A Derry dog trainer who set up her business during lockdown has opened up about pet behavioral issues and the importance of training the owners too.
Lisa Dunne established Ruff Walks in October 2020 after being surrounded by dogs all her life, training German Shepherds with her father for competitive obedience classes.
During lockdown, it was time to turn this passion into a business. Lisa spoke to MyDerry about establishing her own business during lockdown.
Lisa said: “Friends and family encouraged me to start training and walking dogs but I honestly didn’t think there would be any demand. How wrong I was.
“I opened my business in October 2020 with only one dog to walk and two dogs to train. By Christmas 2020 I was fully booked until April 2021.
“From there it’s just been booking after booking and now I’m booked six months in advance. I started off with clients only in Derry and now I have reached out to Donegal, Coleraine and even as far as Belfast.”
Lisa has seen the direct impact lockdown has had on dogs and their owners, and offers advice to those thinking of getting a dog, particularly around Christmas time.
She said: “Dog trainers are busier now more than ever. Lockdown has brought about a surge of people wanting dogs to keep them company at home.
“Owners have been home with their ‘lockdown’ dogs since day one and so have showered them with love and affection but never spent the time to teach the dogs how to be alone. This causes a lot of problems.”
For many, they would assume that these behavioral issues coming from ‘lockdown’ dogs were due to no or little socialization at an early age.
Lisa wants to set the record straight.
She said: ” The problem usually is not that the dogs haven’t had social integration. It is that the owners have shown them far too much affection at all the wrong times and have socialized them incorrectly from puppies.
“Socialization is not what you think it is, it does not mean allow everyone to pet your dog, or take your puppy to meet every dog on a walk so that it becomes ‘friendly’.
“Socialization is the ability to teach your dog to ignore everything in its surroundings except you. Your ideal dog can go anywhere and everywhere with you and remain in a calm mindset for the entire time.”
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For Lisa, she sees the impact of Christmas dogs a few months down the line, where behavioral issues begin to become worse.
Wanting to discourage the purchases of dogs at Christmas, Lisa said: “Please don’t get a dog for Christmas.
“If you think you want a dog, do your research on breeds and then find a reputable breeder.
“In the summer months dog trainers are inundated with clients saying their 6-8 month old dog is destroying the house or out of control.
“If you do decide to get a puppy please invest in a trainer to get you on the right path. Always choose a trainer who shows their work, you want to see before and afters.”
Customers with Ruff Walks are always told that help is only a phone call away, as Lisa makes a connection with every client and dog that she trains. Lisa knows that her training does not end after one of her sessions.
She said: “Although my job title is dog trainer, I have to admit I mostly teach the clients.
“I teach my clients how to work with their dog in a partnership. After sessions with myself I hope that all my clients leave feeling like they have been given the tools and knowledge to succeed.
“I also pride myself that once you are part of the Ruff Walks family that’s you in for life, so if in 2 years time you need some help I’m only ever a call or message away.”
Ruff Walks can be contacted on their Instagram and Facebook pages, as well as on 07926794249.
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