Clickety Clips interviews top dog trainers
Dima is a dog training instructor with over 32 years of experience. He grew up in the former Soviet Union which is where he first learnt to train dogs. At university he studied the physiology of behaviour and acquired a teaching diploma before moving to the UK in 1996. He runs the Good Boy Dog School in North London providing individual and group training classes for dog owners as well as socialisation, rehabilitation, specialist and problem-solving classes and a summer training camp.
Both he and many of the dogs he’s trained have appeared on TV and in film – most recently That Dog Can Dance and with celebrity gardener and author Alan Titchmarsh, and he regularly participates at some of the UK’s largest dog shows educating and entertaining the crowds with his training displays. Dima has also worked with the police as well as various dog rescue organisations. He has trained many other dog trainers who have since established their own dog related businesses in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
You can find out more about Dima’s hand-feeding programme in our special video feature
How would you advise owners on the best way to bond with their dog?
DY: I recommend starting with a hand-feeding programme. Hand-feeding is way more than just delivering food to your dog. It goes so far back, right to the early stages of dog’s development, and therefore triggers the same mechanisms in any learning animal: bonding and dependancy, compliance, and an ambition to please.
At the same time, rewards received trigger the release of endorphins into the dog’s blood stream with a feel-good factor from these ‘happy’ hormones – yes, hand-fed dogs become hooked on working with their handlers, and look forward to having more and more interaction. Training becomes fun and a way of life!
DY: Think, listen and experiment – it’s all out there!
Work with a happy, enthusiastic dog, encouraging voluntary responses rather than using force or intimidation, and use tons of rewards in the shape of regular meals delivered by hand, bit by bit, rather than limited quantities of high value, highly nutritious treats.
DY: My top 3 suggestions are:
- Don’t give up
- Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t feel is right, and
- Don’t look for excuses not to do something – in training any dog, the sky’s the limit!
DY: Letting things escalate while waiting for their dog to just “grow out of it” – which never happens. Dogs who get the opportunity to practice bad behaviours build bad habits very quickly. Helping them to act well is the way – good habits are also easy to develop! In particular, re-training a dog that has become aggressive is always so difficult due to the risks involved and the skills required.
And, finally, what do you envisage the greatest challenges will be for pet dogs and their owners over the next 10-20 years?
DY: Finding a trainer, any trainer who’d still both want, and be able to work with a dog despite all the media hype, new codes of practice and legislation. My solution is to teach by example, and owners should find trainers who have obedient, social, well-behaved dogs of their own.