It’s International Dog Day! We sat down to chat withSuzi Walsh, an expert dog trainer and behaviourist to get the low down on some key things you can do to make sure your doggo is living his or her authentic life ;)
Suzi holds an Honours Degree in Zoology, a Masters in Applied Animal Welfare & Behaviour, 10+ animal training, care & psychology certificates, is a qualified puppy trainer for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and is an all-around awesome human being. She is now owner-operator ofDog Behaviour based in Santry, running training classes for puppies, group-based & in-clinic behavioural training as well as at-home consultations, training & behavioural sessions.
Play is really important and is one of the highest motivators for a dog. You can reward good behaviour with play, it burns off excess energy, builds up a bond between you and your dog, it is mentally & physically stimulating and it is important for teaching your dog to come when called. If your dog learns that play only happenswithouttheir human, then the chances of your dog coming back to you when they are off-lead can be very low. Find activities like fetch that your dog enjoys or have a few games up your sleeve that you know your pup likes playing. Play is a key factor in addressing any behavioural issues in your dog and is vital for ongoing training.
Establishing a happy, healthy relationship with your dog is so important (for the wellbeing of both of you!) and proper training practices are key in cementing this relationship. A big part of training is teaching your dogs words. Dogs aren't born with the ability to understand the language you speak, so it's up to you to teach her. For example, if you haven't taught your dog what ‘NO’ actually means then using the word will only leave your dog stressed and confused and you exasperated. The more words you teach your dog the more you'll be able to communicate and the happier you’ll both be!
Close to 90% of training and behavioural challenges can be solved with appropriate exercise alone. Get to know the needs of your dog’s breed or breeds and find what kind of exercise your dog might like best. Your dog might be a social breed who loves to play, so giving them a chunk of off-lead play with other dogs each week will help to keep them happy. If you have a greyhound breed, they’re likely to be keen on short sprint exercise but will tire on long distance runs; a Husky, on the other hand, thrives on distance and will need regular long-format runs. Find out your dog’s breed(s), get to know his or her personality and adapt your exercise routines as appropriate.
The best rule to follow for any interaction with your pup is to reward good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour. It can be tough to do but it’s key in keeping your dog happy and making sure they are well-trained. It is really difficult to use any form of punishment to train a dog, your timing has to be perfect, a second too late and it's of no use (which is a good reason to avoid using this tactic at all). Dogs aren't born knowing how to behave in a home environment, we have to teach them. Try to reinforce your dogs for good behaviour: for example, train them to ‘sit’, if they want your attention, if instead, they bark at you, simply turn and walk away from them. This teaches your dog that in order to receive any attention from you he needs to sit near you patiently, and if you catch your dog behaving, well don't forget to praise him!
Physical contact with your dog (petting, not just play!) not only benefits your dog but it also lowers your heart rate and calmsyou down! While most dogs won't enjoy a full-on bear hug (a little too constrictive for our furry friends!) they do enjoy having their ears massaged and their tummies rubbed. Take some time out to relax with your dog and make it an enjoyable experience for them. Research shows that dogs choose to spend more time around the humans who pet them over those who just praise them or give them food. If you are unsure if your dog likes to be pet, start with gently rubs under the chin or the chest, or try the favourite spot for lots of pups: a good lower back scratch just above the tail.