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Understanding the awesome animal at the end of a lead



17 Oct, 2022




thumbnail Screenshot 2022-10-13 112423-662The Piroa-Brynderwyns Know Your Dog Workshops have proven a hit with Northland dog owners keen to get inside the minds of their canine companions and understand what is behind some of their quirky traits and antics.

“It’s hard for us to imagine the world of a dog because we are reliant on a totally different set of senses,” says retired vet Lesley Baigent of Kaitaia, who has developed the workshops after a lifetime of living, working, treating and training with dogs.

“With a sense of smell about 100,000 times more powerful than a human, dogs can detect the faintest of scents with great ease. This vastly superior sense of smell helps them to navigate and interpret their world, whereas us humans instead rely on vision.”

Baigent, the owner of four dogs herself, hopes to help other dog owners understand the incredible powers of their canine family members and why they do what they do.

“Even when out together for ‘walkies’, the world we are seeing and the invisible world they are smelling may be quite different,” says Lesley. “Humans might be enjoying the exercise, but our pet pooch is sniffing out territory markings, food, potential prey and basically employing all their natural hunting instincts. So, it’s time to put away your phone and focus on your dog – get to know the signs if they are about to launch into a spot of trouble!”

The popular Know Your Dog Workshops take a look at dog breeds and what certain types of dogs have been bred to do by humans for centuries. Baigent said understanding a dog’s breed and what their triggers and motivations were could help owners to better understand their four-legged friends.

“It gives you an idea of how your dog is likely to behave so we can react faster or prevent putting them in a tricky situation in the first place. At every workshop we’ve run, people have been surprised to learn about the key characteristics of certain dog breeds. For instance, how dachshunds were bred to be badger-finders, with their rectangle shape making them perfect for going down badger holes.”

“Or think about some of the trendy dog breeds these days such as the labradoodle. Many people do not realise that their cute labradoodle is actually a mix of two types of bird dog – labrador and poodle. Learning this means that the next time they are walking their dog in a bird area, they can be quick with the lead and be aware why their dog is showing so much excitement around birds and what they can do to keep him safe and happy in these situations.”

The workshop also address common doggy issues that can really be a struggle for owners and is intended for those living in areas with native wildlife such as shorebirds, kiwi, weka or pateke.

“Our dogs want to be understood and also to understand the human world we are asking them to live in,” adds Lesley. “Dogs pulling on leads, or running off in full flight after rabbits ignoring recall commands, or even just tearing up your furniture while you’re at work – these behaviours all become simpler to manage when we understand why our dog is doing what it’s doing, and how we can make sure we are not setting them up to fail our expectations.”

Dogs are smart , and they want to be our “good dog”. We can work together to ensure our dogs are getting a great life while still upholding conservation values. With the right training of dogs and owners, it should be possible for dogs to live successfully in areas of kiwi.


n Piroa-Brynderwyns Landcare Group, in partnership with Kiwi Coast, is running two free workshops in their area for dog owners. If you are keen to join you can register via the website pbl.org.nz/page25.html where you can chose from dates and locations, or email PiroaBrynderwynsLandcare@outlook.com


“Our dogs want to be understood and also to understand the human world we are asking them to live in.”


Humans might be enjoying the exercise, but our pet pooch is sniffing out territory markings, food, potential prey, says Lesley Baigent, pictured here working with kiwi. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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