Meet Our Trainers & FAQs


About us

BabyDog is lead by 4 fantastic trainers: Aviva Shtull, Dave Tomey, Ruth Kasasian and Emma Cilliers and we are proud to be supported by an amazing team of dedicated volunteers.

Focusing on socialization and training programs for dogs of all ages, we have been growing locally for over 9 years now. 

BabyDog’s sister company is TomeyK9 Services. These two companies merged in 2018 and are now running all their programs together as one big happy family.


Our Trainers


Aviva Shtull

Aviva's empathy for dogs and humans together is what set her apart as a trainer. Her depth of knowledge is based on a need to know "why" for everything canine. 

Dave Tomey

Dave was inspired to get into the dog training industry by his dog, Ellie-May. He socialized and trained her from a young age and then had to repeat all of her training again after a serious leg injury. In the process, he adapted traditional techniques to personalize his training around Ellie’s injury, and also worked extensively with her as part of his certification program.

Dave's photo

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Ruth Kasasian

Ruth started with BabyDog as a volunteer, and progressed through a very thorough and hands-on training apprenticeship for two years. She's now a skilled and compassionate trainer with a particular flair for behavior modification.

Emma Cilliers

Emma has been involved with animals for as long as she can remember. She has worked in the pet industry for 8 years, as a dog daycare attendant and as a veterinary technician. Emma is a graduate from the International Academy of Canine Trainers.

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I just got a puppy. What should I be doing with it?

  1. Socialize - your puppy must meet as many new dog and human friends as possible right away. Industry Standard is to have positive interactions with at least 100 friendly people by the time they turn 6 months of age. Remember: there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t made yet. Resources: Socialization Classes, Farmers Markets, Rec Centres

  2. Teach Patience - any problem behaviour you can think of is related to poor impulse control. If you can teach your puppy to control its impulses (delay gratification) then they will get in less trouble, and they will respond better to your obedience commands. There is a hormonal/physiological element to patience so it must be practiced with regular exercises. Resources: Group Training Classes, Private Training, DIY Exercises

  3. Teach Bite Inhibition - your puppy needs to learn how to use their teeth appropriately. When puppies play with each other they have rules about where to bite, when to bite, and how hard to bite. Take a page from their mother’s book and do a loud, startling vocal correction if they bite out of turn. Give them a moment to calm down, then return to playing gently. Resources: Ian Dunbar’s book - After You Get Your Puppy

  4. Motor Function and Coordination - Paw/Eye coordination, Tooth/Eye coordination, strength, endurance, etc. They learn this through play and other forms of movement like walking, running, turning and jumping. Resources: Socialization Classes, agility, trick training

  5. Training - Loose Leash Manners, Sit, Come, Down & Stay commands. Teach the dog some English words, and get into the habit of responding to you despite environmental distractions. Resources: Private Training, Group Training Classes

How old does my puppy have to be?

There is no age minimum for our programs but we do require pups to have minimum two sets of vaccines to attend our group programs, including their kennel cough vaccine.

For our puppy socialization programs, the maximum age is 8 months of age. For more details on the importance of starting early for socialization please read the AVSAB Position Statement on Puppy Socialization

Our training programs and outdoor socialization/training group walks are for dogs of all ages.

What vaccinations does my puppy need?

We require your dog to have minimum two rounds of vaccines including the kennel cough vaccine. We recommend joining our classes 7 days after your puppy’s second shots. We ask that you remain current on your booster shots and talk to your vet about flea/tick prevention.

Where are you located?

We offer our services at a variety of locations throughout the city on a per-service basis. We do not (yet) have a storefront.

I’m already working with a different trainer. Does that matter?

Not at all! Taking your pup to training (even if it isn’t with us) is a fantastic investment in your future. We work with several other local trainers and believe in a sense of community when it comes to raising a pup. You are welcome to join us for any of our programs as well: we can simply help supplement the great work you are already doing with your current trainer. Knowledge is power, and you can’t get enough of it. Many trainers refer their clients to our Puppy Socialization classes to help supplement the obedience training they are already doing. Unfortunately some trainers are afraid to lose their clients, so if it makes your trainer uncomfortable to share your business please encourage them to contact us as a professional courtesy.

What is the difference between training and socialization?

