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HLN meets… Sue McCabe, Champion Crufts Dog Trainer

Sue reveals her secrets on how to have a four-legged well-behaved champion in your own home – plus we wish her luck as she’s competing in Crufts 2022 with her four-legged friend Jellybean.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 10.03.2022

With nearly three decades of experience working with dogs, Champion Crufts dog trainer Sue McCabe really does prove that you can actually teach an old dog new tricks.

After walking away with the first prize in the Jack Russell Good Citizen Dog Class at Crufts in 2020, Sue’s four-legged friend Jellybean put his best foot forward and did the North East proud. But behind this canine champion is years of hard and dedicated training from Sue.

And the perfect pair from Ponteland are competing again in this year’s Crufts in the Good Citizen Dog Class and the Jack Russel Terrier breed categories, which starts today – we wish her luck!

Dogs really are man’s best friend and with those puppy dog eyes, it’s so easy to just let our pooches get away with things. But enough is enough, Sue is here to help us train our disobedient dogs through her training business Muttamorphosis Dog Training & Behaviour so you can have your very own well-behaved champion at home.

WE ASK SUE ALL QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR DOG’S BEHAVIOUR…

How can I stop my dog from jumping up at people?

 

Rather than thinking ‘how can I stop my dog from jumping?’, instead ask ‘how can I prevent my dog from jumping in the first place?’ For most dogs, jumping up is what we call a ‘self-rewarding behaviour’. This means that if you ignore the dog while jumping, they’ll continue to jump because it’s enjoyable whether you interact with them or not.

  1. Try having your dog on a leash when greeting people and make sure you step back to form a gap between dog and guest. That way, the dog can’t make contact if they start to jump.
  2. Ask people to wait until the dog calms down and stop trying to ‘say hi’ before interacting with them. Then offer high-value rewards such as chicken, hotdog, and sausage in return for a polite ‘sit’ by the dog.
  3. Remember that what you train at home with family is what you get with others too. Make sure all family members are joining in the training and not giving attention or encouraging jumping up by allowing the dog to make contact on greeting.
  4. Popping your dog behind a dog gate away from the front door, as outlined during this training routine, can be a great training tool to use when the family is coming home or when people visit the house.

How can you help a dog with separation anxiety?

Genuine separation anxiety is a clinical condition that means the dog has a phobia of being left alone. Repeated exposure to that phobia, for example, when the owner has to go out, even for short periods, means that the condition gets worse. That’s why it’s important that owners find friends and family members to help keep their dogs company if they need to leave them.

With most of the cases I work with, these dogs need additional help through veterinary intervention to help them cope with learning new routines and being comfortable left on their own. Only through systematic desensitisation can dogs with separation anxiety make progress.

It’s never a quick fix and exposure to alone time needs to be done sensitively and slowly, at a pace dictated by the dog. Because of the complexity of this condition, I always recommend getting in touch with a behaviourist for support to help build a dog’s confidence about being left on its own.

How do I stop my dog from greeding food?

Dogs only perform behaviours that are worth their while. If a dog is begging at the table, someone must be reinforcing this by, even occasionally, giving the dog food from the table. This needs to stop so that the dog is no longer expecting a reward for hanging around the table during mealtimes.

Typically, I suggest that crates or dog gates are used to segregate the dog when humans are eating. That way the dog never learns to approach the table at all. To coincide with this and help the dog feel happier and less like they are missing out, offer them a food project such as a stuffed Kong during meals.

My 15-year-old Border Terrier is slowing down and we’re never sure how far we should walk him now?

Even if your dog is keen to walk, dogs will often push through the pain if they’re enjoying themselves and suffer afterwards so limiting walks may be required even if your dog doesn’t agree. A 15-year-old dog is likely to have arthritic changes and mobility limitations that need vet support and possible pain management. I would always suggest increasing mental stimulation in older dogs to make up for the fact that they aren’t walking as far as they used to.

Here are some simple ways you can give your dog more mental stimulation every day. In addition, you can tire your dog out by including them in trips out to garden centres, lunch or coffee dates, even pottering around town. Bus and train rides are another great way to stimulate older dogs without putting additional stress on their body.

Why does my dog eat the carpet?

This question needs more information to correctly answer it as there could be numerous reasons the dog is eating carpet. Dogs can display this behaviour when they are alone because digging and chewing carpet can be a way to self-soothe if the dog is anxious about being left. Dogs can eat the carpet because they are bored.

Here are some simple ways you can give your dog more mental stimulation every day. For some dogs, following a stressful event that causes frustration, such as being told off by their human or not being able to get to the postman, this behaviour would be known as a displacement behaviour. It’s a way for the dog to de-stress after the event.

My five-year-old Border Collie hates the lead and also pulls. We’ve tried everything, how can we stop this?

Border Collies are a rural working breed, who, more than most breeds, can struggle with urban life. I’ve been called to see many collies over the years who pull on a leash and whose owners say they have tried everything. Often though, it’s not just the leash the dog has an issue with, it’s the environment the dog is living in that creates the challenges.

Collies can be very sensitive to sight and sound and instinctively like to chase moving objects. When they are restrained on a leash, they often fight against this because they can be overwhelmed with stimuli (sounds, traffic passing etc.) that they cannot escape from or indeed chase. Genetics trumps all learning in this instance for a lot of herding breeds.

Often the safest thing to do is to drive to the walk location, only allowing the dog off-leash to run where it’s safe and secure to do so. There are lots of dog safe fields for hire available now. If you’re looking for a suitable body harness and leash to help your dog feel more comfortable, I recommend the T-Touch or Mekuti Harness and a double-ended leash.

 

 

If you’re wanting some help with your naughty pooch visit Muttamorphosis Dog Training & Behaviour’s website for more information.

To see how Sue and Jellybean get on at Crufts 2022, follow Sue’s Instagram and like her Facebook page.

 

Image credit: Jess Penaluna from Naluna Photography

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