Clickety Clips interviews top dog trainers
Gwen Bailey gained a great deal of very valuable practical experience working part-time in a breeding/boarding kennels for most of her childhood. After University, she worked for 12 years for a national animal charity where she introduced behaviour work to the rescue world. Twelve years ago she started Puppy School, a network of UK puppy trainers, all using kind effective methods and trained to a very high standard. Puppy School now has about 70 trainers around the UK, and owners can be safe in the knowledge they will get effective and safe training for themselves and their puppies at their classes. Gwen has written 12 books. Millions of owners will be familiar with her best-selling title Perfect Puppy. She has had lots of puppies and rescue dogs of her own who, she says, have taught her so much.
How would you advise owners on the best way to bond with their dog?
GB: Through play. It’s the quickest and most effective way to get to know a dog, and for them to get to know you. Its true for humans too! Play a game the dog likes and knows, or teach it a new one, and it will see you as a source of fun and interest. Then you can use the games as a reward to teach a host of cues that are both fun for the dog and useful for you.
- Get to know dogs inside out by working/being with lots of them.
- Volunteer at a rescue centre or help out with other people’s dogs until you have a few years of experience of how different dogs think.
- Read all the books you can on learning theory and then practice teaching cues until you have all the knowledge and handling skills you need for training to be second nature.
Then, and only then, are you ready to teach other people how to do it.
- Don’t keep training if you get angry (just walk away and come back later).
- Don’t punish (of course)
- and don’t be too stingy with rewards (learning is hard and rewards are essential for focus and motivation).
GB: They often find it hard to get the timing right, to rewarding immediately, and to give sufficient reward. It’s also difficult to master the handling skills necessary for smooth training.
And, finally, what do you envisage the greatest challenges will be for pet dogs and their owners over the next 10-20 years?
GB: The greatest challenge will be good health in dogs as breeders continue to inbreed to keep the pedigree lines pure. The easiest solution is to open the stud book to bring in new genes but, of course, that is unlikely to happen. Owners have already taken it upon themselves to popularize crossbreeds but, at present, these only bring inherited problems from both purebred parents. Hopefully, common sense will prevail and a way will be found to breed healthy dogs with genes that make a suitable pet dog.