It is a common belief that having a dog in your life brings happiness. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Dogs are prone to boredom, which may lead them to misbehave, while dogs are also prone to depression, trauma, and anxiety. This has led to a recent trend of dog owners treating their canines like children.
There’s been lots of talk recently about pupper (dachshund) love lately, but not for the reasons you may have been expecting. The popular image of a pupper frolicking in fields and parks is true, but their popularity has had a profound effect on the world of canines.
When it comes to our pups, we sometimes forget that they are quite intelligent animals. While they are very loyal and loving canines, they are also wild animals and curious creatures that require routine and structure. They are creatures of habit that do not adapt well to changes in their environment and do not like to be left behind.
Many dogs are suffering from severe separation anxiety as a result of the increase in individuals purchasing puppies in confinement (Picture: Gareth Iwan Jones Photographer)
Steve Mann, 50, is unrivaled in his ability to communicate with dogs.
He became one of the most successful dog trainers in the UK, training other trainers and working on TV sets, thanks to a lifelong love of dogs.
During lockdown, we spoke with the canine controller about the puppy epidemic – and what happens when you attempt to train a celebrity.
Never work with children or animals, they say…
On a Monday, I received a call from a dog owner in north London who said his dog was chewing up the home. I scheduled a Friday home visit, and when I arrived, he stated, “We’ve solved the issue.” ‘I got some advice from a friend.’
When we entered, the whole home had been coated with litres of yellow mustard, from the ground to almost a metre high – all over the walls, furniture, carpets, and everything.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images/EyeEm)
Brian Blessed, an actor, was also sent to you for training.
I worked on a television show in which 10 celebrities were matched with ten rescue canines and their handlers. Brian Blessed requested that I demonstrate how to get his dog to concentrate on him.
We went to practice, and I told them, “Get goodies, don’t say anything, and just give the dog his reward when he looks at you.”
Brian received his goodies and then remarked, “There’s a good boy, Dougal.” I ordered him to be quiet, but he couldn’t stop himself from adding, “You’re so lovely, Dougal…” So I was the only one who learnt anything that day.
Trying to persuade Brian not to say anything is useless, I’ve discovered. Now, I always tell people that no dog is untrainable, but Brian is an exception.
So you’ve been training dogs since you were a kid?
I was so fascinated with dogs that I showed up for my first dog-training session without a dog.
After that, I’d either borrow a dog from the street – since dogs were allowed to roam back then – or a dog from a neighbor to train. I just like the atmosphere and volunteered to assist put up the jumps or clean up.
When did you initially acquire your dog?
We acquired a German shepherd when I was about 16, and it was my first love. I’ve loved the breed ever since.
We now have five dogs: a Chihuahua, Staffie, lurcher, German shepherd, and whippet, all of whom are rescue canines.
They appear in my recently recorded Maestro lessons so that when I’m old and grey, I’ll be able to look back and watch Nancy the Chihuahua and myself working together.
So, how did you end up training dogs?
It wasn’t a real profession back then; it was simply something ex-policemen did as a pastime. I began conducting training courses at the age of 17 and immediately saw flaws in the armour.
I saw indications of stress in both the dogs and their owners, so I developed my own training method – figuring out why a dog was acting a particular way and treating the issue.
My primary work shifted to educating other dog trainers, so I founded the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, which now has locations in the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, and China.
We provide seminars and conferences, and over 4,000 individuals attend our events each year.
What was the point of the lockdown?
We believed there was no way we could perform remote dog training at first since dog training is usually done face to face, but we introduced online classes and it took off.
It meant that if someone in Paris had a dog, they could call me and, within half an hour, I’d be monitoring them and their dog and assisting them. On Zoom, there was so much we could accomplish.
Meanwhile, the need for dog trainers has never been higher.
People were acquiring pups by the dozens, and worried dog owners needed assistance. When my email began to ping frequently, I realized we had a puppy epidemic.
What are the most serious pet epidemic issues?
People were in the house 24 hours a day during lockdown when they received their puppy, and the umbilical connection connecting them grew shorter and tighter, and that’s all the puppy has known.
As a result, these owners must now ensure that their dog is confident and content to be alone at home.
To develop a more strong emotional reaction, start today by leaving your dog with their favorite toy for 30 seconds, then one minute tomorrow, and five minutes the following day.
You should combine being alone with something enjoyable, such as dog chews or food. For many individuals, puppy socialization, which is crucial in the first 13 weeks, took a second place.
You’ve committed a few errors…
I remember judging a dog show at a small county fair when I was younger, going about, feeling important, and enjoying being the center of attention in front of several hundred people.
Then a dog fell inside a green mini in the parking lot, according to the tannoy. I left the judging ring, dashed into the parking lot, located the green Mini, grabbed a brick, and broke the car’s rear glass to rescue the dog.
‘No, he meant the cream Mini!’ someone behind me shouted as the glass shattered. ‘I turned around to see that the 200 people who had been watching me judge had followed me into the parking lot and were staring at me open-mouthed.
Then I had to smash the window of the vehicle in front of them on the right.
Is having a dog a good option for someone who is suffering from loneliness?
Owning a dog is a 15-year commitment that will instantly influence the clothing you wear, the vehicle you drive, and the weather you go out in – add in sleepless nights and vet expenses, and it’s a huge commitment.
The Dog Training Maestro course by Steve Mann is now available.
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