Does your dog struggle with behavioural problems? Well have we got a dog training treat for you on this week’s blog!
Instagram star Archie the sweet Shih Tzu cross has allowed his dog trainer mum Sophie Dunne to share some of her secrets with us!
She’s on a mission with him to offer canine parents dog training and natural dog health advice.
This is the first of a 3-part interview with Sophie and Archie. This week, we get to know them a bit better.
A fluffy Instagram star
Archie has taken Instagram by storm with his adorable antics on his @bigboyarchie_ page. More than 12,000 followers have joined him on his dog training and holistic health journey so far. It’s easy to see why he has won so many fans with that handsome face!
And now his lovely mum has launched a website and YouTube channel to help dog owners everywhere access dog training and health tips.
Archie’s training journey has not been easy; behavioural issues dogged him from the start. But Sophie took it upon herself to train him and hopes that her story will inspire other dog owners.
She also hopes that correct training information can save dogs with behavioural issues from being abandoned or put to sleep.
She very kindly agreed to share their story with me to show dog parents that they too can train their dogs at home.
*Please note images are not mine but are kindly shared by and copyright of @bigboyarchie 2020.
Fun dog pictures with a purpose
Q) What prompted you to start the @bigboyarchie_ Instagram account?
I started our Instagram account in 2017, but back then it was solely focused on sharing cute pictures of Archie. The name came about because he has a big boy’s attitude in a little boy’s body!
As I studied, I began to branch out and share more about natural health for dogs and training. I was surprised when people started asking me for advice.
Archie is very popular when we’re out and about, but I didn’t imagine how this would grow and the opportunities that would come from it!
I love hearing success stories from people we have helped through our Instagram.
Now every image or video they post shares important information, ranging from training tips, to dog diet advice.
Archie came into Sophie’s life 8 years ago (see puppy pic below) – he is her first dog. She started puppy training classes with him immediately, which was when his behavioural issues came to light.
Q) What were Archie’s behavioural issues?
His issues were many and varied. They included ripping up mail (sometimes important documents!), barking at delivery drivers, boundary anxiety, serious possessiveness, reactivity to men, eating poo in the park, trying to be ‘top dog’ at home, biting immediate family, attention-seeking, destructive behaviours, territorial reactivity, and grooming aggression.
The aggression towards our family started very early on, within a few weeks of bringing him home. It increased as he matured.
As you can see from the image below, he still gets excited when the postman arrives! But now he’s patient and gets to play with boxes after the contents have been emptied.
Q) When did you discover Archie had a good ear for dog training?
It was fun teaching him the basics and he enjoyed it as much as me – he used to ask for a training session!
This led to me teaching him many, many tricks and it soon developed to training as a whole, including behavioural training, which I found super interesting.
I watched videos, TV programmes, read as much as I could online, read books and attended classes with Archie in person. We have also always loved ‘fun training’, including lots of trick training and agility. Archie really is a very clever boy!
Sophie thinks that his aptitude may stem from his mix of breeds – he is predominantly Shih Tzu, but has some other interesting traits too.
Archie is very clever, which did take me by surprise; but I think that’s because he is such a mix of breeds. He is 50% Shih Tzu and the rest is a mystery! Even a DNA test couldn’t work it out, but did give a list of the top 5 breeds which are most likely present – including some bigger breeds! These are: Tibetan Spaniel, English Toy Spaniel, Parson Russell Terrier, Pharaoh Hound and English Bulldog!
He picks up things very quickly and understands what I want much easier than other dogs.
It was astonishing to find out how much he could learn and how much he loved it!
Certain behavioural training took longer, such as grooming and aggression, as this type of training reverts part habitual behaviours that can be quite set in stone.
A dog training labour of love
Sophie loves it so much that she’s currently studying to complete her Level 4 Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour and Training.
She has also completed courses in dog health and volunteer work at her local rescue centre, where she shadowed behaviourists and helped train dogs of many sizes, breeds and backgrounds.
Q) What do you love about dog training?
I find it a really fun experience and love seeing the difference you can make to the dog’s life. The ability to turn a dog from a nervous and shy creature into a confident, stable and therefore happy dog, always fills me with joy!
Q) Is there a secret to effective dog training?
I believe that dog training is effective when it is a fun experience for both you and the dog, and that it is as positive and reward-based as possible. No cruelty or punishments are necessary!
If your dog enjoys the training and wants to please you, then you’ll both have a great and rewarding time!
I train using the most positive methods possible, always reward-based and using the odd verbal correction when necessary.
My favourite is working on behavioural training because of the difference it makes to a dog’s life.
I also enjoy trick training and teaching Archie anything new! We also find agility fun! Archie especially enjoys learning new tricks and commands that he can show off to other people – he loves the attention!
As you can see, both Archie and Sophie really enjoy training sessions! And their hard work has really paid off! Thank you for sharing your story with me.
NEXT WEEK: Don’t miss Sophie’s simple dog training tips you can try at home!
Autumn dog photo sessions
Now is the perfect time of year to book the paw-fect dog photoshoot. I’m offering autumn dog photo sessions for people in the Frankfurt area throughout October.
Take advantage of the fabulous foliage and autumn light in the beautiful surroundings of Bad Homburg’s Kurpark. A 45-minute session costs just €60. Click here for more details.
I can’t wait to meet you and your dog!