Nick Jones has been a dog trainer and behaviourist since 1995 and runs Alpha Dog Behaviour. Nick is a Master Dog Trainer from the Guild of Dog Trainers, a full member of the Canine & Feline Behaviour Association (CFBA) and is often requested for interviews on dog behaviour and training methods on TV channels such as the BBC, ITV and Sky. Nick is also a columnist on dog behaviour in Dogs Monthly magazine.
Based in Bewdley Worcestershire, he offers a range of services from home dog behaviour consultations to dog expert witness, assessments for legal cases and assessing dogs for fostering organisations.
I’ve been connected with Nick via. Twitter for many months now, having missed a chance to meet him at Crufts this year. I managed to see him at The Pet Show in Stoneleigh on the 20th-21st of July this year.
Wanting to find out a bit more about his line of work, I asked him a few questions…
Q. Hi Nick, thanks for giving your time to answer these questions today.
So let me start off with the most obvious one, do you have any dogs of your own? Do you engage with any activities with them?
A. Thank you Mark for the opportunity to talk with you on the subject of dogs and my work. I am fortunate in that I love my role despite encountering some challenging situations some days!
I have two dogs. Max a 4 year old Wire Haired Vizsla and Pip an 8 year old Border Terrier. Both dogs are essentially pets, but they have their own little ways that keep us engaged in the family.
Max is an ‘Advanced’ truffle hunter (yes really!) He has a fantastic nose on him and displays more of a tracking nose to the ground nature than a general purpose gundog, so introducing him to truffle hunting was a great outlet for us both. I’ve always had a fascination with wild food foraging and so it was a natural route to take.
Otherwise, Max will happily pick up dummies, works to the whistle pretty well and most importantly is a well balanced pet dog with gentle manners to boot. At 40kg he needs to be gentle!
Pip is a funny little delight to own. She has a huge heart for outdoor activities, especially if that might involve chasing a tennis ball and skinning it afterwards! Again, a very sweet dog to own and like Max, utterly trustworthy with dogs and people.
Q. What made you decide to become a dog trainer eventually?
A. It was life with my first Wire Haired Vizsla Amber who I spent a lot of time training to working test competition standard. We won our first competition together at a large meeting for novice dogs and handlers that must be approaching 20 years ago now. At that time I was a stay at home dad whilst Sara held down a high pressure job in Birmingham city. I knew on that day that it would be the way forward. The how’s and why’s had yet to be worked out, but the idea was born that very day. I started off with a view to offering home training services, but quickly got a taste for more involved behaviour work whereby I could move away from the prospect of running classes which has never truly appealed to me and work on a more intimate one to one basis with families and their dogs.
This is Nick giving a short demonstration on how to use dog whistles:
Q. And since you’ve made that decision, you agree you’ve made the right one?
A. Undoubtedly yes. Admittedly on some days it feels like a job, but having had many roles along the way I know the benefits and freedom I enjoy are not to be taken for granted and I remain in gratitude for the role and lifestyle I’ve developed.
Q. What kind of approach do you use for your clients?
A. I’ve always espoused that a balanced approach is most important and that to remain flexible is equally important too as no two cases or dogs are the same. It’s often easier to say what I don’t do, so no choke chains, prong collars (yes, I’ve encountered them) no electric collars (encountered a few of those also…straight in the bin!). I’m also keen to stay tuned in to the owner so that they feel relaxed and in trustworthy hands. The amount of trust that an owner puts in my hands is immense and this inevitably carries a great deal of responsibility. I might be strange, but I actually enjoy that feeling and thrive on that sort of pressure.
no electric collars (encountered a few of those also…straight in the bin!)
I digress. I might use techniques ranging from clicker training to just good old fashioned verbal ‘Good’ and reward with high value food. I’m not averse to being clear cut with some dogs that are openly pushing the limits, but this can be done free from shouting or aggressive handling. So, some dogs can be very pushy and the owner too soft so we take one line, the next dog may be a bag of nerves with a very concerned owner, so we take a different line for that. Flexibility, open to adaptation and change as the case evolves, and fairness are all words I can identify with. Listening carefully to owner and reading the dog also enables me to pin point key areas for change. I always work with the client and avoid getting into a talking down to or lecturing tone.
Q. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A. A good outcome! My job is not always easy and it has to be said that very very occassionally a dog may result in being put to sleep or a re-home,
Q. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A. A good outcome!
but thankfully these are rare outcomes and for the vast majority of cases we see dogs improve bringing new leases of life and confidence to both the dog and owners!
Here is a short video of Nick giving some really useful pointers on dog recall;
Q. If you could focus on the biggest issue in dog behaviour problems, what would you say are the most common?
Dog to dog aggression is the most common area I see. This is an interesting subject as the behaviour can be presented in quite a wide variety of ways ranging from mild cases that are comparatively easy to address to cases whereby the dog is very hard to handle and to get some initial progress going. Some dogs are a complete mismatch for the owner and in these cases further advice may be given to ensure the dog has a reasonable chance to overcomer its behaviour. Following this I see a lot of separation anxiety cases and whilst I enjoy all aspects of my work I have taken a particular interest in the aspect of dog behaviour problems. Both of these areas of dog behaviour require a lot of time and effort and this shouldn’t be underestimated for the outset.
Thanks again Nick for giving your time, It’s been utterly fascinating!
Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions Mark.
If you’d like to find out more about Nick Jones and the services Alpha Dog Behaviour has visit http://www.alphadogbehaviour.co.uk/
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