Suffolk Dog Day’s Event Manager, Laura Ripman took her 5 month year old black Labrador, Sky along to her first dog training session with Steve Andrews, Suffolk’s highly regarded Dog Trainer. 

I always knew I was keen to start training our pup as soon as I could.  As she is our first family dog, this felt like an overwhelming prospect, but it has been important to us from day one to always instill those basic good behaviours, especially as we have young children. Steve is a familiar face for us all at Suffolk Dog Day HQ, as without fail he is always there leading the judging processin the Helmingham Ring. I headed to the centre of Woodbridge, where Steve has a training paddock, to learn some tips and tricks of the trade!

  • What items of equipment do you recommend when starting out the training process?   I always believe a good quality 10 metre training line (not a flexi lead) for re- call is one of the best pieces of equipment you can buy when starting out.  Through its use, it allows the dog the ability to explore its environment and build confidence in a safe way, but at the same time allowing you the owner to keep them close by. Every dog is different so it is the owner’s job to work out what their dog works best on and what puts the handler in proper control. Alongside that, I always believe that a healthy high value food reward (i.e. ‘treats’) and a tug toy to engage with – this always brings in some fun to the process, as most dogs love to play this game.


  • Do you have a “training philosophy?” For the past thirty years I have trained my own dogs with the principle of rewarding behaviours I do want, and putting a stop to and correcting behaviours I don’t want. If you apply this principle consistently from an early age in a fair, clear concise manner it’s obvious that you will end up using positive reinforcement far more than correcting negative behaviour.  Whether we are talking about adults or children we go through life living with consequences for our behaviour, this happens when we are at school, work or our family lives. Through consequences comes pressure and being able to work through the pressure is an efficient way to grow in confidence.


  • Training your dog should be fun.  Everyone knows it is easier to learn when you are having a good time! What games would you suggest implementing into a training regiem?  A great game/engagement game in my opinion is playing tug with your dog. It builds close quarters engagement and value of the handler.   It can enhance the re- call and teach the dog to release an item on command, which is especially helpful with a mischievous puppy. Tug will not make your dog aggressive and you don’t always have to win!  Scent based games can be great fun for both dog and owner too.


  • What are your top 3 essential commands that you always ensure a dog responds to?  Re- call….The most important command in training.   Down (emergency down if possible) and of course, “No!”


  • Can you train a dog at any age?  Yes you can train a dog at any age, find out what motivates the dog most, make it fun and as long as you use consistency every day, it will begin to stick if you are persistent!


  • Why is routine so important for effectively training your dog…? Dogs, like us learn well through repetition.  Some dogs need more than others to learn behaviours. Structured routine is a very important factor in training a balanced dog. Always finish training on a high note and with the dog wanting to do more ….practice makes perfect!


  • You are a strong believer in ‘dog etiquette’….Yes, I think it is very important that there should always be an element of respect from owner to owner. Try to prevent your dog from simply running up to other dogs, even if they on the lead.  Some dogs have had negative experiences with others, and doing this can set the dogs up to fail!







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