Contrary to the old saying, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks..... That's the view of a canine trainer who has made it her mission to let owners know they need time and patience with their lovable rogues - and never give up.
Jackie Motts has run Capable Canines training school in Alrewas since 2002 and in that time has picked up a total of 15 dogs who are currently in her care. She particularly focuses on agility and obedience training as part of her work.
One of her 15-strong pack had been thrown out of a moving car onto a motorway before she met him but has managed to get him back on his feet with a bit of TLC.
The 52-year-old is originally from Suffolk but came to Burton in 2002. Although she now works mainly with dogs, she originally qualified to work with horses. After being noticed for her dog-handling abilities her neighbours enlisted her help for their pet pooches.
She said: "Then, with word of mouth getting around I decided to get qualified in dog training and attended various courses in behaviour and agility. Since then I have never looked back and have worked alongside the Kennel Club and other big names in the dog world."
She trains both pedigree and rescue dogs but says the latter need special care as there is a chance they may have picked up bad habits.
She said: "The one thing that makes me happy is when someone comes to me for help, with an untrained dog and then leaves with an obedient, happy dog.
"If you are looking to get a new dog, then it is vital that you research what will be the right one for you and your home and then take it to classes to make sure you and your new friend are doing what’s right for both of you.
"Every dog that you get is different and also has different needs. You have to be sure that you can accommodate them before you get one. This applies even more if you are getting a rescue one, as they may well have picked up some bad habits from previous owners.
"It is advisable to start training dogs around the age of eight to 10 weeks. Dogs have a memory and a good one at that, if they have been taught bad habits or, sadly to say, once abused, they are not necessarily to be cast onto a rehoming centre.
"They can be re-educated, the owner just needs time and patience to understand what their dog wants and what they are trying to get across. If you take the time to watch your dog, they are very expressive and combined with their body language, can tell exactly what they want or need."
Jackie has big plans for her training facilities with a rescue centre currently under construction. She aims to rescue, rehabilitate and eventually rehome "those that I can let myself let go."
She said: "I want to create a safe and secure place where I can work and train dogs, with the appropriate flooring. It’s not good to try to train your dog on a slippery surface."
The centre, which uses 25 core volunteers, offers a wide range of services available for owners and their dogs, this can be:
- Specialised first aid, focused on dogs
- Dog Law
- Obedience training
- Occasional seminars, where guest speakers are brought in.
- Hiring out the venue to other groups.
Jackie is keen to instil good advice into dog owners: “Never stop a dog doing dog things as it is in their nature. There are limits though and extents of what is called as acceptable dog nature.
"Packs do exist, whether that be a group of dogs or a family and its dog. If in a family environment, you are the dogs’ pack and you need to make sure the dog knows who the leader of the pack is. This can be done through training and never done through violence, otherwise it can become aggressive."
Jackie's 15 dogs currently all live inside the house with her but she is careful to establish all-important ground rules.
"I am the master of the house but they do go on the sofa and yes they do rule my life. Well say rule but I work and live around their needs. The oldest is Samsam, who was a 15-year-old Border Collie. I had him since he was six-months-old but he had an embolism aged five and at the time I was told that he wouldn’t live very long."
Sadly Samsam died just a few weeks ago but his ailments didn’t put Jackie caring for more dogs.
The last one she added to the collection was Widget, a Lurcher she had 18-months-ago when she visited Battersea Dogs Home.
She said: "He is not the sort of dog that I would normally take in but just couldn’t turn my back on him. Those who were there knew I would be bringing him back before I even knew myself.
"Fiver was another rescue dog who is now a grade 7. I have had him since he was just six-months-old and was thrown out of a car on a motorway. Thankfully he is now doing very well."
Jackie currently helps around 120 to 200 dogs a week in either obedience or agility. She has never advertised. The business has grown on reputation alone.
There are various classes from one to one and home visits, to group sessions at the training centre. "The furthest, so far, that I have been asked to go to help an owner and their dog is Norfolk but mainly it’s around the local area and up as far as Crich and Belper, in Derbyshire."
While she may be a master of obedience training, there are some occasions when even Jackie cannot handle the situation: "I have only ever come across a couple of dogs that I have had to put my hands up and say that were uncontrollable. That is in all the years I have been training dogs and the thousands of dogs I have trained."
There are seven grades of agility and Dyce is a grade seven. This runs from the basic of commands like sit and stay, to much more advanced commands, such as following their owner and staying at their side at all times, going to a point in a room and laying down, to the style of commands seen at Crufts.
Aside from their training, Jackie says a dog as a pet is one of the best jobs no matter their age, adding: "Dogs are so loyal and a good companion. It has even been medically proven, that stroking a dog will help to reduce your stress levels.
"When you come home, they will always greet you and even if you’ve had a bad day, they will always be happy to see you and do what they can to make you happy. If a dog is being naughty, then you need to find out why. They will only be disobedient or naughty if something is bothering them.
"When people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, that’s rubbish, you can teach old dogs’ new tricks, you just have to have more patience as it takes longer to teach them than with younger dogs, as they may have picked up bad habits along the way.
"If you are unsure, then feel free to come and have a chat with us and I will advise you, the best I can. The main thing to remember when training your dog, is that it is important to treat at the right time and for the right thing, otherwise they get confused."
When walking your dog in public there are several things Jackie says you must take into consideration.
- Firstly, it really should be on a lead when in an area where you may expect to see other owners and their dogs. Only let your dog off if you are confident that he or she will come back to you without hesitating.
- If you are confident and let your dog off, make sure that it is always in the line of sight. So you know what it is doing and where it is.
- Make sure that your dog has a collar on and is microchipped, as this is the law. They have to have them on 24-hours-a-day and seven-days-a-week.
- If you are walking several dogs at once, there is a limit on how many you can have in your control at any one time. The exact amount can vary depending on council regulations, so if you are unsure, it may be wise to check with them beforehand.