People & MoneyWorking Lives

A Good Day to be a Dog Trainer: Meet Public Administration Graduate, Are Oloruntoba, Who Trains Dogs in Yoruba Language

In this interview with SAMUEL BOLAJI, a Kwara-based Public Administration graduate, ARE OLORUNTOBA, who trains dogs in the Yoruba language, shares his experience in dog training, highlighting that dogs can understand any language. It’s a good day to be a dog trainer!

 

Q: Can you tell us about your background and how you got into dog training?

A: I studied Public Administration at Kwara Polytechnic, Ilorin, Kwara State. During my time studying for my Higher National Diploma (HND), I got my first dog. I’ve always liked dogs, and in 2016, I decided to get a foreign breed, a Rottweiler. Initially, I got a male Rottweiler, and someone suggested that I could get a female as well to breed them and sell the puppies. It seemed like a good idea, so I went ahead and bought a female.

In 2018, I started breeding them. The first litter gave me nine puppies, and I sold them, earning around N400,000. After that, I did my service year, but finding a job was tough due to the situation in Nigeria. So, I decided to continue with dog breeding, which was already bringing in some income.

Q: What challenges did you face with your Rottweilers, and how did you start training dogs?

A: Some people warned me that Rottweilers are dangerous and could harm their owners or children. But a friend assured me that with proper training, there wouldn’t be any problems. So, I started researching how to train dogs online. I learned about dog obedience training and applied it to my dogs.

Rottweiler dog breed
Rottweiler

There’s an organisation called Kwara Dog House in Kwara State, where they organised obedience training shows with veterinary students. I took my dogs there, and by God’s grace, my male Rottweiler got first position, and the female got second position. We received several gifts that day. This motivated me to continue training my dogs. I realised that with proper training and socialisation, Rottweilers are not only good for protection but can also be great pets.

Q: How do you compare foreign breeds like Rottweilers with local breeds?

A: Local dogs, like the ones we call Ekoke, have their own way of behaving. During the day, they usually don’t attack anyone because they are used to seeing a lot of people. At night, when it’s quiet, they become more alert and protective. Foreign breeds, however, can become aggressive at any time if not socialised properly. If they are kept indoors all the time and not exposed to different environments and people, they can develop fear aggression.

Dog trainer tending to his dogs
Oloruntoba tending to his dogs

To prevent this, it’s important to socialise them from a young age by taking them on walks and exposing them to different sounds and sights. This helps them become familiar with their environment and reduces their tendency to be fearful or aggressive towards new things.

Q: Can you explain more about the socialisation process?

A: Socialisation is crucial for a dog’s development. When we get a puppy, we need to expose it to different environments, people, and sounds. This helps them get used to various situations and reduces their fear. If a dog is not socialised, it might become fearful and aggressive towards anything unfamiliar. For instance, if a dog has never seen a car or heard loud noises, it might get scared and react aggressively.

On the other hand, if we socialise them properly, they will be more relaxed and confident in different situations. This doesn’t mean they won’t protect their territory. A well-socialised dog will still be protective of its home, but it will also be able to distinguish between a real threat and a normal situation.

Q: How do you train your dogs to balance protection and friendliness?

A: Training involves consistency and understanding the dog’s behaviour. When training a dog, especially for protection, it’s important to build a bond with the dog. The dog needs to understand its territory and know when to be protective. For example, if someone is outside the gate, the dog will bark to alert me. But if we are outside and I allow people to interact with the dog, it will be friendly.

Great Dane dog breed
Great Dane

The key is to train the dog to understand the difference between being at home, where it needs to protect its territory, and being outside, where it can be more relaxed and friendly. This involves teaching the dog commands and reinforcing positive behaviour with rewards.

Q: You mentioned you studied Public Administration. Was that your original plan?

A: No, studying Public Administration was not my initial plan. I wanted to go to the university, but I didn’t get admission, so I switched to the Polytechnic and ended up studying Public Administration. After graduating, due to the lack of job opportunities, I decided to focus on dog breeding and training.

Cane Corso
Cane Corso

Q: What fuelled your interest in dog training?

A: I came from a less-privileged family, and my father is a farmer. I used to go to the farm with him and developed an interest in agriculture. This interest extended to animals, and I saw people involved in fisheries and other agricultural activities. This background made me realise the importance of having practical skills that I could use to become self-employed.

Q: Did you have any formal training in dog training?

A: I didn’t have formal training. I researched online and bought books on dog training. I found that understanding dog behaviour is similar to understanding human behaviour. It’s about using common sense and observing how dogs react to different situations. There are traditional and modern methods of training dogs, and I combined what I learned from different sources to develop my own approach.

Oloruntoba playing a game with his dog
Oloruntoba playing a game with his dog

Q: Do you train other people’s dogs or teach people how to train their dogs?

