Despite dogs being the most popular pet in Australia, with almost 300,000 dogs registered in South Australia last financial year, RSPCA South Australia believes many owners fail their canine companions by not taking the time to understand them.
The consequences of this failure to learn “dog talk” are significant.
In the last two financial years, councils have received an average of around 2,500 complaints about dog behaviour. In addition, of the 553 dogs surrendered to RSPCA South Australia’s Lonsdale shelter last year, almost 30% (158) were surrendered by their owners for behavioural reasons.
Heather Bradley, who is the Dog Training Coordinator for RSPCA South Australia’s soon to open dog training school, described the situation as “tragic” for dogs and their owners.
“It’s a big decision to surrender an animal, and people do it for many different, valid and often heartbreaking reasons,” Ms Bradley said.
“But when the decision is because of behaviour, it’s highly likely that ignorance about the dog’s needs and a failure to understand the dog’s body language have played a role in the relationship breakdown.
“We encourage people to come along with their dogs to our classes so they can learn good communication skills – or ‘dog talk’ – together.”
An article by leading animal behaviourist Dr Kersti Seksel identifies euthanasia due to behavioural problems as the main cause of death of puppies under one year of age in Australia.
Ms Bradley said she is not surprised by the finding.
“It’s vital to start training, if possible, while the dog is still a puppy because what happens in the first three months of life has a big impact on long term development.
“Good training and positive socialisation with humans and other dogs can literally mean the difference between life and death for a puppy.”
In line with the RSPCA’s Lead by Example campaign, the classes will employ force-free training methods that focus on rewarding good behaviour and ignoring (not punishing) undesirable behaviour.
“It isn’t about suppressing natural behaviours but instead harnessing them to be used in ways that help the dog fit into our world, all the while developing trust and a strong bond between the dog and owner,” Ms Bradley said.
“All training is tricks to a dog, even learning to sit on command, and all training should be fun – we want dogs and their owners to enjoy learning together.”
Funds raised from dog training fees will support RSPCA SA’s work for animals in need, including rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming.
RSPCA South Australia’s new dog training school, offering a range of courses for dogs of all ages and training levels, will begin classes later this month from three locations –
- The Playful Pooch Dogcare Centre – 5 Sherriff’s Road, Lonsdale
- RSPCA SA Petcare Superstore – 345-347 North-East Rd, Hillcrest
- RSPCA SA Headquarters – 16 Nelson St, Stepney
For more information on classes and schedules, please visit: www.rspcasa.org.au/dog-training.
To help promote the benefits of force-free training, RSPCA South Australia has created a free and easy-to-follow six-part dog training series. Sign up here.