This week, we are delighted to present Sandra, the owner of Dogtalk and a specialist in canine behavioral therapy. Sandra took the time to sit with us, share her story, and offer many valuable tips. Her area of expertise is puppy behavior, so if you have recently welcomed a new puppy into your home or are planning to do so, keep reading for useful information.
Q: Sandra, so happy to see you. Would you be so kind to introduce yourself to our readers?
A: My name is Sandra Mur-Bekaert and together with my wife Sandra Bekaert I have a great company DogTalk: a large dog school at the Amsterdamse Bos. We provide dog training and behavioral guidance there, at people's homes and on location.
We live in Aalsmeer with our 5 beagles, and we regularly have a litter of beagle puppies that grow up in a home environment. We breed beagles under the kennel name DogTalk beagles.
Q: We are very interested in what you do, you have a dog training company and are even a specialized behavioral therapist! Can you tell us what you do? How did this start?
A: I have always had a big heart for animals, I even wanted to become a veterinarian. Unfortunately, that path turned out differently. And I eventually completed a physiotherapy and management training and worked for a long time in the health and leisure industry. Until I fell in love with my dog trainer. And not much later decided to retrain and invest heavily in her company. The rest is history!
In addition to (and perhaps especially) working as an entrepreneur, I am now involved in the training and supervision of dogs and their owners on a daily basis. We look at the complete context, every family and every dog is different.
We are also involved in the development of education, and we are involved in the content of various quality marks and accreditations. And we are actively involved in the trade association. Because we believe that by improving our field of work, we can improve animal welfare.
Q: How did you become a behavioral therapist?
A: As I said before, I fell in love with the dog trainer (we have been married for several years now). In addition, the love for animals still crept there and I saw great opportunities in her company. Which, after retraining to become an instructor and later a behavioral therapist, became our company.
Within our company how I am mainly involved in the business / development part, I do the puppy training and the behavioral guidance / therapy. My wife and our instructors provide the advanced training for the older dogs.
Q: What do you like most about what you do?
A: We actively contribute to improving animal welfare and thereby also improving the well-being of the family and the environment.
In addition, I can still immensely enjoy the development that the (young) dogs go through together with their family. With our guidance, they really become a team! That remains special to see.
You are specialized in puppy behavior; this is of course the moment when a lot of questions start to arise with people. We have a few questions that we think often come up. What are your tips for…
Q: …Before the puppy comes home? What should we think about? Are there specific products to purchase in advance?
A: Yes! Shopping before your puppy comes is always fun! Things you really shouldn't forget:
- a water and food bowl
- A line (preferably one of 1.80 -3 meters, and no flexi line)
- A collar and a well-fitting harness
- A bench and/or run
- A comfortable basket or pillow
- Some fun toys
- Quite a bit of stuff to chew on
- Healthy snacks
When you first take your puppy to your new home, realize that everything is new and exciting for the puppy. So, ensuring basic security should be the most important thing. Don't make the world too big just yet. Show where the water/food bowl, his sleeping place and the toys are. And let your puppy discover at his/her own pace. Don't set the bar too high, it's not nothing, suddenly being away from your safe environment and having to discover your new home.
Q: …Feeding your pup, what kind of food can I buy in advance? (Number of meals per day)
A: Always consult with your breeder about which food is recommended. Because the puppies are weaned with a certain food and have been eating that food for several weeks. Abrupt changes can cause gastrointestinal complaints. And most breeders have a certain view on nutrition. Take it over the first weeks, and if you have a different idea about it yourself. Then after about 6 weeks (when the puppy is used to it) calmly switch to the other food.
A puppy does not have to be hungry, they grow very fast, that requires energy. Most puppies do well on 3-4 feedings a day.
Q: …The first night, what do you recommend for the first night? How do I keep my puppy calm? Where is the best place for the puppy to sleep?
A: If you assume that your puppy does not feel safe, misses his environment and littermates and we want a good bond with the new family. Then stay close to the puppy until it is more comfortable. So, take the puppy to the bedroom or sleep near the puppy yourself.
Something about the nest smell can be calming, so be sure to check with the breeder. And a "buddy" at the sleeping place can help. These are somewhat larger cuddly toys with a heartbeat, heat element and sometimes even a calming scent. These mimic the nest mates and provide a lot of support.
Q: …Potty training? (pee pads? How many hours of walking, specific tips for an apartment)
A: Potty training starts with the breeder. So there can also be a big difference in how toilet-trained a puppy is. A puppy naturally needs to move away from the nest before urinating and defecating. They do that when they are a few days old. If this has been stimulated by the breeder, you will see that the puppy will also look for the edges of the house/garden in the new house. Then it's time to take the puppy outside.
Keep to a schedule, go outside about every 1.5-2 hours (unless they are sleeping, sleep is sacred, so let them sleep). In addition, you go outside immediately after sleeping, eating, playing, and training. And if your puppy shows urges.
A handy tip for potty training: do not walk too much, better hang around and mess around until the puppy pees.
Q: …Training, when can I start training a puppy? When can I go to a course. What do you recommend starting with?
A: A puppy is trainable from about 4 weeks of age, so here too it depends on what the breeder has already done. I recommend making the most of the first 16 weeks, so start as soon as possible. Simply because the puppy learns the fastest during that period.
I advise first to get started with attention exercises, calling the pup over and moving along on the leash. This is often the basis for all further training.
Q: …Leaving the pup alone for the first time, what can I do to make this run as smoothly as possible?
A: This again depends on the development of the puppy. Just like with human children, we cannot put all puppies in the same table or statistic. So, it comes as it comes.
It is important that there is a basic safety first: can the puppy fall asleep well, does it sleep reasonably well at night, find the puppy regularly rest during the day, the puppy does not follow you everywhere and can also keep itself a bit occupied? Then you can start in small steps from leaving alone. But don't go too fast!
Q: …Going to the park, when can I take my puppy to the park? What should I pay attention to?
A: That depends a bit on the area where you live. You want to keep your puppy away from places with a lot of dog poop for up to 12 weeks. So, I would avoid busy parks, but where it is a bit quieter, you can already explore there together.
Q: …Socialization, what can I do to properly socialize my puppy?
A: Go do the things that suit your life. So, for example, if your adult dog later comes with you on a visit, to the sports fields, or to work, etc. Do all those things briefly with your puppy. Pay attention to your puppy's ability to recover. It is important that your puppy examines the situations in a relaxed manner and recovers quickly from any shock. You want them to be good experiences. Visits of 10-15 minutes are often more than enough. Repeat this regularly for the first few weeks.
Q: These tips are all so useful. Do you have any specific product recommendations?
A: I am a big fan of the Adaptil junior products. This is an adapter for the wall socket and a collar. Both release an artificial pheromone. This is a substance that the mother dog also carries. It has been shown that puppies that we use the Adaptil learn faster during the first weeks, get used to it faster and are just more at ease.
Q: This sounds great. What would you say are absolute no-go's for raising a puppy? Why so?
A: Leaving them to their own devices, that's just a no-go! You want to bond with your puppy, and that takes time. And don't always compare with others, every puppy is different and develops at his or her own pace. That's totally okay!
Q: That’s so true! They all have such own characters. Furmey Facts – Do you have a fact about dogs? (Possibly related to puppy behavior)
A: Puppies learn every day! They see, hear, and smell a little better every day. They also become more handy and stronger every day. The world is literally getting bigger every day. Experience that adventures with your puppy and take the time to marvel at it sometimes. So, observe your puppy and enjoy!
F: Observe and enjoy! That's some great advise! Thank you for your time Sandra, speak soon!