News

How to train your dog: From petted pooch to a very good boy

Last year saw a surge in dog ownership as people spent more time at home. Big Issue vendor and training titan Steve explains how to train your furry friend

A naughty puppy stands next to shredded paper

Image credit: Spiced Coffee/Flickr

Big Issue vendors have a wide variety of skills and experience, so we bring you the best of their knowledge each week. Find more vendors and their stories on our vendor map. This week, Steve Dixon from Durham explains how to train your dog based on his experience as a security guard. 

The first time I had a dog was when I was about 14, I had a Doberman. I took it to obedience classes and trained it up to a good standard.

After that I worked as a security guard and we worked with German Shepherds and Dobermans. I provided security on building sites and sometimes we backed up the police. The dogs would be on leads, all snarling and teeth showing. These were lovely dogs really but they were well trained and they knew when they were on duty.

Lockdowns have taken income away from hundreds of Big Issue sellers. Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription.

I’ve got a German Shepherd now, Luna, who’s two years old. If you can train your dog from a pup then it’s easier but even if the dog’s older it’s never impossible.

The first thing you do with your pup is obviously house training and then the second most important thing is to take the dog to the park or wherever and let it off. You shout the dog’s name and when it comes back you give the dog a treat and it starts from there. Before the dog’s six months old it’s coming back to you every time because you’ve shown there’s a reward.

Steve Dixon sells The Big Issue in Durham city centre
BrazierBigIssueDogTraining_Vendor Portrait
Steve Dixon sells The Big Issue in Durham city centre Illustration: Matthew Brazier

My training is always about rewarding good behaviour, I would never hit a dog. In the security work I did the German Shepherds were already trained – not by me! – using cruel tactics. They were trained to a good standard, but having trained other dogs myself reward is better than punishment. All dogs are trainable, some dogs get more excited and have a lot more energy, but it’s never hard to train a dog if you get it focused and interested. The more you leave a problem though the harder it is to fix, but no dog is impossible.

One thing that’s important, and which people seem to forget, is socialising their dog. You get a lot of people who take their dog for a walk and don’t let it off the lead. The dog can become aggressive because they’re on the lead all the time and it gets to a stage where they can never be let off. So it’s important that from a young age you can let your dog off and let it mix with other dogs. They tend to pick their own friends, human ones too. Luna likes to stop at the house of an old woman we know, she goes up to the door and gets a treat. And where I walk her there are loads of people who let their dogs off and they all sniff each other, which is all good socialising.

To anyone who’s recently got a dog, the one thing I’d say is that when you’re training you’ve got to be relentless. If you give in sometimes and decide not to do it today then it won’t work. You’ve got to be persistent in what you do and I promise you it will work.

It doesn’t have to be a big deal, you start small with toilet training and answering to its name and you build from there. If you repeat a word to a dog enough times then it will learn it. Now two years on with Luna, the only problem I have is that she’s taking the mail out of the letterbox and she’s quite rough with it. I’m training her not to because all my letters end up with teeth marks in them.

Steve was speaking to Sarah Reid

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
FOSO is the new FOMO: Why are we so afraid to switch off and be out of office?
Work

FOSO is the new FOMO: Why are we so afraid to switch off and be out of office?

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'
dwp pip/ disabled person
Disability benefits

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP
dwp jobcentre
Department for Work and Pensions

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned
Green transition

Green transition: Help retrain gas workers or risk 'cliff edge' job losses, government warned

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know