CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

PUBLISHED: 11:03 16 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:08 20 February 2013

Sue Limb trains her Jack Russell 'Patch' with help from her sheep dog 'Peggy' and Andy Wellings of About Turn Dog Training with his Rottweiler Merlin at Newark Park

Sue Limb trains her Jack Russell 'Patch' with help from her sheep dog 'Peggy' and Andy Wellings of About Turn Dog Training with his Rottweiler Merlin at Newark Park

If you've got a dog, training is a huge issue. Even if you haven't got a dog, there must have been times when you've wondered, perhaps urgently, whether a dog coming towards you will be well behaved.

If you've got a dog, training is a huge issue. Even if you haven't got a dog, there must have been times when you've wondered, perhaps urgently, whether a dog coming towards you will be well behaved. Unfortunately for an inexperienced dog owner like me, the advice is often contradictory - I've been told Jack Russell terriers simply can't be trained, and people have given me dog training books, but I've been so busy frantically chasing my pup Patch that I've had no time to bone up on the theory. However, if you need help, increasingly nowadays you can turn to the professionals.

And it's so easy to find them, too: a couple of minutes spent googling 'dog trainers Gloucestershire' revealed Andrew Wellings and his About Turn Dog Training Academy. Andy is local - he's based in Stinchcombe near Dursley - and he trains dogs at his clients' homes, so he can observe and work on each dog's behaviour in its own environment.
We meet in the daisy-and-buttercup-spangled grounds of Newark Park in Ozleworth, and within seconds Patch is hurtling enthusiastically towards Andy like a heat-seeking missile.

Authoritative and calm despite his youthful appearance, Andy immediately demands Patch's respect by rolling him over onto his back and holding him there for a split second. It's all about dominance, apparently - something I hadn't quite appreciated, though I have since discovered The Dog Whisperer on TV and can now display a range of canine body language befitting the Alpha Status Bitch I have become.

Once established as dominant, Andy takes the lead and walks Patch off on his own for a bit. Every time the pup tries to pull, Andy stops and will not resume the walk until Patch is prepared to trot decorously by his side. Watching from a hundred yards away, I'm astounded at the swift progress they make. Then, when it's my turn to walk him, I begin the (for me) uncomfortable business of imposing my will on my dog. I've always hated confrontation, and it's a family joke that I need assertiveness training, but once I tune in to the principles behind Andy's approach, I realise that it is, in fact, an assertiveness training scheme for me as well as a dog training course for Patch. Buy one, get one free!

Andy explains that there are several arenas where the struggle for dominance will be played out. I learn that in many little everyday ways I can show Patch that I am top dog and he must obey me and co-operate with my agenda. It may sound harsh, but all a dog wants is for somebody else to take initiatives and deal with all the crises. It's like being relieved that you're not the Prime Minister, and you won't personally have to take the blame for everything and be interrogated by Jeremy Paxman (a dogfight if ever there was one).

Andy says that as a young boy he was always fascinated by dogs, though the family did not own one until he was 12. At the age of 21 he acquired two dogs of his own - Rottweilers called Rufus and Merlin. Andy took a couple of weeks off work in order to concentrate on training the two pups and was able to school them outdoors on the large green beside his house.

As Rufus and Merlin grew into dignified and composed adults, Andy was often stopped by people walking their own dogs. He was asked how he had achieved such co-operative behaviour with them, as Rottweilers have a fearsome reputation. He would pass on training tips, and later the same people would tell him that his ideas had worked. Eventually the printing business where Andy was employed was bought by a French company and he was offered voluntary redundancy - 'I grabbed it with both hands!' says Andy with a smile - he was more than ready to turn his interest in dog training into a profession, and after volunteering for six months at Teckels Animal Sanctuary, he undertook a year's course in Animal Management at Hartpury College. Once that was completed, the clients started to arrive: some via his website, others by personal recommendation.

Andy believes that it doesn't matter how old your dog is, or how established bad habits are: any dog's behaviour can be transformed. In most cases the only equipment you need is determination, a few treats in your pocket, and a collar and short lead (retractable leads and harnesses make it harder to train your dog, as I've discovered after being trussed up endless times by Patch). Your sole aim initially is to show the dog that you're the boss - after that everything becomes easier.

