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Interview with Luke's Dog School

Tell us about Luke’s Dog School. What do you do and what led you to start it?

Luke's Dog School is all about fun and friendly dog training, which is completely tailored to the individual and their dog. We use modern, reward based positive training and nothing that harms or scares the dog s (or people). We do 1-2-1 sessions & group classes as well as talks to groups on a range of different issues. We have some exciting plans in the pipeline, like working with schools on dog safety with children, helping people with disabilities train a dog right for them and so much more.

I've worked in rescue for many years and most recently I was working at Mayhew, West London managing their TheraPaws programme where volunteers take their dogs into care homes, hospitals, etc. While working in this field I starting gaining more and more knowledge and qualifications in dog training and behaviour and knew that this i something I wanted to explore further. I see so many dogs and their owners struggling, or frustrated and I want to help them and their dogs build up that relationship and have a great life together. Plus I am passionate about rescue dogs so I want to champion them and encourage people to adopt by showing dogs that have been trained really well and come from rescue.

You train puppies as well as adult dogs. Is there a big difference between training a puppy and training an adult dog?

In short, yes, there is a big difference, mainly because puppies and dogs are at different stages in their life. Puppies have a chance to be introduced to things and set out on the right path to ensure their life is as secure and safe as possible. Whereas with adult dogs you may have to spend more time re-training something they have already been exposed to in the wrong way, or they have trained themselves to do something. A great example is walking nicely on the lead. With a puppy you are starting from scratch and so can work slowly and not allow pulling on the lead to build up, whereas with an adult dog, they may have taught themselves to pull as a way of moving forward (or may even have a fear of being on lead) and so you need to help them unlearn that and then relearn this.

Do you have any tips for training an adult dog?

Top tips are to definitely increase your value to the dog, and what I mean by that is spend time bonding and playing with your dog and training them using really tasty treats and continue to do this in increasingly distracting environments. This way your dog keeps thinking to themselves that you are valuable and it is good to pay attention to you. If your dog never looks round at you then they are not gong to listen to you. So practice simple things like eye contact, clipping the lead off and then starting a game so they don't want to just run away, recall. Ensure you have a toy your dog loves that you only use when on walks, always have some amazing food that they don't get at any other time and use equipment like a harness and long line if their recall is not 100%.

Why might someone prefer attending a puppy class vs a one to one session or vice versa?

It could be to do with budget, or it could be to do with the specifics of the needs of that dog, or it simply could come down to when and where the classes are. In classes we go over broad training, but concentrate on the individual and what level they are at, so everyone might be practicing settling on a mat, but one person might be just working on getting their dog to lie down on the mat and someone else might be dancing around their dog who is already lying down. Also, in the classes dogs can learn to value their owner more than the other dogs as they are training in a multi-dog environment. With 1-2-1 sessions we are able to completely tailor it to that person and their home. So we can look at the routine, the dog's area and what they have access to, and what training that dog needs rather then having a set criteria.

Tell us about one of the most challenging dogs you’ve ever had to work with!

I've had a incredibly sprite working cocker spaniel that didn't have a huge amount of training behind them and was always super excited and loads of energy, but was also a bit fearful of lots of people and other dogs. Also, most of the time the biggest challenge is training the person to be able to train their dog, so having to work on micro issues one at a time slowly over a long period is usually the best road to success.

Where are some good places in North London to safely take a new puppy?

I would always look for a green open space where you can see a lot around you so you can predict what might happen and remember to have your puppy on a long line so you can work on things like recall, or just allow your pup to wonder without the fear of will they won't they come back. So places like Primrose Hill, Hampstead Health, Victoria Park, Mill Hill Park can all be great, but perhaps go at times when there are less dogs and don't be afraid to go off track and to be a great er distance away from other dogs. Then you can work your way towards them as training improves. Also, it is really important, as early as possible, to get your puppy used to the sights and sounds of what their normal day is going to be like. So for example, take them on the school run, but potentially hold them wrapped in a towel, or go with another person so you can go back if your puppy is overwhelmed.

It was great to meet up with Luke and find out more about him and his wonderful dog training! Visit Luke's Dog School website to find out more.

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