a tool? Does only using positive methods mean the dog does whatever it wants, without limits?

Positive, well-meaning methods work

As this question gets studied more and more by researchers, and that the two “schools of thought” are compared, the results aren’t ambiguous. Participants using positive methods describe more obedient dogs and don’t experience as many behavioral issues1. A study on shock collars describes that “more owners using reward-based methods for recall/chasing report a successful outcome of training than those using e-collars.”2

Don’t worry: it is absolutely possible to have well defined limits using only positive methods. It will probably just happen faster that way, in fact!

Dogs have a better quality of life

We could stop right there, couldn’t we? It works, so why bother using aversives on my dog? Did you know that studies on different training methods have also found that dogs trained using positive methods have a higher quality of life score3? The engagement and body language of the dog were some of the things observed. Dogs trained with positive methods turn out to be statistically happier.

Methods based on fear and/or pain increase aggressivity

If you still weren’t convinced, there’s this small detail that is…not so negligible. Using aversive methods (collars, coin-cans, etc.) increase canine agression. A study went as far as finding that the more a dog is trained with these methods, the higher the chance that it becomes agressive and/or excitable4, regardless of it’s size.

Photo credit: Chantal Levesque

Positive methods work (better, even) and have far less risks. This makes the choice quite simple for us. It is also the stance and choice of many associations and organisations, such as the Regroupement Québécois des Intervenants en Éducation Canine, the Pet Professional Guild, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, and SPCA.

If you’d like to learn more, you can check out these studies to start:
(1) Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., & Bradshaw, J.W.S. (2004). Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare Animal Welfare (13), 63-69.
(2)Blackwell EJ, Bolster C, Richards G, Loftus BA, & Casey RA (2012). The use of electronic collars for training domestic dogs: estimated prevalence, reasons and risk factors for use, and owner perceived success as compared to other training methods. BMC veterinary research, 8 PMID: 22748195
(3) Herron, M., Shofer, F., & Reisner, I. (2009). Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 117 (1-2), 47-54 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.12.011
(4) Arhant, C., Bubna-Littitz, H., Bartels, A., Futschik, A., & Troxler, J. (2010). Behaviour of smaller and larger dogs: effects of training methods, inconsistency of owner behaviour and level of engagement in activities with the dog. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 123(3), 131-142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2010.01.003

What do our students think?

Stephen is extremely knowledgeable! I took 4 private classes and just watching him interact with my dog is a lesson in itself. I’ve continuously taken some amazing group classes since I adopted my GSP(now 9-month old) but getting private lessons brings the learning to a whole new level. It is well worth the dollars and time invested, especially when you have such a kind/patient teacher with your dog.
Melissa Pope with Ellie-May
(Google Review)
I was lucky to meet A Lick of Sense at a local pet store for a Q&A session. I found Stephen to be extremely knowledgeable, patient and great at explaining training concepts in theory as well as in practical and easy to follow steps. My dog used to run away from her collar and harness and now I get a wagging tail and no running when I pull them out to start our day. I look forward to continuing to learn from them in future!
(Google review)
Stéphane nous a accompagné pendant 6 séances pour travailler, entre autre, les manipulations par des étrangers et la protection de personne avec notre chien Mukki. Je le recommande absolument!! Non seulement il nous aide à mieux comprendre les situations problématiques, mais il cible exactement l’aspect/le comportement/le sentiment qui les initie. Il nous explique ensuite ce qui doit être fait pour changer la donne.
Pendant le protocole, si on se rendait compte qu’on manquait de temps/de discipline pour faire les exercices comme prévu, Stéphane était toujours là pour nous proposer une alternative qui correspond mieux à notre réalité et qui au final, nous a permis de continuer de progresser malgré tout. Nous lui sommes énormément reconnaissant et nous le recontacterons à coup sûr si le besoin se refait sentir dans le futur.
Arielle Thiffault pour Mukki
(Avis Google)
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