Patch's socialisation with other dogs is still a challenge - he always wants to play and will pester older dogs for attention. In our second session Andy brings his Rottweiler, Merlin, to meet Patch, and Merlin's massive presence and authority help to persuade my little whipper-snapper that biting other dogs' cheeks is not such a good idea. They have fun chasing sticks instead, with our sheepdog Peggy in attendance. Although she doesn't do stick-chasing herself, she enjoys chasing the dogs who are chasing sticks - the canine equivalent of a cheerleader, perhaps.

Patch loves Peggy and our other sheepdog Tara, but sometimes his way of expressing his adoration has been to sink his teeth into their faces and hang there whilst they try to run away. Andy helps Patch to kick his face-biting habit with a collar called Spray Commander, which is operated by remote control. If your dog is off the lead some distance away and starts to exhibit undesirable behaviour, you can press the remote and the collar will squirt out a little jet of harmless liquid in the dog's face. This distracts him and enables you to reinforce the training with a stern 'No!' The collar also has a warning beep, and dogs soon learn to recognise that warning so that soon the beep, and eventually, just 'No!' is enough. Patch soon stops biting the sheepdogs' faces and Peggy and Tara graciously accept his company.

Andy sees dog training as a process: every transgression on the dog's part is an opportunity for more training, every dog presents new challenges and will respond slightly differently, and Andy himself feels that he is always learning, too. Andy's work with Patch has certainly removed a great deal of stress from my everyday life, and for one despairing client he has even made the difference between life and death. Her dog had bitten every member of the family, and the vet was recommending euthanasia as a last resort. Yet after just one training session with Andy the dog's behaviour was transformed: her owner established dominance and the biting stopped.

Details of this and other case histories can be seen on Andy's website www.aboutturndogtrainingacademy.co.uk where owners of all breeds and ages of dogs explain how they had been struggling with their pets' aberrant behaviour. Barking, biting, jumping up, running off, aggression: these have all been eliminated in a way the owners describe as 'astonishing', 'miraculous' and 'amazing'. I agree, and cherish the quote by Corey Ford: 'Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend.'







0 comments

More from People

Friday, December 14, 2018

Helping clients through divorce, separation and disputes over children, we talk to 8 divorce lawyers in the Cotswolds

Read more
Friday, December 14, 2018

We’ve some extraordinary, and inspiring, women in business in the Cotswolds. We talk to 7 female trailblazers in local industry who offer the business advice they’ve lived by

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

25 years in business is no mean feat – and the owner of Lauren’s Catering has lost none of his ambition

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Julian Dunkerton has moved his family’s cider-making business from Herefordshire to the outskirts of Cheltenham, where it boasts a state-of-the-art production unit and a stylish new shop. But don’t think the heart of the business has changed one whit: it still honours the core values Ivor and Susie Dunkerton held dear when they planted their first apple tree, nearly 40 years ago

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

If you want to spread some Christmas cheer to those in need, here are some fantastic charities in the Cotswolds to donate to

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Harnessing the power of social media, charity awards and dreaming up new projects - it’s all in a day’s work for Gloucestershire children’s charity Pied Piper and its corporate supporters

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Cotswolds’ very own Prince of Wales turns 70 this month, so we looked back on some of the highlights of his life and career, and wondered what birthday pressies we would buy for the man who has the world at his feet

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

When landowners are looking to sell their land, and want a transparent journey that delivers them best value, Rosconn Strategic Land is here to take them through the process.

Read more

Radio DJ Paul Gambaccini has secured a payout from prosecutors over unfounded allegations of historical sex offences. The presenter, 69, was arrested in 2013 over a claim he sexually assaulted two teenage boys in the early 1980s. Mr Gambaccini always denied the claims, calling the case “completely fictitious”. He spent a year on bail before the case was dropped. Two years later he gave this interview to Katie Jarvis

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Barn Theatre’s artistic director, Iwan Lewis, talks to Candia McKormack about a rather special project aimed at bringing the Cotswold community together in commemoration of the Great War’s fallen

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The environmental charity set up to protect Stroud’s industrial heritage now enhances the lives of its own volunteers. Katie Jarvis meets chief executive Clare Mahdiyone to hear about her Cotswold Life

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Alex Caccia was in two minds about setting up Animal Dynamics as a limited company, but a shark attack warning changed all of that. Tanya Gledhill meets a man on a mission to change propulsion, one animal at a time

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

He quit his job with a few thousand pounds in savings and an empty garage. In less than a year, Nick Grey’s technology company Gtech was flying. Tanya Gledhill meets him

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search