Kiwi Coast’s new Know Your Dog Workshops have proven a hit with Northland dog owners keen to get inside the minds of their canine companions and understand what is behind some of their quirky traits and antics.
“It’s hard for us to imagine the world of a dog because we are reliant on a totally different set of senses.’’ said retired vet Lesley Baigent, of Kaitaia, who has developed the workshops after a lifetime of living, working, treating and training with dogs.
“With a sense of smell about 100,000 times more powerful than a human, dogs can detect the faintest of scents with great ease. This vastly superior sense of smell helps them to navigate and interpret their world, whereas us humans instead rely on vision.”
Baigent, the owner of four dogs herself, hopes to help other dog owners understand the incredible powers of their canine family members and why they do what they do.
“Even when out together for “walkies”, the world we are seeing and the invisible world they are smelling may be quite different. Humans might be enjoying the exercise, but our pet pooch is sniffing out territory markings, food, potential prey and basically, employing all their natural hunting instincts. So, it’s time to put away your phone and focus on your dog –get to know the signs if they are about to launch into a spot of trouble!” said Baigent.
The popular Know Your Dog Workshops take a look at dog breeds and what certain types of dogs have been bred to do by humans for centuries. Baigent said understanding a dog’s breed and what their triggers and motivations were could help owners to better understand their four-legged friends. “It gives you an idea of how your dog is likely to behave so we can react faster or prevent putting them in a tricky situation in the first place.”
“At every workshop we’ve run, people have been surprised to learn about the key characteristics of certain dog breeds. For instance, how dachshunds were bred to be badger-finders, with their rectangle shape making them perfect for going down badger holes”.
“Or think about some of the trendy dog breeds these days such as the labradoodle. Many people do not realise that their cute labradoodle is actually a mix of two types of bird dog – labrador and poodle. Learning this means that the next time they are walking their dog in a bird area, they can be quick with the lead and be aware why their dog is showing so much excitement around birds and what they can do to keep him safe and happy in these situations.’’
The Know your Dog Workshops also address common doggy issues that can really be a struggle for dog owners.
“Our dogs want to be understood and also to understand the human world we are asking them to live in” said Baigent. “Dogs pulling on leads, or running off in full flight after rabbits ignoring recall commands, or even just tearing up your furniture while you’re at work – these behaviours all become simpler to manage when we understand why our dog is doing what it’s doing, and how we can make sure we are not setting them up to fail our expectations.”
Dogs are smart -and they want to be our “good dog”.
“Do the groundwork – take the time to know your dog, understand what motivates them, what training tools work best, and you’ll get the huge reward of these awesome animals,’’ she said.
“Establishing a basic level of obedience is essential. Dogs like a firm, fair leader and clear boundaries. They learn best by positive reinforcement, consistency and repetition. You need to train to trust your dogs to do the right thing and in return they learn to trust us to reward them for good behaviour.”
The Know Your Dog workshops are intended for all Northland dog owners, including those living in areas with native wildlife such as shorebirds, kiwi, weka or pāteke.
Baigent said “We can work together to ensure our dogs are getting a great life while still upholding conservation values.
She said with the right training of dogs and owners, it should be possible for dogs to live successfully in areas of kiwi.
“We can all do this,’’ she said. “I believe we can have the best of both worlds.’’
The workshops are free for Northland community groups. Keep an eye on the Kiwi Coast Events Calendar (www.kiwicoast.org.nz) for the next one near you or contact Lesley at firstname.lastname@example.org to organise one for your area