Edit Case study – Benji

Find out how Jackie changed Benji and Chris’s whole relationship – for the better!

Benji is a lively Golden Retriever who was seven months old when Happy Dogs Training founder Jackie first met him. His owner, Chris, had become disillusioned with the training support she had had to date, feeling there was too much repetition in the group classes meaning Benji wasn’t making any real progress. As a result, Benji’s behaviour was becoming increasingly challenging as the weeks passed and Chris knew she needed to try a different approach.

When Chris started to ask friends and colleagues if they knew someone who could provide a more tailored training programme for Benji, Jackie’s name came up more than once. So Chris contacted Jackie at Happy Dogs Training and arranged for them to meet.

Jackie’s first meeting with Benji took place in Chris’s home. As soon as they met Jackie could see there were severe issued that needed to be addressed. It was clear that Benji did not understand any of the basic commands – fundamental to any prospect of progress being made. Benji also wasn’t toilet trained. But possibly most worrying was the fact that he showed possessive behaviours and would become aggressive if Chris went near certain toys. To add to the challenge, Chris was also unable to leave Benji who would bark incessantly as soon as she left the room. Plus he understood no house rules, behaving very bullishly around visitors, jumping up and leaping on them and chewing and running across the top of furniture.

Other issues surfaced when Jackie accompanied Chris and Benji on a walk. Jackie noticed that Benji was pulling Chris in all directions – to the point it was dangerous. Benji also exhibited behavioural problems around other dogs, and if he were off the lead, he would not come when called.

Armed with a clear idea of what needed to be addressed, Jackie devised an action plan which prioritised the most severe problems first.

In any training situation, the owner is being trained alongside the dog. So on the first 1:1 session Jackie showed Chris how to teach Benji the basic commands, including sit, stay, lay down and come when called. As well as Benji learning new skills, Chris was establishing how to behave with her dog. This basic grounding would be essential to Benji developing a proper relationship with Chris, one that would support the further training objectives. At this early stage, Jackie also gave Chris a shopping list of items needed to help additional training. This included the most effective cleaning fluid and equipment for cleaning up the urine, a toy box and a crate.

In the second session, Jackie moved on to crate training. Benji needed to somewhere he could call home and feel safe when Chris went out of the room. It put Chris in control with Benji happy, but not free to attack the furniture. Initially, Chris was concerned that her dog might feel trapped until Jackie explained that being in ‘their den’ gives dogs peace of mind.

Toilet training was the next area Jackie wanted to tackle. Benji had a habit of going wherever he happened to be. So Jackie observed the situation and once she had identified the trigger was able to change Benji’s response – to asking to go outside.

The third session focused on teaching Benji how to behave around guests including not jumping up but laying down quietly around them instead. Then Jackie helped him to understand he could chew and play with his toys from his toy box but not the furniture.

The fourth session saw Benji and Chris leave their home environment to visit the Happy Dogs Training Centre for a ‘nursery’ day with a selection of other dogs. Contrary to what many trainers call socialisation, where a group of dogs in training come together and are often left free to do as they choose, Jackie’s group session was structured and involved dogs Jackie had already trained. This is so she could focus on teaching Benji how to behave around other dogs, how to enjoy play and have fun without over-stepping the mark.

In the final 1:1 session, Jackie accompanied Chris and Benji on another walk. This time Jackie showed Chris how to stop Benji from pulling on the lead and jumping up at other walkers and cyclists. She also taught Benji and Chris how to ignore other distractions in the park and addressed some underlying fear issues which Benji was exhibiting.

After these initial 1:1 sessions many of the unwanted behaviours had been corrected, and Chris was clear on what she needed to do to build on the initial training. So Jackie suggested Chris and Benji join her fortnightly dog socialisation classes at the Happy Dogs Training Centre.

“Although, all the problems Benji initially presented with have now been dealt with, as he matures certain behaviours may resurface in different ways. So ongoing training helps to ensure those basic skills are fully embedded. It is always more challenging when a dog reaches six months old without a solid degree of basic training. Dogs learn through association, so correcting habits is much harder than instilling the right habits in the first place,” explained Jackie.

Through these socialisation sessions, Benji learns to mix and play with other dogs, and Jackie can provide Chris with ongoing support and advice. The socialisation classes also offer an opportunity for the owners to meet and share experiences, while their dogs enjoy the company of the other dogs, under Jackie’s watchful supervision.

In just a few 1:1 sessions and thanks to the work Chris has done between them, all Benji’s challenging behaviours have been rectified. He is walking nicely on the lead and doesn’t jump up at people. He is also fully house trained and does not chew furniture and Chris can confidently leave him alone without worrying about him barking.

“Benji is a different dog, and Jackie has helped me understand him better and communicate more effectively with him. Jackie has changed my whole relationship with Benji, for the better, I am so grateful,” concluded Chris.