By Bejay Browne
HUNDREDS of dogs of all shapes and sizes are enjoying the facilities at two dedicated dog parks in Paphos and Limassol.
The parks are operated by K9 Solutions, which was set up by UK qualified dog trainer and behaviourist, Lindsay Cowie, a number of years ago.
She is Paphos-based and offers a range of services for dogs including, assessing and sorting out behaviour problems, training packages, instructing, puppy advice, group training classes, doggy day care and a dog walking service. She also provides home and residential training.
Hailed by many who have used her services as a real-life ‘dog whisperer’, Cowie has a knack for understanding the subtle nuances of canine behaviour that most people couldn’t identify. She says most problems displayed by dogs can be put down to the ‘pack’ they live with.
“As our relationship with dogs has evolved, they have become more like a family member than a pet dog which is lovely. My dogs are my kids, but as they are pack animals by nature, they need to know where their place in the pack is.”
Cowie says most problems dogs have are created by their owners. “We may think that we are being kind by spoiling them and showing them a lot of attention, but in fact they can see this as a sign of weakness and they need a strong leader to identify with,” she said.
Cowie dismisses a number of methods used by well known TV personality trainers as cruel and outdated and instead implements recognised UK techniques alongside her own natural abilities.
“You will get the best out of your dog when he is enjoying himself. I offer kind, motivational and rewarding methods for your dog, and don’t advocate punishment, negative enforcement or heavy handling. This way a dog will be happy and enjoy behaving himself,” she added.
The married dog lover explained that she is able to identify why a dog is behaving a certain way, by gauging its body language and using other indicators. She will then give advice to the owners but says it’s up to them to follow through.
“There is no miracle cure for a dog after one visit, that’s not how it works. This can take time and patience, depending on the problem,” she said.
Both of the parks offer a secure outdoor space for canines and their owners to meet up and socialise during classes. Alternatively, the parks which also houses the agility courses – a sort of obstacle course for dogs – and a box of toys for them to play with, can be hired for an hourly fee of €10 by groups of friends or individuals who don’t want to let dogs off their leashes elsewhere.
“The parks are a great outlet for dogs’ natural exuberance in a safe place. Many animal lovers are afraid their dogs may succumb to poisoning or snake bites,” said Cowie.
The dog psychologist says she is confident that whatever problems a dog or puppy may be showing, she can help to alleviate it over time.
“If a dog doesn’t know its place within the pack and there isn’t a clear leader, it will take on the job itself, as it instinctively knows that there has to be a leader. That single problem will cause many other behavioural problems, such as jumping up, over protection, excessive barking, pulling on the lead, scavenging food, attention seeking and jealousy. It all comes from the dog thinking it’s top of the pack.”
Cowie, who has four large dogs of her own, isn’t sure where her ability to understand dogs comes from. She gained her qualifications in the UK and spent a number of years prior to that working in a kennel with 50 or so German Shepherds. But she was crazy about dogs and gravitated towards them at just a few months old.
“I have never been scared of dogs and understanding them comes naturally to me. I learnt a lot from working at the kennels and I was obsessed with dogs from an early age. No one in my family can work out why this is, as none are particular animal lovers, and don’t have any pets.”
Playgroups for dogs are also offered at both parks and are a good way to socialise dogs, says Cowie. There are two separate play groups at the Paphos facility, one for small or shy dogs and another for ‘rowdy’ dogs – large or small. Another is held weekly in Limassol for friendly dogs of all sizes. Cowie works up to seven days a week and says that being able to do her hobby as a job is hugely rewarding.
Although she believes she can help almost every dog, she stressed the ability to change an animal’s behaviour was down to the owner.
“If I can’t educate the owners to show the dog how he should be behaving, the dog won’t change,” she said.
“If your dog’s place is at the top of your pack and you don’t mind all of the problems that come with that, then he’ll be happy. If his place is at the bottom and he knows he’s at the bottom, he’ll also be happy, and so will you.”
Simple behaviour owners should avoid, include allowing a dog to sleep on a bed with you or sit beside you on a sofa. “He will then rightfully believe he is your equal. You have to create a gap between you and the dog,” said Cowie.
Each person that completes any of the eight courses offered – which range from frivolous to more serious – is presented with a graduation certificate complete with a picture of the dog undertaking the course.
“The courses are six weeks long and there a set format each week.This is so that we achieve certain goals and there is a gradual growth each lesson,” said Cowie.
During July, August and the first half of September, Cowie stops the outdoor courses as it’s too hot for both animals and owners, although she continues to offer private training and consultations at people’s homes.