Training deals with obedience commands, whereas Socialization deals with etiquette in social situations. Training includes things like Sit, Down, Come, Stay, Drop It, Leave It and so on. People train their dogs so they can learn patience, prevent accidents and have a more convenient relationship. People socialize their dogs so they learn to be happy and confident with other people and animals. In order to take your dog anywhere, your puppy must be well trained and well socialized.

A dog that is well trained and poorly socialized may listen to you, but will likely be unfriendly or fearful. A dog that is well socialized and poorly trained may be happy, but will likely be unruly and overly exuberant. You may want to work with a trainer to help you raise a well balanced, happy, friendly, controllable dog.

I want to train my own dog. How can BabyDog help?

Our ultimate goal isn’t to train your puppy for you, we want to teach you to train your own puppy.

It takes a village to raise a puppy. Think of it this way: you could send your canine kid to public school, hire a private tutor, or do home schooling.

Public School is like Group Training: everyone follows the same curriculum on the same schedule and your instructor’s time is distributed between students. Your fur kid learns about social etiquette with their fellow students at the same time that they learn the content you want to teach.

Hiring a tutor is like Private Training: everyone follows the same curriculum but you can spend more time in the areas that you need help, and your instructor’s time is dedicated solely to you. Your fur kid doesn’t get a chance to learn social etiquette with other dogs this way, unless you intentionally schedule time for it.

Home School is like training your own dog: you decide on the curriculum, the pace at which you move through the content, and the quality time you spend with your fur kid. Again, your fur kid doesn’t interact with their peers this way, unless you intentionally set time aside to organize play dates with other puppy parents. If you know the curriculum, and you will actually spend time going through it with your puppy, this can be a great choice.

Use our Group Training classes as an affordable way to cover your puppy basics. Use our Private Training services to focus on the commands that you need special help with. And use our Puppy Socialization classes to make sure that your fur kid gets the social experience it needs to grow up with confidence. Either way, you will learn a lot about yourself by training a puppy!

Are there developmental deadlines for puppies?

Yes! Please Click Here to learn when the different Stages of Development occur and what they mean to you. It’s very important to socialize your puppy before they are 4 months old. If you have already missed that window, please join us for a class anyway because it is never too late to start and you have to make up for lost time. Here are some deadlines that should stand out to you:

Your puppy learns to be gentle with its teeth by 18 weeks of age.

Your puppy is in a fear period from 8-11 weeks, and again from 6-14 months of age.

Your puppy will seem great off leash until they are 4-8 months old because of the Flight Instinct Period.

How did you develop your programs and services?

40% of Canadian puppies are euthanized or re-homed by the age of 2 years.

50% of Canadian dogs are given away at least once in their life (in addition to the time they leave their mom)

The leading cause of death in dogs is euthanasia for problem behaviours, not any medical condition.

The top 3 reasons dogs are euthanized or re-homed are house training, aggression and barking.

Let those statistics really sink in for a minute. Our programs were designed with these stats in mind. Puppy owners who have access to affordable training and a support network are less likely to lose their beloved pets to preventable conditions in the future. This may not be something that you’re thinking about now, but the sad reality is that many people reading this will not take the right actions and in a year or two their dog will pay the price. Our programs were designed to ease the burden on our local dog rescues by keeping puppies with their families for their lifetime. We also want to keep our fellow community members out of the back office of the vet clinic until their dog is a ripe old age and has lived a good, full life.

We have locations around Greater Victoria and we offer many drop-in classes per week, plus private training. No matter where you live, you aren’t too far from one of our locations. We have a First Time Free voucher for our socialization classes (keep reading the FAQs for more info), our programs are affordably priced, and we offer gift certificates in case you know someone that could benefit from our services.

Do you have a newsletter?

We sure do!  If you join us for a socialization class, you’ll be invited to register for the socialization eNewsletter. Of course, you do not have to accept the invitation but our newsletters have been designed to only come once per week and they are a content-rich, no BS, helpful supplement to our classes. Unsubscribe at any time at the bottom of any eNewsletter. At this time, our eNewsletters are only available to clients. Our privacy policy is next in this FAQ, keep reading!

What’s your privacy policy?

We have created this email privacy policy to demonstrate our firm commitment to your privacy and the protection of your information.

Why did you receive an email from us?

If you received a mailing from us, you have registered, purchased or inquired about BABYDOG and/or TomeyK9 Services and products or otherwise have an existing relationship with us. We respect your time and attention by controlling the frequency of our mailings.

