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Personal Journey
Wise Woman:  Dee O'Brien

Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Friend and Dog Training Instructor


has been a Dog Training Instructor for many years now. Her love of dogs all started with the purchase of her first puppy a few years after she arrived in Australia from New Zealand.   

                                Dee and her Border Collie, Baxter

Dee, welcome to Wisewomensworld.

We are talking to you because your special interest is dog training.


Gigi:  What was it that attracted you to take it up?

Dee:  Just after I had purchased a puppy I saw an ad in the local pet shop and so I decided to join a club simply to have an obedient dog. For over 35 years I have continued training all of the dogs I have owned.


Why do dogs appeal to you?

Actually, it is their undying love and loyalty.  They don’t care whether you are having a bad hair day, haven’t got your make up on or whatever! They just love you for what and who you are.  Dogs have this wonderful quality – a friend forever.


Did you have a dog as a child?

No, we didn’t have any fences and so my father said we couldn’t have a dog.  It seems strange now, but people generally didn’t have a dog in those days unless they lived on a farm.


Do you think dogs and children mix?

Yes, but if you have small children the size of the dog would be something to consider, and probably a small dog would be better.  Big dogs can easily knock children over.  When my youngest child turned three, I actually bought a large breed dog.  Of course, I started the dog at ‘puppy school’.   It gave me a feeling of confidence, and more importantly, the dog knew who was in charge.  And of course, the rule is:  children should always be supervised when in the presence of any dog, irrespective of its size.


What breed was of your very first dog?

A German Shepherd called Carl.  He was all shepherd although he didn’t have pedigree papers.  I bought him from a back yard breeder at Berrowa Heights.  Not very sensible in hindsight as the poor thing was infested with worms and he had rickets.  He became so ill the vet said if this dog survives it will be a miracle.


What are rickets?
It is a lack of calcium.  While his mother was pregnant she wasn’t fed properly.  Carl survived though and grew into a lovely dog.  But, when he was only three he got a serious problem with his spine and I had to have him put to sleep.  It was really sad.


How many dogs have you had in total?

Altogether, about 10.

When you go along to training classes, do you feel like the sessions are for you or the dog?

When you begin to train your first dog you haven’t got a clue what you are doing.   Initially the instructors are training the handlers how to train the dog.  You build a bond with the dog and once you know what you doing, it becomes a team thing. The more dogs you train the better your next dog will be.  Practise makes perfect, the handler requiring just as much practise as the dog.


Now as instructor I look at people just starting out and remember back to those early days.  It’s not easy at the beginning and there is a whole lot of learning to do, but once you have gained all the skills, you and the dog are off on a wonderful journey.  You never stop learning as a handler, so it’s good to keep renewing your skills as training methods change over the years and can make training your dog a whole lot easier.


What are the best dogs to train?

Shepherds, border collies, poodles and retrievers are all very intelligent.


What is the worst dog?

I would say a setter of some sort.


But they look so beautiful!

Yes they do, all looks and no brain, but of course, there are always exceptions!!!


What kind of people attend dog training?

All types from all walks of life.  Most people come because they want their dogs to be well trained and also because it is a good hobby.  But some people come because they feel they have to.


What motivates these people then?

They want their dog to come when it’s called. They want their dog to sit, drop and stay on command.  They hope the dog will respond with little effort on their part.   If they only put in three five minute sessions a day, when they go back to the classes they would really see the difference.  Then they would end up with a dog that does what it is told and has nice manners.  It’s repetition – just like handling a child.  If you put in the work – it pays off.


Do the dogs enjoy training?

Yes they do.  I know mine enjoy the whole experience.  They like socialising with other dogs and also mixing with other people.  You might have a dog that gets a bit stressed with the prospect of being so close to other dogs, but the thing is to keep going as it benefits the dog. Don’t leave it shut up in the back yard for 6 months and then take the dog for a walk and then wonder why it is a blithering wreck?  In his unfamiliar surroundings he will be frightened and his behaviour will reflect that.


What breed of dogs do you have now?

Two Border Collies and a German Shepherd.  The male Border Collie is called Baxter, and the Shepherd is Sebastian.  Kate, the other Border Collie is a lot older but in their world she is definitely the boss.  They are all nice dogs and have individual personalities – just like children.


Have they all achieved in the ring?

Kate has her Excellence Companion title.  I am still working on Sebastian.  He’s a bit nervy but he’s improved dramatically over the years and I expect to see further improvements.  Baxter is young but he has already been shown in the show ring and he also has a lot of potential in the obedience ring. I actually bought him for obedience work.  Thankfully he’s very intelligent and he loves working.


Do you think Baxter will go far?

I don’t know about the show ring yet, his mother and father are Australian champions but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be, of course.  But he has got the right conformation for showing, which means he has all the correct physical qualities.  So there is hope and so I am looking forward to see how he comes along as he matures.  The best thing about him though is his personality.  He has a lovely, lovely nature.  I will be concentrating on obedience but he has obvious traits that could make him stand out in either ring.

Thanks, Dee.

And our doggy quote:

“Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms”…….. George Elliot