Dog Borstal’s Rob Alleyne interview

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Rob Alleyne, author of The Trouble-Free Dog and trainer on Dog Borstal, tells us about his approach to dog training and his experience of working on the BBC 3 show.

How did you become a professional dog trainer?

I used to attend a dog training class with my own dog 20+ years ago. Then the woman who ran it decided to retire and offered it to me. I was only 19 or 20 and was terrified at the prospect, but reluctantly agreed rather than see the class close. And I have run classes ever since.

Like most good trainers, I develop by studying what I am doing, and looking to see how it can be improved. There are few truly wrong methods per se that should never be used, though there are many that are used inappropriately. I also look at things that other people do, and use them or modify them to suit my situation or client if necessary.

Learning is an ongoing process, there are things that I do now that I won’t be doing in five years, and there are things that I did five years ago that I can’t believe I did or told people to do. But that is how we learn.

Where did the idea for Dog Borstal come from?

Apparently the idea was thought up by the programme’s Executive Producer, after fostering a rescue dog that would have otherwise had major, though unnecessary, surgery.

How did you become involved in Dog Borstal?

I received a phone call asking me if I thought that it could be done, and if I thought that I could do it? The rest, as they say, is history.

Is your fellow Dog Borstal trainer, Mic Martin, as scary as he seems on tv?

Only if you cross him. Actually, he really isn’t that scary at all. He gives a lot of himself when training, and he asks a lot in return. People who aren’t prepared to do that get it in the neck, and he makes no apologies for that.

To be honest, prior to meeting Mic, I was convinced that I would absolutely hate him, But in fact we get on really well. People have accused him of all sorts, that he’s homophobic, sexist, and a bully. Watching him on television, I can completely see why people would think that. But what people forget when watching these programmes is that for every minute that you see, there are probably three hours that you didn’t see.

As an example, everyone thought that he was horrible to Billie-Jean last week for no reason at all. In fact, she turned up an hour and a half late for filming, keeping the whole crew waiting, and apparently, her only excuse was that she had stopped on the hard shoulder for that long as Fudge needed to get it on with Shag Teddy, which she thought was very funny. Needless to say, Mic was not impressed, and what you saw was the immediate aftermath.

And Dale from the first show told the other students that he only came on because he wanted to be on television, and had no real desire to train his dog. Nobody notices how encouraging Mic is when it is going well, or how much he supports the dogs though, which is a shame.

Why do you think dogs and humans live and work together so well?

Because we are so similar in so many ways, and yet so different in others. They make very good dogs, but very poor people, and my clients are usually people who have forgotten this.

What’s your main tip for people who have recently taken on a puppy or adult dog?

Treat it as the family dog from the time you bring it home. It is not a new baby, it is a new puppy, and although there may be some similarities, it is governed by some very different rules from a human child.

Educate it primarily on how to do the right thing. It will learn so much more quickly if you take the time to show it the right way to do things, rather than waiting for it to do the wrong thing and then punish it. Look at all of the things that you are letting it do as a puppy. If you would not be happy for him/her to do them as an adult, stop it now, and show it what it should be doing instead.

Do you have dogs?

I have a five year old German Shepherd named Jester. Never was a dog more appropriately named, he is such a clown.

Read our review of BBC 3’s Dog Borstal or buy Rob’s book The Trouble-Free Dog.

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