Meet Holly & Ace….Australia’s Smartest Dogs!
Want to meet the gorgeous dog crowned Australia’s smartest?
Ace, the border collie, was named Australia’s Smartest Dog last year by ‘The Living Room’ program. After watching the episode, I just had to contact Ace’s human and trainer Dai Aoki – an interview with him was bound to unearth some wonderful insights and tips. Ace has an equally smart fur sibling in Holly (also a border collie) and wonderfully both are rescue dogs. Meet Ace, Holly and Dai.
Introduce us to Holly & Ace
I adopted Holly in September 2013 when she was 9 months old. She’s just turned 2. Her birthday is 24th of December so that’s why her name is Holly. She’s a princess and a very strong girl. After Holly, I wanted to give her company, so began searching and contacted a few people about a second rescue dog but I could not easily find the right dog. I finally did in December last year when I met Ace. Ace was 6 months old at the time. He’s very easy going, but a good competitor to Holly!
What was the first trick you taught your dogs?
Naturally, I started with basic obedience behaviour such as ‘sit’, ‘stay, ‘lay down’, ‘roll over’ and ’play dead’. Both dogs were also taught Frisbee during their morning and evening walks. This in particular they took too and within one week they were able to catch Frisbee in the air.
I taught Holly ‘Take a bow’ in the beginning and modified it to ‘Where is your bum’ trick.
With Ace I taught him ‘Sitting pretty’ at first and modified it to ‘Stick ‘em up’ trick.
Just check out those and more of their incredible tricks:
What was the most difficult trick you’ve taught them?
The horse riding or Napoleon trick would have to be the most difficult. This is a two dog trick and difficult because the position of the top dog is a dominance position. Most dogs usually don’t want another dog riding on them. I conditioned my dogs to love to ride on each other using food as rewards, and by always making it a positive association with this behaviour.
What is your philosophy in training your dogs? What training method do you use with your dogs?
I only use positive reinforcement in the training that I do. And, equally importantly, I always have fun with my dogs. I actually don’t really use the word “training” – we are just having a good time together and learning new things.
What tips do you have for someone wanting to teach their dogs new tricks?
The most important things in training your dogs are consistency, patience, respect and love. My top four tips for anyone wanting to teach their dogs new tricks are:
- Take very, tiny, baby steps.
- Don’t expect your dog to do a trick straight away.
- You need consistency and patience with your dogs as they master a new behaviour.
- Always reward well to make your dogs want to learn more.
These tips will give your dog success in learning and demonstrating a trick, and that gives them confidence to use this trick and to learn more.
What mistakes do you see many dogs owners make when it comes to training their dogs?
People often try to stop dogs unwanted behaviours. But dogs are not able to just stop doing a particular behaviour. Instead training should be able teaching them new and correct behaviours. If you want to stop a bad behaviour your dog has, then you need to teach your dog the way you would like for it to behave in that particular situation, repeating and rewarding that correct behaviour. Giving your dog an alternative behaviour to demonstrate is the quickest way to stop unwanted behaviour.
Are some dogs untrainable?
I think this depends on the individual more than the dog. All dogs are different so if you spend a lots of time, you can train most dogs.
At what age should people start training their dogs?
You can start from 3 weeks. But that said you can start training your dog at any age ~ it’s never too late to start dog training.
What are the challenges when training your own dogs, that don’t apply when you’re training other dogs?
I don’t expect too much from other dogs. I know my dogs well and sometimes I ask too much of my dogs. I am very aware of it and try to remember my own top tips.
What is the next trick that you’re working on with Ace & Holly?
The three of us dancing together!
How and why did you become a dog trainer?
I have had a few dogs in my life and I have never learned properly about dog training. With Holly and Ace, I wanted to spend quality time with them and have happy long lives together, so I undertook a course on Canine behaviour. I have tried many different training methods, made mistakes and found my own style from this. My style is based on the modern dog training method of Positive Reinforcement.
What do you enjoy most about being a dog trainer?
Having fun with many dogs and getting kisses.
What should people look for in a dog trainer?
Firstly, a dog trainer won’t fix any problems or train your dogs. As trainers, we are there to educate people on how to interact with their dogs and understand their behaviour. A good dog trainer, makes the dog’s owner a good trainer of their dog.
Photography by Dai Aoki.
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