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An interview with Mrs Pat Oliver Dog Behaviourist
By William Hansen (Jhanzi) New Zealand 1997
Email address: William.
Page 1


In this article, first published in the Central Afghan Hound Club magazine No.1 Vol 1997, William Hansen interviews Mrs Pat Oliver, a nationally certificated Dog Trainer. Her level of commitment to her chosen vocation is considerable. Pats dog training centre and family home is located at Peka Peka, on the Kapiti Coast, an hours drive north of Wellington City where most of her client's and their families live. Her professional interest with dogs spans a broad range including socialisation programming, obedience, agility, and trial work. Since the 1990's she has focused on dog psychological and behavioural training.

William first met Pat during the course of one of her canine socialisation training programmes. William was a bone-fide client with a young and rather recalcitrant Afghan hound with a lot of natural instinct and promise. Pat recognised this young Afghan Hound as one requiring socialisation programming and one of a number of those special dogs very worthy of greater things. William's aims were three fold: to re-build her confidence with people; to harness her intelligence and; to extend her possibilities for a variety of activities other than the show ring. All three aims seemed utterly impossible to achieve at the outset. This was to prove quite a test for owner/handler, dog and trainer.

During the course of Pats training programme which was suited to William's dog, it soon became clear that Pats natural affinities with dogs were extending to William's Afghan Hound and with remarkable results for all concerned. In fact, this was normal and appeared to William to extend to others attending the courses with their particular breed or type of dog as well. Many dogs were going through a range of programmes and without exception, all the dogs appeared to respond to her programme in a positive way when the owners followed her advice.

Pat is interviewed on her working experience with dogs and in particular the Afghan Hound. Her opinions which are her own, are based on her research and training and years of observation, positive results and satisfied customers.


Over recent years, behaviour training has become Pats full time occupation. During this decade of increased canine public awareness requirements for her services have become very demanding. It is no surprise to find that her professional observations and practical common- sense skills and instructions are highly regarded. Maybe as a result of our recently revamped dog control laws, pet dog owners appear more pro-active with dog/owner education and look to the professionals dog trainers for the right advice?

As a consequence of responsible dog ownership, Pat is seeing many new dog owners for training and she sees noticeable changes in their attitude and eagerness to "get it right." Most of her clients actively seek her programmes while other clients and their anti-social dogs are literally "doing time," for canine related offences, as prescribed by the authorities.

One thing is certain, the general public of New Zealand appear to have sent a message to dog owners to "get it together and get it right with your dogs and don't affect us. This also appears to reflect the worldwide message which is loud and clear, "delinquent dogs in our communities are no longer acceptable."

To set the interview rolling William asks Pat some questions of a general nature.

Q. What influenced your study and specialisation in dog behaviour?

PAT "I had a gut feeling that there was a lot more to dog training than just teaching basic exercises, which is what you learn at dog obedience clubs. Within a very short time I found my gut feeling proved to be right and with this in mind I made it my business to learn dog psychology."

Q. When and where did you train and whose training methods influenced you most?

PAT "I started basic dog obedience some 13-14 years ago in Auckland. The two people who influenced me the most were a lovely lady called Kura Matenga and Allan Symes. After I made it my profession I went to Australia and trained at Multi National K-9. It was there that I specialised in dog psychology. Their training methods opened up a whole new world for me regarding the training of dogs. I had to sit exams, three were practical and three were written. One of my trainers was an American man named Mike Munson. He is a leading police dog trainer, drugs dog trainer, cadaver dog trainer and behaviour trainer. The two other trainers were Gary Jackson, also a police and protection dog trainer and Craig Murray with the same qualifications."

Q. What aspects of dog behaviour interest you most?

PAT "Watching dogs in their natural habitat, watching and listening to what they do and why they do it. I also love helping people to understand the way a dog thinks as opposed to the way we would like them to think."

Q What are the most common problem areas you encounter with your canine clients?

PAT "Dogs not knowing their position in the family pecking order. Dogs stressed from being treated like humans."

Q. What are the most common problems you encounter with your canine client owners?

PAT "Owners not willing to accept the fact that a dog is a dog, not a child substitute. Play fighting with their dogs, thus causing serious aggression problems is the other which is one of the major causes for children being bitten in this country - believe me, I know, I have actually completed a survey on it."

Q. In your opinion, do you manage to resolve these problems and how do you go about it?

PAT "These problems are solved quite easily, by teaching the owner how to see his dog for what it is, A DOG. If the problem is really bad I sometimes will take the dog into my training kennels and desensitize it, then put basic obedience commands into the dog, thus giving it a job to do which makes the dog very happy. I also train the owner to carry on the process, which has proved to be very successful. To fully answer this question I would need to write a book, which may well happen in the future."

Q. What range of programmes do you offer?

PAT "I have a psychological course comprised of six lessons which covers all aspects of dog behaviour, obedience exercises and basic dog laws. This course has proven to be very beneficial, especially in helping owners to better understand their dogs. The feedback that I have had from this course from owners is always positive. From my observations, dogs have already started to change after the second lesson. Changes are in most cases quite remarkable. I also hold seminars and workshop weekends which are also very beneficial and this is probably what I enjoy doing best of all. Basic obedience and show training - with a little help from my friends - are popular and are ongoing. Agility will be offered shortly, when the weather fines up and daylight savings are here. In-kennel training, for those owners who go away, or lead busy lives is also a course that proves to be popular."

Q. After the completion of a reprogramming course can problems reoccur and if so how best can this be avoided?

PAT "Yes. Problems can reoccur if the owner does not carry on the training which he/she has been shown. Other aspects also include maintaining the correct pecking order where human/canine and canine/canine relationships must remain in place at all times."

Let us now move on to discuss the Afghan Hound breed. I know that you have had the opportunity to assist a number of Afghan Hounds and their owners in recent years and that you are currently providing professional support to new and experienced Afghan Hound owners with their new puppies.

Q. Do you find any important behavioural aspects that concern you?

PAT "I can't say that I find any behavioural traits that concern me, simply because to me the bottom line is a dog is a dog, no matter what the breed. However I have found that with a number of Afghan Hounds, their aloofness is sometimes evident, which is in the general make up of the breed and this can often be mistaken for shyness or even fear."



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