In celebration of the soon to be released Marley & Me: The Puppy Years movie, I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon with top dog trainer Steve Mann, former judge on The Underdog Show.
I have two dogs at home, a 9-month-old Patterdale Terrier called Riley and an 18-month-old Border Terrier called Alfie. As Riley considers a DVD to be an amuse bouche and Alfie is scared of his own shadow (and plastic bags, envelopes, oranges…) it was the perfect opportunity for me to learn some tricks.
“Teach dogs what they should do, not what they shouldn’t” was Steve’s main piece of advice. People expect too much from puppies, it’s like raising children, he noted in reference to his 8-year-old child, Luke.
In a bid to save my DVD collection, Steve gave me some ideas on how to keep Riley mentally stimulated. Toys that you can hide their breakfast in or throwing small biscuits into the garden for them to find will keep them busy for a couple of hours. There also needs to be lots of consistency, so if Riley picks up a DVD, this should always be swapped with something he can chew.
Steve brought along the gorgeous Isla, a 21-week-old chocolate Labrador, and explained that many traits are breed specific. Isla, as a gun dog, is by nature likely to come back when called. In contrast, Riley and Alfie, as terriers, are more likely to chase, ie. run off and leave me in the park wondering where on earth they’ve got to!
In Steve’s experience most puppy training gets left to mum. Steve finds that women make up 95% of his classes at The Alpha Dog Training School – even those where he’s training people to be dog trainers. But Steve’s keen to show that everyone can get involved – especially kids. As long as they’re singing from the same hymn sheet as mum when it comes to teaching the puppy, there should be no problems. The idea is to have a well-rounded puppy, so they need to be introduced to as many different people, environments, even floor surfaces, as possible.
For Steve, having a family dog is a good leveler, it teaches kids responsibility and encourages family walks.
The weirdest puppy name Steve’s ever come across? Onion! Riley and Alfie should count themselves lucky. Although if Riley eats any more DVDs he might earn himself a less than flattering nickname!
Marley & Me: The Puppy Years is out on Blu-ray and DVD on the 14th November courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment