Veteran dog trainer Heather Northover has seen the pandemic profoundly change the way people think of their four-legged peers.
- A dog trainer in Queensland says a growing desire from owners to spend more time with their pets could be a silver lining of the pandemic
- Queensland laws allow dogs in some outdoor dining areas and on public transportation under certain conditions
- Well-behaved pets should be welcomed in cafes, hotels and on public transport, says the trainer
“It has helped people attach themselves to their dogs,” she said.
After more than 40 years in the industry, the central Queenslander said these periods of working from home could mark a turning point.
“I hope it is a start for Australians to adopt more responsible dog ownership and start enjoying their dogs more and caring for them better,” she said.
“Ultimately, I would like to see Australia start moving along the same paths that we see in Europe and America, where dogs are truly considered part of the family.
“People tend to live with their dogs inside, they walk down the street with them, they go to cafes, they stay in hotels with their dogs.
“Here in Australia, not much happens because people tend to get a puppy, and when it’s no longer cute, it goes out and it just learns to take care of itself.”
Ms Northover said the change could be “a silver lining” to the pandemic for dogs nationwide.
“This year we have seen questions about dogs being allowed on public transportation and in motels and cafes,” she said.
“It’s actually a good side effect of [COVID-19] that people are putting more emphasis on their dogs and becoming more interested in these little animals they share their lives with.
An equal family member
Yeppoon’s Sam Finch is attending training with his dog, Bronson, who she said was “another family member”.
“I wanted to have a smart dog that we could also do things with and be a good family pet like he has been,” she said.
“We hope to take him on a family holiday.
“We took him with us [a cafe] for breakfast one morning, took him for a walk along the beach … he was pretty good. “
What are the rules?
Queensland’s laws allow food companies to choose whether to allow dogs only in outdoor dining areas – different rules apply to auxiliary animals.
Pet owners must respect the safety and comfort of others, maintain control of the dog, refrain from touching the dog while eating, clean up after the pet, and be aware of local laws and the Animal Management Act.
In southeastern Queensland, pets are allowed on TransLink buses, trains, trams and ferries with passports.
Pet dogs are allowed on TransLink ferries all weekend and from 8:30 to 15:30 and 19:00 to 06:00 on weekdays, as long as they meet the requirements. These include being on lead, wearing a snout or in a closed carrier.
Dog trainers in high demand
The demand for dog training services has been “very high” since the pandemic started.
“Suddenly people stay home with these dogs and realize that they actually do not like the dog because the dog does not behave the way they want it to,” Ms. Northover said.
“When they try to work from home and spend more time with the dog, they find, ‘Oh, this dog pulls on a cord, or it barks at other dogs, or when I bring it in, it will beg for food at the table.’
“They generally understand that it is not a very pleasant dog, it has no manners, it has no social grace.”
These were common complaints from pet owners.
“Once they realize that, they come together here and say, ‘My dog jumps up on me and scratches, and it takes the kids’ mouths, and it barks at my friends, and it digs the garden,'” she said.
“They’ve had the dog for a few years and they just did not notice because they were not home with it, so it’s nice to be able to turn it around for them.”
Finch encouraged other dog owners to train their pets.
“I think it’s nice because you don’t make them just leave them at home,” she said.
“He comes everywhere with me … to the beach, out to lunch if we can, and he comes to mom and dad and grandma.”
Responsible dog ownership
Ms Northover said the science behind dog behavior had come “in leaps and bounds”.
“When I started, it was a lot, ‘We have to be the boss, and we have to force the dogs to do this and push their bottom down and pull their heads up and pull them around on wires,'” she said.
“Now we use much more scientific methods to get dogs to behave the way we want them to because it is rewarding for them and because they want to do what we ask them to do.
“My big catch is always dog responsibility.
Take care of your dog. Learn what your dog does. Teach him a good recall and have fun with him … please train your dog to live with you in your family and be a responsible part of your family . “