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OP-ED: Club Ready to put Best Paw Forward in 2021

Thursday 7 January 2021, The Examiner

According to the RSPCA, there are over 29 million pets in Australia and we have one of the highest pet-ownership rates in the world. Approximately 61 per cent of households in Australia own pets, with dogs being the most common at 40 per cent. Cats are next at 27 per cent, followed by fish, birds, small mammals and then reptiles.

For the 40 per cent of homes with dogs, I wanted to acknowledge some of the hard work that's being done with our pooches and their families at the Tasmanian Dog Training Club (TDTC), an organisation of which I have been privileged to be a patron for a number of years now. The club was set up to provide puppy training and basic obedience training classes to about 3,600 dogs year year, bot new and ongoing, having been formed in 1959 and known initially as the Dog Club of Launceston. These days, they operate out of Churchill Park on Sundays.

The TDTC is a not-for-profit organisation, and runs classes consisting of puppies, tweenies, beginners, grades 1 to 3, advanced agility and Rally-O courses. Twenty-two volunteers provide in excess of 6,500 hours each year. It is clearly a well-subscribed service and families pay only a modest fee to participate in each session. For the club's volunteers, executive and participants, it is very much a labour of love, with a lot of fun thrown into the mix.

The aim of the club is to provide good value training and advice to the public so that the dogs in our community are well-socialised and well-mannered. Evidence shows that raining provides mental stimulation and adequate exercise for dogs. It reduces barking and aggressive dog issues such as biting and chasing other dogs, animals and humans. Studies also show that training makes puppies more confident, by teaching them proper behaviour through positive reinforcement and gives them an outlet to exercise and burn off excess energy. They learn healthy habits, how not to engaging in destructive behaviours and it sets them up for a longer, healthier life, with fewer physical and cognitive issues. There is literally no downside to participating in a TDTC program.

Dog training is a two-way street - both for dogs and their owners. The TDTC provides training to a wide range of people in the community from kids to older people, able-bodied, as well as for people with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities. It is very much an inclusive space that offers, actively promotes and encourages community participation in fun physical activities.

Training also assists people to understand the importance of correct breed selection to suit their lifestyle and location. It encourages responsible dog ownership which, in turn, makes for happier pups and families. Many people who work with their dogs to build their obedience, rally and tracking skills say that the bond and relationship with their dogs are made stronger and deeper through participating in these programs.

The TDTC also provides information on the requirements of local councils and any possible upcoming changes to dog-related legislation. They provide advice to the public about desexing, microchipping, dietary requirements and animal husbandry and all the necessary obligations of being a responsible dog owner.

One of the core courses available through the club is puppy socialisation; a four-week course of one-hour sessions. This is an introduction to owning a dog and teaches control and socialisation experience, instructs owners about their responsibilities to their dog and the community and offers advice on solving puppy issues such as jumping and biting. It also prepares puppies to cope with stressful experiences such as visiting the vet or groomer.

There is a beginners obedience course, which provides an introduction to owning a dog and focuses on dog training by way of teaching a range of commands useful to owning a dog. Completion of these classes progression to more advanced classes for increasing levels of obedience, which can also provide a lead-in to other activities and sports.

Agility, timed obstacle courses, endurance tests, tracking, track and search and rally obedience are just some of the more advanced activities that owners and their dogs can have the opportunity to participate in. Unfortunately, many of the advanced classes were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the club is gearing up 2021 and is very keen to get back into regular business once social distancing requirements have eased.

Being a very socially-conscious club, the TDTC also participates in fundraising events such as the RSPCA Million Paws Walk and makes regular donations to worthy causes.

If you have a new puppy, considering getting one, or just feel your dog could do with some training, I encourage you to consider coming along for some exercise and fun at Churchill Park when classes resume in February.

Independent Launceston Legislative Councillor

Rosemary Armitage MLC


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