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It is hard to find anyone that wouldn’t melt at the sight of a tiny, fluffy puppy and our love for them is growing with 24% of households in the UK owning a dog. As a dog trainer, dog walker and dog lover this is fantastic. We are also more aware of the emotional needs of our dogs. This is mainly due to increased developments in canine science which have led to more positive training methods and a move away from dominance and punishment based techniques. However, despite the latest advances, many trainers, behaviourists and vets report that there is an increase in the amount of dogs with behavioural issues. Since puppy socialisation and puppy training has become so widespread, surely we should be seeing more happy and confident dogs?

While advances in the field of canine science have hugely improved our understanding of dogs, there is still a lot of misinformation and contradicting advice surrounding dog behaviour and training. This often comes from well-meaning dog owners (or even people that don’t own dogs!) and is based on hearsay or what is believed to be ‘common sense’. Unfortunately, this is very subjective and varies depending on personal experience. It also acts to reinforce broad statements. For instance the common statements ‘your dog needs to know that you are the pack leader’ or ‘my dog knows she has done wrong because she looks guilty’. How do we know that dogs need a pack leader? How do we know that dogs feel guilt? Without proper knowledge, any advice given is practically worthless. This is where ‘science sense’ comes into play. ‘Science sense’ allows us to truly test what we mean when we look at dog behaviour. In order to communicate properly with our dogs we have to first understand them.

One of the first things we want to do when a puppy arrives into our homes is start training them and most puppies will arrive to classes with sit, lie and paw nailed. This is amazing and obedience training is definitely a vital ingredient in making a well-rounded dog. However, what is the point in having a dog that can do every trick under the sun if it bites the vet or lunges and barks at everything? It is these types of behavioural problems that are on the rise.

The second thing that we want to do with our new pups is get them ‘socialised’. Most behavioural issues are usually blamed on dogs being poorly socialised as a puppy. We are advised to get our pups out and introduce them to everything as quickly as possible. Yes, socialisation is important but we tend to forget that our pups have only been alive for a small amount of time and most of that time was spent in the security of their mum and litter mates. Too much exposure to new things can cause them to become sensitised and not socialised. Appropriate socialisation requires a slow introduction to the world, helping to pair scary things with positive stuff (like a treat or praise) and a good understanding of dog body language so that we can listen to their cries for help.

However, the way in which a puppy will react to new things is very individual. Some puppies are bomb proof and it would take a lot to phase them, while other puppies will not recover from novel situations as quickly. Because of this, large group classes can be a very scary experience for some puppies and they quickly develop negative associations to other dogs and people. It is often these pups that are labelled as ‘stubborn’ or ‘dominant’ because they won’t carry out simple commands. This causes the owners to get stressed and usually ends up with the puppy being punished.

In a class environment it can be tricky to attend to individual needs. But it is essential that dog trainers recognise when a puppy is finding it difficult to cope and are able to give the owners adequate understanding and guidance. This is why it is so important to find a trainer that understands the science of dog behaviour, and who will make the puppy’s first introduction to the outside world a positive and fun learning experience.

Unlike traditional obedience based puppy classes, Josee’s Happy Hounds offers classes that will provide a safe and fun environment where your puppy can learn important life skills safely. Josee’s experience and knowledge of dog behaviour will make sure that each puppy becomes the most that he or she can be. As a member of the Pet Professional Guild Josee also keeps up to date with the training and behaviour studies to make sure that the methods taught in the classes are led by ‘science sense’ and not ‘common sense’.

In order to command nature we must first obey it’ Francis Bacon

‘A person who has been punished is not less inclined to behave in a given way; at best he learns to avoid punishment’ B. F. Skinner