An Illawarra dog training academy that grew rapidly in Shellharbour after the first COVID lockdown is about to open its second facility in Wollongong.
Walkys Dog Training Academy wants to become more accessible to families and their furry friends. And will open a Unanderra training academy on August 2.
To coincide with the launch the growing team of trainers have set themselves a challenge of saving 10,000 dogs from shelters and euthanasia this financial year.
Since the COVID pandemic began Walkys owner and head trainer Nath Morrison has seen a dramatic increase in the number of dogs needing collaborative and approachable training techniques.
Mr Morrison uses a three step training program to provide more dogs the chance of a happy and calm life.
He said when more people started working from home, the natural desire to have some company and a distraction saw a price increase in puppies and an influx of dogs into homes.
But when pet owners returned to work separation anxiety, reactivity and bad habits started to emerge among their four legged friends.
He said when the behaviour of once well behaved dogs changed many sadly ended up in shelters or having to be rehomed.
Mr Morrison's goal is to prevent that from happening with each lockdown. So he is teaching dog owners to communicate more effectively with their pets. He knows done well it can prevent bad habits and behaviour from emerging.
Walkys also has a structured day care option providing owners with an opportunity to relax knowing their dog is in safe hands and not picking up any bad habits.
"We introduced that as a cost effective way for people to stimulate and train their dogs in a controlled and calm environment"," he said.
"This way we are able to provide walks that involve training and socialising. It enables dogs to reduce their reactivity when out in the real world".
Mr Morrison said by working with local shelters and animal rescue, he hopes to provide guidance to people adopting a dog to help them get off on the right paw.
"Most people have great intentions when rescuing or adopting from a shelter. But shelter dogs can test your patience and need more love and care when being introduced to new environments," he said.
"We want to help everyone doing their bit, to have the best possible start with skills designed to engage and promote calm and happy dogs."
Mr Morrison started Walkys on his own by visiting dog owners at home. But after the first lockdown he became so busy helping people with COVID dogs that he opened the first training academy and structured day care facility at Lake Illawarra.
It started with himself and two employees but the increasing number of people wanting help with the dogs after returning to work saw his team quickly grow to 10.
Mr Morrison said the demand for dogs during last year's lockdown meant many had to be sourced from outside the region and that increased the need for training.
"When people couldn't get dogs and the waiting list for pure bred puppies blew out to almost a year rescues started brining in dogs from shelters out west and a whole different kind of animal came into the suburbs," he said.
"Many have come from farms and have a high drive. As an owner you really need to know what you are doing and be a really active person just to be able to give them what they need."
Mr Morrison, a former vet nurse who has studied canine behaviour and psychology, has started working with Shoalhaven Animal Rescue and other boutique rescue services and foster homes for dogs to help them with the rehoming process.
"People have good intentions and it feels great to rehome a dog but we just need to make sure the dogs fit in so they don't end up coming back," he said.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.