Teaching old and young dogs new tricks | Vicky Meets
Vicky meets... Louise Williamson, from South Coast Dog Training School.
• How did you become a dog trainer?
I’ve always loved animals and had loads as a kid – guinea pigs, rabbits, gerbils, rats, cats, two schnauzers and a basset hound! My brother had the reptiles in his room! I started as a zookeeper, but then I worked for Hearing Dogs for eight years and that got me hooked on training. Since then I have worked with Canine Partners and Hounds for Heroes. Now I also help a mental health charity, Darwin Dogs, and also Dog Aid. So I’d done lots of work with assistance dogs. I then took on a franchise and opened Chichester Puppy School, which I started when I was a working for a local vet. That took off, so I left the vet and set up South Coast Dog Training School.
• Where are you based?
During the week I’m based at Therapaws, in Sidlesham, but in normal times we have classes running in different locations locally. I have two other trainers and between us we run puppy training classes and classes and workshops for older dogs. Of course we have had to move online recently, but it has worked well, especially for the puppy basics. Two of our trainers have puppies, so we could use them to film demonstrations and we adapted really quickly.
• The saying is ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. Can you?
Even if they haven’t had training as puppies, yes you can. Obviously it’s not going to be as quick as training a puppy because puppies are little sponges. It can also be more challenging if you have an adolescent dog – approximately five to 18 months, depending on the breed – but you definitely can train an older dog. It’s never too late. With rescue dogs the important thing is to really gain their confidence first.
• There has been a worrying increase in puppy thefts recently. What advice would you give puppy owners?
Be sensible, be careful and follow your gut instinct. If you can, walk with someone else. Be careful where you choose to walk, and work on your puppy’s recall. Don’t let puppy take food from anyone else – we don’t want then to learn to run to people to say hello; saying hello from a distance is what we’re after. Know how quickly you can call 999 and keep your phone to hand.
• What is the most important thing to teach your dog?
Build up your relationship with them first so that they trust you, then recall and lead walking are probably the most important things to teach them. But if you have a puppy, don’t delay training. Jump online and make the most of those early learning opportunities.
• What is your favourite element of training?
With all dog training I really love the lightbulb moment when the dog gets what it is you want them to do.
Find out more about South Coast Dog Training (also home to Chichester Puppy School) at www.southcoastdogtrainingschool.co.uk
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