Thursday, 11 August 2022

Luigi’s gentle way to train dogs

WHEN he was growing up in his native France, Luigi Guitart thought he would become a soldier.

WHEN he was growing up in his native France, Luigi Guitart thought he would become a soldier.

Then he met a neighbour who was a security guard and tried on his bite suit so his dogs could “attack” him.

This sparked off a passion for the animals that has stayed with him and led to him to becoming a dog trainer in this country.

Mr Guitart, 40, moved to Britain in 2007 and now lives in Bix and trains pet dogs from Oxfordshire and London as well working as a part-time carpenter.

He grew up in Nimes in southern France and his family had four dogs, two German shepherds, a poodle and a Pinscher.

“My parents worked for the Société Protectrice des Animaux, the French version of the RSPCA,” he said.

“When I was 14 I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was thinking about becoming a soldier, probably from watching too much TV.

“Then we moved to the countryside and I met a neighbour who was a security guard and had a bite suit in his garden. I tried it with his dogs and it connected with me immediately.”

He trained as a carpenter but had retained his enthusiasm for dogs when he met Jose Paumard, a well-known trainer, at a convention.

They then worked together on various feature films and in dog sports including French ring and Mondio ring, featuring activities such as obedience, jumping and retrieval.

They also gave shows at retirement homes where the residents enjoyed playing with the dogs.

Mr Guitart recalled: “Jose is one of the best trainers in France, if not the world, and his training, like mine, doesn’t use any devices. He has a relationship with his animals.

“While we were together we also did a bit of breeding, which is something I’m aiming to do now.”

He learned Mr Paumard’s “green” method of training dogs, which doesn’t use punishment or food as reward.

He said: “I never hurt my dogs, that’s not the way I work. I live with my dogs and when I ask them to do something, if they fail I raise my voice and then everything goes back to normal.

“I don’t force my dogs to do anything. They are very intelligent and their potential can be worked out. You just have to go inside and get it. All dogs have it — I could do it with a sausage dog.

“If you teach by punishment you don’t get the potential, it’s all frustration, pain and doubt.

“I’ve trained dogs for sport and also working dogs for the police. I can also do a bit for dogs for the blind but I now try to do everyday dogs.

“All dogs have potential, although some breeds are not as easy to work with.”

When he moved to Britain, Mr Guitart lived in London for five years before relocating to Oxfordshire in 2012.

He said: “At the moment carpentry is still my main occupation, although I work with dogs in Oxfordshire, London and France. I will need a field to do dog training full-time, although I do work both inside and outside.”

Mr Guitart owns a three-year-old Belgian shepherd called Hatos and last year partnered him with  20-month-old Jacky Brown. He hopes to breed from them.

“It took me 18 months to find Jacky,” he said. “She is from a different family and country to Hatos so they should give me good puppies but she is the naughtiest thing on the planet!”

Mr Guitart works with fellow trainer Mary McGrath, who is based in London, and recently tried to get the support of Parliament for his punishment-free method of training dogs.

He met Hendon MP Matthew Offord, who takes his Jack Russell Max to work, to discuss a potential ban on electronic shock collars for dogs and gave a presentation at Westminster.

Mr Guitart said: “We showed that dogs used for protection or security don’t need to be aggressive. Hatos doesn’t respond to provocation.

“We would love to be in charge of a new way of training nationally because we love dogs and have the skills to do it.”

He is also hoping to enter in the Mondio ring world finals.

Mr Guitart: “You can’t enter competitions unless your dog is three. I plan to win the world final and if I do that my dog can then retire. I want to do it by the time he is seven so that gives me four years.”

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