Meet the Leeds Dogs Trust puppy training team with the adorable task of making sure these pooches are on their best behaviour
Dogs Trust cares for 15,000 dogs nationwide a year and behaviour is one of the most common reasons that owners turn to the charity for support for rehoming their canine companions. In a bid to support owners the charity has its own Dog School. YEP Editor Laura Collins and her new puppy Clyde are putting the sessions to the ultimate test.
It seems like a lifetime ago since Clyde the pug first made his way from bonny Scotland to West Yorkshire to make his home right here in God’s Own County.
But little did I expect that I really would end up with a fully fledged newshound as he reaches the six month milestone.
Most of our time is spent chasing the energetic pug around the kitchen trying to wrestle copies of the Yorkshire Evening Post from his teeth - while his love for the newspaper is endearing it’s also becoming a little repetitive as we try to shape him to become a model citizen.
We want him to greet people with four paws on the floor, be polite in the street when other dogs are passing and above all to stop tearing strips off the YEP.
So we decided to reach out to the Dogs Trust in Leeds and sign up to their puppy classes to help make sure that we’re giving Clyde the paw-fect start to life.
And over the weeks we’ve noticed a real improvement in his ability to walk on a loose lead, help him settle on a mat and also improve his recall. As well as finding out he has a real love of squeezy cheese as a bribe in the process!
And most of the training is aimed at looking at dog behaviour to help teach canines and their owners about how to live in harmony together - without the need to be chasing each other around the bathroom when it comes to drying off after Clyde has been in the bath.
But we’re just one of thousands of owners up and down the country who have signed up to the classes in a bid to create a strong bond with their dogs as well as making sure owners have all the skills to be able to understand behaviour and react when things maybe don’t go to plan.
Dog School supports more than 18,110 dogs last year across the UK and the charity said that figure is expected to rise to 22,000 by the end of the year.
Here in Leeds, Dog School was launched in 2017 and their classes have increased in capacity by around 40 per cent - by the end of 2017 they trained 523 dogs compared to last year which saw 951 pooches put through their paces. And 40 per cent of those attending classes are puppies.
And over the last six months senior coach Becky Ellis has been the guiding hand to support owners alongside her team of trainers in Leeds.
She moved to the coaching side of the business after spending 11 years with the rehoming centre in Leeds so Becky knows all too well the difference that good behaviour instilled in puppies can make to prevent them from being left with the Dogs Trust to find new homes.
She said: “It was just to help as many dogs as possible. I’ve seen so many come into the centre and to prevent that from happening. The classes help owners understand their dogs and have a relationship with them.
“I’ve seen some really positive feedback from people and the progress they have achieved has been fantastic.
“There have been so many success stories. There was a guy who had a big breed dog and he struggled. The progress they achieved over the course helped to give them the confidence.
"He was constantly asking questions and it was so rewarding which was just lovely.
“The biggest reward is following people on Instagram and see them enjoy their dogs.”
The classes are geared towards preventative training and instilling good behaviour early on to avoid having to seek specialist behavioural training for an issue later in your pet’s life.
Most puppies start classes under the age of 18 weeks to make sure they don’t miss out on socialisation but the Dogs School run classes for all ages and abilities including an adolescent class for those who have just missed out.
And the training doesn’t stop in the village hall as we discovered once we started our classes in Pool-in-Wharfedale. Owners are given weekly homework to make sure their puppies continue learning in their own surroundings too.
We’ve learned how to make sure Clyde is comfortable when it comes to being handled ready for a brush or a wipe down of his paws after a muddy walk. He’s also now a pro at leaving things - especially when it comes to snaffling food and we’re also working on doorway training so his tiny stature doesn’t mean he barrels people over when we go through a door.
We’re currently working on a few nifty tricks as well: a high-five and spins. And all of this has been supported by Becky and her training team.
Top training tips
And the secret to success? Becky’s top three training trips involve making sure that owners are treating their puppies with the right rewards as well as being consistent with their approach - be that on an individual level or as a family. But the key to this is ensure it’s fun not only for the owners but for the dogs too.
She added: “This is owner based and it’s all about helping them understand their dog and growing in confidence to help develop their dog as much as they can.”
Natalie Lister and her daughter Lydia have been bringing their 18-month-old puppy Leia to the classes and they have started to see results when it comes to wiping her paws without a fuss as well as playing.
She’s also perfecting her recall by being able to respond to her owners much quicker.
Natalie said: “It’s been nice for both of us to be able to this together with Leia. She’s very sociable with other dogs and as we’re going along it just makes more sense.
“I think Leia loves it too and when this is complete I want to find out more about agility classes and to keep on going. It’s a bit like going to the gym once a week. She’s such an energetic breed.”
Next week is the final day of the class and we’re just hoping that all the hard work will pay off for Clyde as he aims to be top dog!
For information about the classes visit www.dogstrust.org.uk