Whoever it was said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks was wrong.
At least that’s Helen V’s approach to dog training, though in fact she believes it’s the handlers who need the instruction rather than the animals.
She should know: Helen – she tends to use ‘V’ instead of her actual surname Vaitkevicius – has trained hundreds of dogs and their owners during the four years she has been running Lincs Training – Dog Training Made Easy.
She currently has more than 100 dogs attending the weekly classes she runs at Pinchbeck Village Hall, The Umbrella and Spalding Grammar School.
And one of them, 13-month-old Bebe, has just returned from Crufts triumphant. At her first outing at the famous dog show, Bebe achieved her Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme Bronze Factor Challenge.
Her owner Lesley Cumper, who lives in Spalding, said: “She behaved and I couldn’t have asked any more of her. She worked brilliantly on the day.”
It’s the second award of Bebe’s career as she had previously earned her Kennel Club Puppy Foundation medal – achieved with training from Helen at the club.
Puppy training classes and instruction for the Kennel Club’s bronze, silver and gold awards are just some of the areas covered in the weekly classes. There are also sessions covering small breeds, as well as the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainer classes – so Helen teaches the trainers of the future.
“Dog training is easy, but it’s training the handlers really,” says Helen. “It’s training people. Humans don’t always understand the needs of dogs – dogs need a very black and white environment to work in. If you give them wishy-washy instructions they are going to think for themselves. Dogs really need to be told what to do. They want to be followers, they don’t want to be leaders.”
If a dog feels in charge, Helen says there can be issues with guarding, barking and socialising, which is often when she is called in.
In Lesley’s case, her two other dogs had already been trained with Helen after she re-homed them. At that stage they were around six or seven years old, but successfully completed their bronze and silver training.
“Everybody thinks you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you definitely can,” says Helen.
Her methods clearly work and have been recognised: a commendation in last year’s South Holland Business Awards (community), and last year the Kennel Club placed Dog Training Made Easy in third place out of 1,800 dog clubs in the Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme awards . “I was absolutely amazed,” she says.