Sharing and Usage

We will never share, sell, or rent individual personal information with anyone without your advance permission unless ordered by a court of law. Information submitted to us is only available to employees managing this information for purposes of contacting you or sending you emails based on your request for information and to contracted service providers for purposes of providing services relating to our communications with you.

How can you stop receiving email from us?

If you would like to stop receiving information via email, please let us know by email or simply unsubscribe at the bottom of your email from us.

My dog is too old for the BabyDog program. How do I get help?

BabyDog actually works with dogs of ALL AGES.  We are well known for our puppy socialization classes however we have socialization and training programs for adult dogs as well. It is NEVER too late to help your dog with a behavioural concern. If your pup is now older than 8 months and you are looking for further socialization or training support please get in touch or check out our Services Page and we will happily help you out.

Can I try a socialization class for free?

Yes, but there are rules to qualify. We supply many local dog rescues, veterinarians, breeders and participating Bosley’s pet stores with our First Class Free passes. These passes are applicable to Socialization classes, but not Training classes. These cards are only available to you if you have never attended one of our Socialization classes before. The purpose of the First Class Free card is to introduce our services to new clients and inspire new dog owners to be pro-active with their puppies regardless of their level of income.

What if my puppy gets sick?

Don’t bring your puppy to class if they’re contagious! Just like children, your puppy will get sick at some point in their life. Kids get sick by going into public, just like dogs do. Your dog could get sick from the grooming salon, vet clinic, dog park, pet store, your back yard, or a training class. They are at risk every time they make direct contact with other animals, or visit places where other animals have been. Unless your dog is currently contagious, it would be absurd to suggest that you should keep your dog away from these places. You wouldn’t let your young child drop out of school because they could catch a cold there and your puppy is the same.

The risk that your puppy will get sick from attending a puppy class pales in comparison to the risk that your puppy will suffer from social and behavioural deficits from not attending puppy class.

Here are some recommendations for keeping your dog healthy:

  1. Proper Nutrition & Hydration

  2. Physical and Mental Exercise

  3. Supervised socialization with other healthy animals

  4. Proper Hygiene (grooming)

  5. Preventative Medicine (vaccinations, de-wormer and flea/tick preventatives)

  6. Rest

If you think your puppy may have accidentally participated in one of our classes while they were contagious, please Contact Us so we can remind our other clients to watch for signs and symptoms in their puppies. As soon as your pup is healthy again, come back to class!

Click Here for more info on potentially contagious diseases.

Are there any volunteer or employment opportunities with BabyDog?

Yes! We have a volunteer program for adults that are interested in assisting us with classes. When employment opportunities arise, our reliable volunteers are given first consideration. Please send your resume with a cover letter to

What training technique do you use?

Our training techniques are based on motivation, educational and rewards-based training.  We want dogs and their owners to understand each other’s needs and learn to communicate clearly with each other.  We want your dog to want to do the right thing and think training can be fun.  Often it is about finding the right motivation and a clear communication style that works for both you and your dog.

Our style is fun, playful and positive.  At the same time, our style is about consistency, repetition, timing, and effectiveness.

The way we handle a timid puppy will be different than the way we handle an aggressive one. There is no one-size-fits-all training technique, so the techniques we use on one pup will be different from the techniques we use on another. We will never force you to do anything you are uncomfortable with, or judge you for techniques you have tried in the past. After working with thousands of people and their dogs we have heard just about everything!

A good trainer will use a consistent training technique and be able to explain why it works. A GREAT trainer will be able to explain several different techniques, why they work, what the side-effects are, how to deal with the side-effects, and how to choose an approach that works for the client and the dog. No training technique is without side effects, if there was one single perfect technique that existed then all dog trainers would be using it. Dogs learn fastest from what they do right, therefore it is critically important to use techniques that encourage your puppy to make the right choice instead of just discouraging them from making the wrong choice.

BabyDog trainers are firm believers in the humane hierarchy.  If you have a clear vision of the techniques you would like to try, please discuss your ideas with the trainer up front so we can work together successfully. Remember that dog training is a team sport: open communication between the trainer, the client and the dog is essential. All that matters is that we move forward with an approach that will be effective for you and your dog.

For further clarity, we rely heavily on Learning Theory, Canine Communication, Psychology and Impulse Control. We leave our ego at the door, we are not afraid to share clients or make referrals to our peers in the industry, we will never discourage a client from using a competitor’s service. Our priority is the quality of our service and the safety of our clients and their dogs, There is more than one way to raise a child, and there is more than one way to raise a puppy.