A dog and owner enjoying last year’s May Fair at Ballymaloe, which has inspired A Dog’s Day Out at the East Cork venue this April. Photo: Joleen Cronin

Every dog has its day

By Marguerite Kiely

With 28% of Irish households owning a pampered pooch or a happy hound, there’s no doubt that we are a nation of dog lovers.

And while we may dote over our canine companions, we don’t always understand them.

If you are having problems with your pet, a dog behaviourist could help in solving the underlying issue.

Catherine Griffin is a certified dog behaviourist with Snout and About, a team of dog behaviour and training professionals based in Cork, and she will be speaking at the inaugural Dogs Day Out at Ballymaloe, which will take place on Sunday 2 April.

“A dog behaviourist is looking to address the root cause of where the behaviour is coming from in the dog,” she said.

“When we discuss behaviour, whether it’s a waggy tail or dog bite, it’s all behaviour and information the dog is presenting with.”

Catherine works on simple issues that a dog might have, like chasing cars or phobias and fears, as well as more complex problems like severe anxiety and aggression.

“It’s an investigatory way of approaching things so we can improve the welfare and quality of life of the animal and the life that they share with the family,” she explained.

“I’ve been a behaviourist for over 15 years,” she added. “Back in the day, people thought we were involved in witchcraft! But in line with human mental health, there is more awareness now and people are taking it more seriously.”

While every dog is different and their behaviour is based on a multitude of factors, Catherine said that one of the biggest challenges she faces is reframing owners' expectations of the dogs.

“We set a lot of expectations for our dogs because we have grown up seeing depictions of these bomb-proof, happy-go-lucky creatures that are happy to do anything but it's not realistic.”

“They all have individual quirks, and have good and bad days just like us. For example, people may want to walk their dog in very busy environments, but that dog might be sound-sensitive and would prefer a quiet place. Those preferences can be overlooked because we want the dog to fit into our lifestyle rather than considering the dog,” she added.

Reactive behaviour toward other dogs is also another issue Catherine sees in her work: “There’s a belief that all dogs are super-social, but some would rather stay at home, we call them the librarian dogs. They don’t want to have to mingle.”

“You might see lunging and barking and what could be deemed aggressive behaviour, but a lot of the time the dog is telling you that they are uncomfortable and they are asking for space and saying: ‘I don’t like this, it’s not okay for me’.”

Catherine said she is looking forward to speaking at Dogs Day Out at Ballymaloe and will be giving a talk on training and behaviour entitled ‘The Human End of the Lead’.

Along with expert talks on the day, there will be training demonstrations, puppy play areas, stalls and much more. There will be food on sale both for humans and canines, so all furry friends will be well-fed.

Dog’s Day Out at Ballymaloe takes place on 2 April from 10am-4.30pm. Tickets are €15.