If you're after a dog that will make you toast in the morning and handle all your social media accounts, you've probably been watching too much TV.
If you want a dog that is obedient, friendly and thinks you're the best thing ever, read this advice from Ian Brownie.
Sheep farmer Ian Brownlie, 44, from Alloa, Clackmannanshire, is the current International Supreme Champion sheepdog handler after winning first prize at the International Sheep Dog Trials 2013. So he knows a thing or two about whipping a pooch into shape. Not literally, mind...
LET THEM SOCIALISE WITH OTHER DOGS
As a child you went to nursery and now you go to the pub – you’ve learned how to conduct yourself in social situations. Dogs need to be socialised in the same way.
If two of my dogs are fighting, I let them go at it for a minute before I break it up. It’s important for a dog to learn its place in the pecking order so it’s relaxed in all environments.
Dogs will learn almost anything by rote. Whether it’s sniffing something out, attacking certain targets, performing tricks or herding sheep, repetition is the key.
Dogs are incredibly intelligent and know if they get it right they will get praise or a treat. It can be frustrating at first, but you have to be patient and they’ll get it in the end.
USE THE CARROT METHOD, NOT THE STICK
Dogs love to be praised. I’m not a great fan of treats because a stroke and a cuddle is more than enough for most dogs.
I always say bringing up a dog is like bringing up a child. If you pick a fault in everything it does, it will grow to be insecure and mistrusting of you.
MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT
If you look a dog in the eye, it will look back. If it’s been bad, let it know it’s unacceptable – like grabbing someone by the lapels. The worst thing you can do is hit a dog. They learn nothing from violence.
LEARN TO WHISTLE
A whistle can travel two miles on a clear day and is much clearer than a voice. You pick a number of noises that the dog will recognise and guide it through them until it learns them.
I use eight whistles: stop, start, take time, hurry up, left, right, close in and move away. Combine that with body gestures and you’ll develop a language with your dog.
USE A DOG’S INSTINCT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
In shepherding, it’s important to let the dog follow its instincts. When it’s young, you have to constantly encourage it and guide it round the herd so over time it begins watching for you and wanting to bring the herd back towards you.
In the wild, that would be the job of its mother or its father. He’ll learn to love you as his master.
…AND THE THREE DOGS THAT WILL DO IT
There’s a reason why shepherds swear by these wee Scottish chaps. Their IQ is the equivalent of an eight-year-old child and they’ll never run out of energy or get distracted. Total doggy genius.
Average price: £350
The friendliest dog in town. While their lust for life and wide-eyed enthusiasm make them a brilliant companion, it’s their intelligence that means they’re easy to teach and eager to learn.
Average price: £400
You might not think it, but this icon of Britishness is also the perfect dog to train. They’re loyal, notoriously fearless and never hold a grudge. Like a cross between Indiana Jones and Jesus.
Average price: £500
Words by Matt Blake.
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