As any new dog parent would know, welcoming a dog to the family for the first time or just working out issues with your current dog can sometimes require a helping hand. We decided to chat with some Dog Trainers to get a few tips from those who have dedicated their time to study dogs and learn more on how to help dogs and people. Anita Cheney of SingaPaw Dog Trainer, is a dog trainer and behaviourist who recently moved to Singapore with her rescue dog, Buster. Here are some highlights of our chat with Anita in the first chat in our series with Dog Trainers, including tips on bringing home a puppy!
LD: Hi Anita, welcome to Singapore! Where have you moved from and how long have you been here? What were your first impressions of this island city and has your dog settled in well here?
Anita: I'm from the UK but have recently moved from Algarve, Portugal where I lived for nearly seven years. I arrived in Singapore in January 2019. My first impressions of this wonderful vibrant city were back in September 2018 when I visited for six days with my family. With it's faster pace of life and ease for travelling it has been a very straight-forward transition for us. We transported our family pet dog Buster to Singapore, two days after we arrived. He is a mixed breed, about five years old and rescued in Portugal. He has a calm, gentle nature about him, loves humans but dislikes cats, birds and anything that moves fast! He has settled well after his epic journey here from Lisbon- two flights, two days and 15 hours of flying!
LD: How long have you been a professional dog trainer and how did it all begin?
Anita: I have been involved with dogs since 2006 when I became a qualified dog groomer. A few years after moving to Portugal I soon realised there was a need for a dog trainer in the area. I started studying and joined the online training academy which is run by Doggy Dan a behaviourist in NZ; my training then continued with Absolute Dogs, UK based, run by Vet behaviourist Dr Tom Mitchel and the UK top agility dog trainer Lauren Langman, from Devon Dogs.
LD: Can you share a dog training session where you saw a marked difference post training?
Anita: There are many training sessions where I have seen a marked difference in the dogs behaviour. From walking to jumping on visitors, separation anxiety, the list is endless. Many of my clients say to me during the session their dog has never been so calm before. I believe this is due to having home 1:1 consults. The dog(s) are less stressed and so are the owners. Most sessions I do see an improvement during the 2-3 hours.
LD: Do you have a particular philosophy that governs your training approach?
Anita: I like using calm, consistent, gentle, positive reinforcement rewards approach for my training. Using conceptual training games to build confidence, optimism and focus are key to any training platform. Without focus you have no goal.
LD: What are your preferred accessories while walking a dog and why?
Anita: I like using a two-point harness, and a double clipped lead (2-point lead). This helps balance the dog and therefore you have more control. My preferred harness is the Ruffwear Front Range Harness. Having the two points of contact is essential to promoting good loose-lead walking. One point is on the dogs back and the other point is under the chin and on the chest area. All harnesses are different and used for different things. It's important to educate dog owners to use the correct harness to fit their dog and their requirements.
LD: At what age is it good to start training with your puppy?
Anita: Earlier the better. It's never too soon to instill good manners and behaviour into your puppy. However, it's never too late to start either.
LD: What can a person do to prepare themselves for being a good pawrent?
Anita: Book a consultation with Singapaw Dog Trainer .... also read and understand more about dogs behaviour the powerful WHY? Be patient, with lots of understanding and remain calm and consistent. Be ready to welcome your puppy home. Purchase a crate/dog gate, puppy pads, comfy size appropriate bed, walking leash, 2-point harness, good nutritional food and bowls. Various home made toys are a good to start. (tennis ball in an old sock, for example).
LD: Can you give us your top three training tips for a family that brings home a puppy for the first time?
Anita : My top tips when you bring home a puppy are:
1. Allow them time to adjust to their new surroundings, give them a nice clean small area where it's peaceful and no distractions.
2. Don't over stimulate them with toys or too much fussing. It can take up to 72 hours for a dog to calm and empty their emotional bucket.
3. Buy a suitable crate for the size of your dog. This will help with many forms of training, using this as a safe and good place to be. You can also use baby/dog gates to control the environment around them, this can be vital for helping and stopping unwanted behaviours, toilet training, separation anxiety, chewing furniture, and many other issues. Always best to control the environment around them, and protect them from areas they may not be allowed access to.
LD: While everyone loves a puppy, we also know that there are many wonderful older dogs waiting at shelters for the right home. What are your top three tips for any family looking to adopt an older dog?
1. Giving a home to an older dog is one of the most fulfilling things any human can do. Making their final years as comfortable as possible, showing them love and company is a beautiful thing to do. We all want to be loved - right!
2. They require little attention from you, but give so much in return. A nice warm bed, leisure walks and food is basically all any older dog needs.
3. Older dogs are great company to have. They require less training (if at all), they get you out and about and give you a purpose to walk. (albeit not far)
LD: How many weeks is a normal training period and how long does a session last?
Anita: My starter package home 1.1 training consults are approx 2-3 hours. I revisit approximately two weeks later. There is an option to take further training sessions and I provide these on a 10 x 90 minute, 5 x 90 minute session package plans or you can pay for individual 1 x 90 minute sessions.
LD: Are there any particular breeds you have trained more extensively and can share stories about?
Anita: There is no one particular breed I have seen more than another. I have dealt with many mixed breeds. I believe all dogs can be taught how to behave in an acceptable manner, at any age. Whilst some breeds can be a little more, let's say stubborn. I do believe with the correct approach and patience any dog can thrive.
LD: From your experience, what would you say is the one misunderstood behaviours in dogs?
Anita: Fear and aggression. Many people misunderstand and read their dogs body language wrong. When a dog meets another dog for example, many people think their dog will instantly like that new strange dog... which is not always true. The display of fear or aggression is sometimes misread.
LD: Dogs have become such a big part of our lives and society where they are expected to tolerate a lot and restricted to many rules (in comparison to their domesticated friend the cat), what do you believe people should be tolerating more from a dog?
Anita: I think we should all realise that dogs are no different to what they were 30-50 years ago. We as humans have changed considerably over these years and our tolerance has become to want things faster, and with less effort applied. I think people should learn to read, and understand their dogs body language more. Dogs are not pre-programmed animals. They need to be guided and given boundaries in order for them to understand what we humans require from them.
If you'd like to contact Anita, you can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit www.singapawdogtrainer.com
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article belong to the person being interviewed. Always seek professional support when unsure about your pet's behavioural requirements.