JEANETTE: We wanted to involve our listeners in today’s episode, so we’re doing a Q&A with dog trainer Steve Walsh from McCann Dogs. Welcome.
STEVE: Good morning. How are you? Well, good morning over here. I guess good afternoon over there?
JEANETTE: Yeah, it’s afternoon for us. You’ve had dogs for more than 30 years and taught classes for the last 15. Is that right?
STEVE: Yeah, at least. They’ve been a part of my life since I was a little guy. Always something that I’ve had a lot of fun with. Training was always the most important thing to me, and actually, it was the most fun, more so than anything else. [laughs]
JEANETTE: What kind of dogs have you had throughout the years?
STEVE: My first dog when I was a kid was a black standard poodle. She was the worst trained dog ever. [laughs]
JEANETTE: She taught you a lot, I guess.
STEVE: Yeah, she was a dog that when you walked out the front door, you had to try to close the door really fast so she wouldn’t run away. I think that probably started me on this idea of wanting to train dogs. Since then, I’ve had several Irish wolfhounds and whippets and border collies and things. I have two border collies right now and an Irish wolfhound currently in the house.
JEANETTE: You’ve been competing in different kinds of dog sports?
STEVE: Yeah, I’ve done a fair bit of lure coursing with the sighthounds and stuff, and now my main focus is agility. I’ve been lucky enough to represent Canada overseas at the European Open and national events around here as well. I’m very, very lucky to be able to do that.
JEANETTE: That’s good. So you have a lot of experience.
STEVE: Well, there’s always things to learn. [laughs] That’s the one thing I’ve learned. I never know enough, so I’m always trying to learn more.
JEANETTE: That’s good. Our listeners seem to be eager to learn more as well. We asked everyone on Instagram to send us their questions, and we got a lot, actually. There seems to be a lot of excited dogs out there because there were a bunch of questions similar to this first one “Do you have any tips on how to train your dog to not get too crazy and excited before a training or a race?”
STEVE: Dogs that are stimulated and excited, especially when it comes to training, are things that I love because I want a dog that’s eager and I want a dog that’s motivated to do the things that we want to do, whether it be agility or just some retrieving or some field trials or any of the sledding sports, things like that.
I will say before any of the sport stuff starts, though, I spend a lot of time with my younger dogs just near the environment. The reason I say near is if they’re right in it, we all know the events, especially the trials and events and races and things, are very high energy. If I can start to spend a little bit of time getting them comfortable in the area, doing basic things – having them sit, having them lie down, having them walk with me before I ever get to trialing, that can really help down the road.
Now, that doesn’t mean that older dogs can’t do that. We spend a lot of time trying to simulate a trial environment and trying to simulate that energy level because it is so different, and teach our dogs to listen. The more they can do that, the easier that becomes.
One thing I don’t want to ever do is try and get rid of that interest and excitement from the dogs. I really like it, but I really want to make sure that they can focus on listening to me in spite of that excitement. That’s a bit of a challenge to do, but like anything else, if I do it in a manner that my dog can be successful, that can help in those situations. That’s for sure. It’s a challenging thing to do, but it’s definitely worthwhile focusing on.
JEANETTE: Do you start when th