Source:  Herald Sun (Extract)
Posted:  March 24, 2021

Following one of the country’s biggest years in dog adoption, two of Australia’s top animal trainers reveal the best way to avoid behavioural issues.

Understanding the specific needs of a dog’s breed is the number one thing people should focus on when embarking on a training program with their canine.

This is according to expert animal behaviourists Jen and Ryan Tate who say demand for help in training dogs has skyrocketed as Australians in lockdown bought and adopted dogs in record numbers.

Understand the breed, the dog’s trigger points and you’ll be able to succeed in teaching obedience. Not all breeds — from cavoodles to blue heelers — learn the same way.

The demand for pets in 2020 was higher than ever before — animal adoption site saw visits in August reach 1.2 million, double the number from the same time in 2019.

With many families now out of the house all day, the Tates say many dog owners are experiencing obedience and separation anxiety issues in their pets.

The husband and wife duo have just released their book, How to Train Your Dog — The complete guide to raising a confident and happy dog, from puppy to adult.

“Our whole book goes back to what breed do you have, and what were they specifically bred for,” says Jen.

“And then that really opens up an entire world of what is necessary to fulfil and make your dog happy long-term. You can train a dog at any age but working on that emotional development and ensuring your puppy grows up to be happy, independent and confident in the world is first and foremost.”

Ryan adds: “Some of the breeds that are really popular as rescue dogs, such as greyhounds, they are like a cheetah. They want to sprint and run for a couple of minutes and then they want to be cosy and safe and well housed.

“So the amount of training and energy that you’re going to put into something like a greyhound might be short and sweet, but it needs to be really high quality.

“Whereas when we look at more active and versatile breeds, like retrieving dogs like labradors, golden retrievers, or working dogs like border collies and kelpies, they require a far greater amount of endurance type stimulus as well as mental stimulation as well.”

When it comes to training a dog of any age or breed, Jen and Ryan Tate want to teach people to become better communicators rather than assume an “alpha” role.

“We need to work better communicating with our dog instead of saying we need to show him who’s boss,” says Ryan.

“Thinking about the dog as a pack animal is often misconstrued.

“Usually the dog just doesn’t understand what you would like them to do. 

“So instead of punishing, growling at or reprimanding the dog, we really want owners to think about how can I communicate to the dog what I would like it to do?” 

Jen says dogs communicate to us with every single action.

“A tail wag, facial movement, body posture, everything they do is them saying, ‘I’m nervous, I’m scared, I’m aroused, I’m this’,” she says. 

“If we can understand and interpret that, we probably will be less likely to anthropomorphise situations and think that we understand our dog and put our dog in situations it probably isn’t ready for.”

Now, as people are spending more time outside their homes and away from dogs that have become used to permanent company, Jen says the benefits of crate training should not be overlooked.

“Separation anxiety is probably the number one problem that we see from especially COVID-raised puppies,” she says. “Getting used to just an area like a crate for a puppy is way more beneficial than them racing around the house, starting to do undesirable behaviours like chewing cushions and picking things up that they shouldn’t.”

Ryan adds: “We just need to find that small building block to say to the dog, ‘Hey guess what, being alone is OK and it’s something that you have to do from time to time’. And we might start with a 30-second interval.

“And the end goal is, come July, everyone’s going to go back to work and you need to spend nine hours alone.”

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