A: Yes, I train other people’s dogs and teach dog owners how to train their dogs. It’s important for the owner to be involved in the training process to build a bond with the dog. If only the trainer works with the dog, the dog might only respond to the trainer and not the owner. So, I teach the owners how to use body language and commands to communicate with their dogs.

Q: Can you tell us about training dogs in the local language?

A: Training dogs in the local language is quite effective. Dogs don’t inherently understand any specific language; they respond to cues and commands.

It started when I decided to get dogs for my parents. I realised that if I trained dogs using Yoruba, my parents, who don’t speak English, could communicate with them. So, I use treats and body language to teach the dogs commands in Yoruba. This way, the dogs can understand and respond to instructions in our local language.

Dog trainer communicating with his dog
Dog trainer talking to his dog

Q: That’s interesting. Can dogs be trained in any language?

A: Yes, dogs can be trained in any language. The key is consistency in using the same commands. Whether it’s Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, or any other language, as long as you consistently use the same commands with the same actions, the dog will learn to understand and respond.

I observed that countries such as Germany, China, and India train their dogs using their native languages. In Nigeria, where we have languages such as Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo, I believe we can do the same. By using our native languages to train dogs, we can create a similar connection.

Dog gets a handshake
Dog gets a handshake for impressing its trainer

This method is particularly useful for people who may not understand English or other languages. As someone of Yoruba descent, I’ve decided to train dogs in Yoruba. This demonstrates that dogs can understand and respond to languages other than English. With proper training, dogs can learn any language.

Q: Can you tell us about different breeds of dogs and their characteristics?

A: There are many breeds of dogs, each with its own characteristics. Some people prefer small dogs, which are usually more suitable as pets. Small breeds like the Eskimo dog are great companions and can also alert you to strangers by barking. Medium breeds, like the German Shepherd and Rottweiler, are good for both companionship and protection. They are loyal, obedient, and relatively easy to train.

American Eskimo
American Eskimo

Large breeds, like the Great Dane and Saint Bernard, are also good for protection but require more space and care. Each breed has its own temperament and suitability for different roles. For instance, Golden Retrievers are often trained as service dogs for people with disabilities because of their gentle nature and trainability.

Q: What is the process of training a dog from start to finish?

A: Training a dog is a process that requires patience and consistency. For puppies, it’s best to start training as early as six weeks old. Initially, it involves getting the puppy accustomed to its new environment and basic commands like sit, stay, and come. Positive reinforcement, using treats and praise, is crucial at this stage.

We use a technique that involves enticing dogs with something they love, such as chicken, meat, or fish. These savoury treats motivate them because dogs are especially fond of tasty food. We leverage this desire to get them to follow our commands. The food acts as a reward, similar to playing a game where they get a treat for doing what we ask. For example, if I use my method to make a dog sit and it complies, it gets the food as a reward.

German Shepherd
German Shepherd

As the dog grows, the training becomes more advanced, including commands like heel, fetch, and more complex obedience training. Socialisation is also an important part of the process, where the dog is exposed to different people, environments, and other animals. This helps in reducing fear and aggression.

For adult dogs, training can be more challenging, especially if they have developed bad habits. It might take longer to correct these behaviours and train them. Consistency is key, and it’s important to spend regular time each day training the dog.

Q: How do you handle dogs with behavioural issues?

A: Dogs with behavioural issues require a bit more patience and specialised training. The first step is to identify the root cause of the behaviour. It could be due to fear, lack of socialisation, past abuse, or even medical issues. Once the cause is identified, the training can be tailored to address it.

Saint Bernard
Saint Bernard

For example, if a dog has food aggression, we gradually desensitise the dog to having people around while it eats. This involves using positive reinforcement and slowly introducing more interaction during feeding times. If a dog is fearful of new environments, we expose it to these environments gradually and reward calm behaviour.

Also read: Working Lives: The Cemetery Supervisor Who Got a “Thank You” Visit from a Ghost

It’s also important to educate the owners on how to handle their dogs and continue the training at home. Consistency and positive reinforcement are crucial in correcting behavioural issues.

Q: You’ve mentioned different breeds and training methods. What are some key differences in training methods for different breeds?

A: Different breeds have varying temperaments and energy levels, which can influence training methods. For instance, high-energy breeds like Border Collies and German Shepherds require more physical exercise and mental stimulation. Training sessions for these breeds might involve more agility training and problem-solving tasks to keep them engaged.

Golden Retriever
Golden Retriever

Breeds like the Rottweiler and Doberman are known for their protective instincts. Training these breeds often focuses on obedience and controlled protection work. It’s important to establish a clear hierarchy and ensure they understand commands precisely.

Smaller breeds like the Chihuahua or Pomeranian might not need intense physical exercise but still benefit from obedience training and socialisation. These breeds can be more prone to anxiety, so gentle and consistent training is crucial.

Doberman Pinscher
Doberman Pinscher

Q: What are some common mistakes dog owners make when training their dogs?

A: One common mistake is inconsistency. Dogs need consistent commands and routines to understand what is expected of them. If an owner is inconsistent with commands or allows certain behaviours sometimes but not others, it can confuse the dog.

