You CAN teach an old dog new tricks

The Dogfather
The Dogfather

ASHLEIGH Butler and her dog Pudsey wowed the nation with their dance routine on the weekend’s final of Britain’s Got Talent.

But how easy is it to teach your dog to dance?

Features editor Joni Ager finds out.

The sight of shaggy-haired Pudsey dancing on his hind legs alongside his devoted owner Ashleigh Butler was enough to net the pair £500,000 and the title of Britain’s Got Talent 2012 winners last week.

The dancing duo wowed both the talent show judges and millions of TV viewers with their complex routines, which saw Pudsey jump on cue and weave between Ashleigh’s legs to music.

After only their first audition, Simon Cowell claimed it was the best dancing dog act he had ever seen.

But just how easy is it to teach your dog to dance?

For Wellingborough teenager Ashleigh, a pupil at Wrenn School, it has taken years of hard work and training.

But professional dog trainer Graeme Hall, who works under the name The Dogfather, says almost any dog owner can teach their pet a few tricks.

Graeme, from Overstone, said: “There are lots of tricks you can teach your dog. How far you get will depend on how good your dog is and how good you are.

“What has happened with Ashleigh and Pudsey is he is a particularly good dog and she has a talent for it.

“What most people want to start with is a well-behaved dog in every sense. If your dog is not even well-behaved when you just walk him, you are not going to be able to do more.

“It really is true that you have to learn to walk before you can run.”

Beginners should start with mastering heel work, getting the dog to walk nicely by your side. Graeme says you can then start putting this to music and adding some rhythm to it.

You can also teach your dog to jump on command and progress on to other tricks.

The key is to reward your dog when he does something right.

Graeme said: “All dogs have something they would do anything for. Some are not bothered about treats. With my dog it is a combination of treats and toys. Above all they want affection.

“Ashleigh has taught her dog lots of little commands and I’d also suggest she is probably encouraging the dog with ‘Good dog!’ and words like that.

“Interestingly, in things like trials and obedience competitions you are penalised for talking too much because it is supposed to be a test for the dog.”

Pudsey is a border collie, bichon frise and Chinese crested cross and Ashleigh has been training him in canine freestyle since he was three.

But are there certain breeds that respond better to learning tricks than others?

Graeme says smaller dogs tend to learn most quickly, particularly Jack Russells.

“I have two Rottweilers and a Jack Russell and of the three of them he is the one I would choose to learn tricks.

“Border collies are also very good at heel to music.

“That is not to say you could teach any dog and go on to win Britain’s Got Talent, but you can certainly do quite a lot with any dog and still have lots of fun.”

To find out more about The Dogfather canine training, call 01604 493007 or visit the website www.dogfathertraining.co.uk