Over in the Bahamas, he's known as the Caribbean K9 but, somewhat closer to home, you can now find Dwight Higgins working as Head Dog Trainer at Hanrob Pet Hotels Melbourne, helping to improve the lives of hundreds of Melbourne dogs and their owners each month. With more than 30 years experience under his belt, we caught up with Dwight Higgins to chat about his secret to success when it comes to dog training. 

1.    Patience makes perfect

Having run his own dog training business in the Bahamas for many years and with more than 30 years’ experience as a professional dog trainer, no one knows the importance of patience when it comes to dog training more than Dwight. “Patience is the key to success,” he says firmly.

According to Dwight, one of the hardest things to teach a dog is to be unreactive, if they are reactive towards everything. “To overcome this, it takes a lot of time, patience and a good eye for perfect timing to reward the right behaviour,” he says.

As a dog owner, therefore, it’s important to be able to identify the right behaviour to reward, and to have the patience to keep on rewarding that behaviour when it happens, over and over again.  

(We're not sure why Dwight swapped the balmy Bahamas for Melbourne but we sure are glad to have his expertise!)

2.   A social pet is a happy pet

 “Socialisation is key to a better life for your dog,” says Dwight. “It’s therefore crucial to get them used to all and every situation you can think of”.

Having your dog adapt to different conditions and activities in your life is not only important to your dog’s behaviour and happiness, it will also be beneficial to you. It will mean that you can confidently do more with your dog without being worried about how they may react todifferent circumstances and also, you can do somethings without them, knowing that they are ok without you.

 Dwight recommends including your dog in activities and introducing them to other people and pets from a young age. “Group obedience training and puppy classes are a great way to improve the socialisation skills of dogs,” he says.

3.    Pick a pup that suits your lifestyle

First and foremost, however, Dwight recommends doing your research before deciding on which dog breed to welcome into your home.

“When looking to bring a new pup into the family, it is important to research and select a dog breed that will suit your lifestyle” says Dwight. “Whilst all individual dogs are different, certain breeds carry personality traits unique to that breed,” he explains. “Some are more excitable and need to be more active whilst other dogs are happy to lay low and chill out with you. It’s a good idea to look at your lifestyle and what you need from your dog and what the dog can expect from you.”

Dwight’s message is clear: researching the personality traits of different breeds can increase the chances of picking a pup that will adapt well to your work and / or family life. So, if you work long hours outside the house and the dog will be left alone for most of the day, we recommend picking a pup that can be left for long periods of time without causing too much destruction, like chewing on furniture. Basset Hounds, French Bulldogs, Chihuahuas and Pugs are some of the dogs that can be left alone much of the day without causing too much havoc. If you are home most days and have kids around or maybe looking for a companion for an elderly family member, dogs like Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Beagles, Boston Terriers and Poodles would make the ideal furry family member.

As for Dwight, he has a soft spot for Belgian Malinois.

“I started working with the Belgian Malinois back in 1987 and fell in love with the breed then. They are high energy, high drive, long life span and they are affectionate to their owners and smart.”