Another mistake is using punishment instead of positive reinforcement. Punishing a dog can lead to fear and aggression. Positive reinforcement, using treats, praise, and affection, is more effective and builds a stronger bond between the dog and the owner.

Chihuahua
Chihuahua

Not starting training early enough is another mistake. The earlier you start training and socialising a dog, the easier it is. Puppies are like sponges and can learn quickly if trained properly from a young age.

How do you work with your clients to understand their goals?

A: Whenever someone contacts me for dog training, I ensure they understand the commitment involved. It requires a significant investment of time. I make it clear to my clients that training their dogs also means training them as the owners.

When I train a dog, it gets accustomed to my voice, but the owner needs to be involved as well. This allows me to explain the training process to the owner. After I finish the initial training, the owner can continue using the same methods. Sometimes, this process can take a while.

Pomeranian
Pomeranian

Q: Can you please share one of your success stories on transforming a dog’s behaviour with us?

A: There was a particular Boerboel, about 11 months old, whose owner approached me for training. The owner mentioned that the dog was quite passive and lacked natural security instincts, allowing anyone to enter the compound without showing any protective behaviour. I explained to the owner that some dogs take time to understand their tasks and responsibilities. As the owner, it’s crucial to assign the dog specific roles.

Boerboel
Boerboel

I told them that some dogs might take a year or two to truly comprehend their duties. In this case, the owner lived in Abuja while the dog was in Ilorin, so only the security personnel and others tended to the dog, allowing it to interact freely with everyone. Dogs typically have a purpose, whether for companionship or security and training a security-focused dog differs from training a friendly one. This dog was used to socialising and playing with everyone, welcoming anyone who entered the compound.

The dog lacked proper socialisation, so I proposed working with it for about two weeks to see what progress we could make. I started by visiting the owner’s place early in the morning at 7 o’clock, taking the dog for walks and exposing it to various stimuli like different sounds and vehicles. I helped the dog become accustomed to these things, as aggression can sometimes stem from fear of unfamiliar sounds or objects. By exposing the dog to different scenarios, I aimed to balance its reactions, which is a key part of socialisation.

During these walks, we also addressed specific behaviours. For instance, if the dog tried to pick up something undesirable from the ground, I’d say “no” or “leave it.” Especially during socialisation walks for a security-trained dog, I refrained from letting people approach and pet the dog. I used various techniques to shape the dog’s behaviour during this period.

Samoyed
Samoyed

At the end of two weeks, I returned the dog home and invited a friend who was unfamiliar with the dog. I explained to my friend that I’d be inside the house and wanted him to knock on the door loudly as if forcing entry, to observe the dog’s reaction. Dogs often react differently to familiar versus unfamiliar people. If my friend and I arrived together, the dog might not react aggressively because it recognised me. So, my friend arrived separately.

When my friend knocked, the dog exhibited curiosity, wondering who was at the door. I rewarded the dog by petting and reassuring it when it looked at me. My friend continued knocking while I rewarded the dog for barking. This helped the dog start associating someone arriving at the gate or touching the fence with barking.

Bullmastiff
Bullmastiff

The next day, I shared a video of this session with the owner. They were thrilled and contacted me later, saying the dog was now alert and didn’t allow unfamiliar people to enter the compound. I was genuinely surprised and pleased by this outcome, and the owner was ecstatic. In the end, the owner paid me double what I expected. I felt immensely satisfied that the dog was fulfilling my expectations. That’s the story.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering getting a dog?

A: First, research different breeds to find one that fits your lifestyle and needs. Consider factors like the breed’s energy level, size, temperament, and care requirements. Make sure you have the time and resources to commit to training and caring for the dog.

Next, prepare your home for the new dog. Create a safe and comfortable space for the dog, and gather necessary supplies like food, water bowls, a bed, and toys.

French Bulldog
French Bulldog

Most importantly, be prepared to invest time in training and socialisation. A well-trained and socialised dog is happier and more manageable. Consider enrolling in a dog training class or seeking advice from a professional trainer if needed.

Q: You’ve shared a lot of valuable insights. How can people reach you if they want to learn more or need help with their dogs?

A: People can reach me through social media or by visiting my kennel. I’m always happy to help dog owners with training tips and advice. I also offer training services for those who need more hands-on help with their dogs. My goal is to promote responsible dog ownership and ensure that dogs are well-trained and happy.

American Pitbull Terrier
American Pitbull Terrier

Q: Thank you so much for sharing your journey and expertise with us. It’s been incredibly informative.

A: Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure sharing my experiences and knowledge about dog training and breeding. I hope it helps others in their journey with their dogs.

 

Samuel Bolaji

Samuel Bolaji holds a Master of Letters in Publishing Studies from the University of Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He is an experienced researcher, multimedia journalist, writer, and Editor. He is currently the Editor of Arbiterz.

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