Top Tips on Understanding your Puppy from Canine Behaviourist - Su Lin
Loyal.D caught up with trusted Canine Behaviourist, Poh Su Lin to celebrate the launch of her latest dog training space for our furry friends - K9 Kampong . Su Lin's wealth of experience in dog training and understanding of dog behaviour is the result of her many years living and working with dogs. She is currently an AVS - Animal & Veterinary Service accredited dog trainer in Singapore. She is also on the Project ADORE trainer’s panel for all five AVS endorsed Re-homing partners. Read on to learn more tips from K9 Kampong's Founder Su Lin.
LD: How long you’ve been involved with dogs in Singapore, from your volunteering days to professional care and your present dogs at home?
Su Lin: Coming from a dog loving family, I have never lived a day without a dog at home. I have always been fascinated in all facets of dog related activity. About 20 years ago, my learning journey with dogs took a more defined route. I got involved with dog obedience training, competitive dog sports, volunteered as a trainer with the German Shepherd Dog Club and ventured into Schutzhund Training (Protection Dog Training). With the skills I picked up, my next calling was to give back to the very beings that have taught me so much.
I volunteered first as a fosterer for SOSD (Save Our Street Dogs), one of Singapore's largest volunteer-run dog shelter and in time, migrated over to grow the SOSD shelter team. My 6 years at SOSD also included rescue work and the Trap & Neuter and Release Programme (TNR) to manage the stray population. I now share my home with two ex-breeding dogs and two adopted mongrels. About two years ago, I left my full-time job as a school teacher to become a full time dog trainer and behaviourist.
LD: Congratulations on the opening of your new Puppy Training School! Everyone who works with local animal welfare knows how often puppies get adopted as they are cute but can often get returned because of ‘untrained’ or 'uneducated' people, so a school like yours is much needed. Can you share some insight on what inspired you to start the Puppy Training School?
Su Lin: What you mentioned is precisely the reason that motivated me to start an indoor training facility so that puppies two months to five months get to socialise before they miss the critical socialisation period. Cute puppies do get adopted very quickly and oftentimes, people do not see the need to learn how to raise puppies properly until all sorts of behavioural issues surface. Sadly, the easier option is to give the dog away when the dog becomes too difficult to manage. So educating puppy owners on problem prevention measures and teaching them the techniques to shape good behaviour and raise well-mannered dogs from their young formative age is so important.
LD: When someone adopts a dog, what are the top three things they need to keep in mind to help the dog adjust into a home environment, especially when coming from a shelter environment?
To provide a more seamless transition, it's important for every family member, especially the main caregivers to interact and bond with the dog before bringing the dog home. Find out from shelter caregivers or fosterers more about the dog's habits and temperament too.
Understand that the dog might be disoriented and stressed so allow a reasonable length of time for the dog to adjust and feel safe and loved in its new environment with its new family. Decide on the most conducive time to bring the dog home when you have the time to ease the dog in. To make this easier for the dog, decide on a quiet area in the house for the dog to rest. Have a family discussion on the dog's daily routine and roster who should be responsible.
Make time to walk the dog. Even if you live in a big house with a big garden, dogs need their walks to give them a good physical and mental work out. The walk also helps you cement the bond with your dog better.
LD: What are your preferred dog accessories while training a puppy and also adult dogs?
Su Lin: Dogs learn best when they are motivated, so high value training treats or the dog's favourite toy is a must. I also highly recommend the Freedom No-pull Harness as there is absolutely no pressure around the neck and the harness controls the dog in a very natural manner.
LD: When a shelter dog or even a rescued breed dog moves into a new home, some can be anxious or skittish for a few weeks, sometimes even months or longer. Any tips for kind people who want to rescue and re-home such dogs?
Su Lin: Give the dog the time and space it needs to warm up and trust. Rescue dogs have a stronger sense of self preservation and it is their response to wanting to stay safe and alive that make them anxious around anything unfamiliar. Hence, they will definitely open up and be more relaxed once they gather information that you mean no harm and their new home provides them with not only their basic needs but love and warmth.
LD: Why do some dogs behave great with some members of the family, but show aggressive-type behaviour towards other people?
Su Lin: Dogs do best with balanced energy. Different people have different body language, energy and interact with the dog differently. People of different age groups also behave differently, hence the dog responds accordingly.
Sometimes, a dog can get so attached to a certain member of the family, they start to resource guard that person warding others away. Sometimes, dogs feel the need to protect certain members of the family because they do not feel secure enough in their presence. Hence, it is necessary to engage a dog behaviourist to assess the situation and offer the right intervention strategies.
LD: We hear of cases where people give-up or abandon their pets when they start expecting a baby. Clearly, there is education required in this space – can you share three tips to help parents introduce their new baby to a pet dog at home.
1. It is important to prepare your dog way before baby's arrival. Get your dog used to the sounds babies make, let them sniff out the baby stuff (eg. diapers, pram, baby toys).
2. Get your dog used to any new routine or boundary it might have to adjust to way ahead of the baby’s arrival so that your dog does not have any negative associations the baby. This is especially important if you have a 'sticky' attention seeking dog. Train your dog to be more independent and to respect your space.
3. Stop any bad habits your dog might have. Train your dog not to jump on the crib , on your lap or on other children. Invite friends with children over to get your dog used to being around them and seize the opportunity to attach positive associations with children and to teach your dog manners around them.
LD: You have worked a lot with the local mongrel (Singapore Specials). Can you share some insights on these dogs?
Su Lin: Because Singapore Specials are born and breed on the streets until they are rescued to be rehomed, they may tend to have very keen survival instincts. This self-preservation instinct to keep safe and stay alive makes them cautious of anything unfamiliar to them. Singapore Specials that are exposed to positive interactions with people and the environment can be as friendly and trusting and no different to any other breed dog. As the chances of hereditary abnormalities are decreased by natural selection, they adapt easier to our environment.
LD: Coming back to puppies, can you share a couple of easy indoor game ideas that people can do to keep their growing puppies engaged and positively reinforced?
Game 1. Hide and Treat.
Hide treats around your home to set your dog off on a tail wagging adventure. Your dog will put its nose to work to find the hidden treasures. You can determine how easy or difficult you want the game to be depending on where you decide to hide them.
Game 2. Go Sniff
This game is a simple problem solving game that dogs will instinctively take to. Let your dog watch as you place a tasty treat under one of three cups. You then shuffle the cups around and encourage them to ‘find the treat.’ Using their powerful sense of smell, this game gives your dog plenty of mental stimulation and helps them work on their problem solving skills.
Game 3: Play a Game of Tag
Playing tag is a fun interactive game. With a partner, sit or stand at one side of the room with a toy or some treats. Take turns calling the dog over and rewarding them when it comes. Make sure your dog is receiving lots of positive reinforcement each time it obeys. This is a simple and fun way to reinforce a reliable recall.
LD: Thank you for all the insights! How can someone book a training session with you and can you share a little more on the length of sessions and process?
Su Lin: K9kampong conducts Puppy Playschool, Group and Private Basic Obedience Training, behaviour modification sessions as well as Daycare. You can find out more in our website at www.k9kampong.com To register, email to: email@example.com