Bechara Hitti founded Bright Animals in 2011, the first Lebanese humane dog training company and 2 years later he started the first cruelty-free dog hotel in the country. He is a converted computer programmer who quit a 15 years long IT career to study animal behavior. He has trained thousands of people struggling with doggy issues and specializes in dog aggression.
What would you advise someone who just got a dog, what should they focus on?
Work starts the minute someone gets a dog. I still remember my first dog and wish I had taken at least a couple training sessions to prepare me. Most importantly, take it easy. Puppies need time and a puppy will not “understand” if one yells or hits him. With a puppy, the main focus remains socialization. I routinely deal with aggressive dogs and aggression is very often rooted in fear. Socialization boosts a dog’s self confidence and helps avoid a lot of problems later in life.
Why should dog owners consider investing in obedience training?
For a new guardian, the first concern is learning to live with the puppy. Potty training and play biting are the priority. For later stages, obedience training can be a lot of fun. It helps us communicate in better ways with our dog. The most important thing is that everybody has fun in the process.
Are there differences between dog breeds when it comes to training?
Each dog is an individual. Some breeds are better predisposed for certain jobs than others. Most mixed breeds and rescued dogs are also excellent training candidates. Not only are they healthier than pure bred dogs, they are also very fast learners. The most important factor remains early socialization. In the wrong hands, even the best dog can turn into a monster. I have also seen so many animals transformed with a little love, knowledge and patience.
How do you feel about the state of dog training in Lebanon?
Force free training is becoming more and more popular. Unfortunately, many traditional trainers have updated their labels and marketing strategies without really updating their methods. Some have recognized the efficiency that using a clicker brings but lack the knowledge and skills to continue force free in more advanced stages. The public opinion however has shifted noticeably. Just a few years back, everybody just wanted to send their dog away for training. More and more people are realizing the importance of being involved in the process. One small step at at time.
Do you have a little training tip for us?
Set the dog up for success. Make sure the dog is receptive (not too tired, not too hyperactive) and take small steps. If the dog is still failing then you are pushing too far, too soon. My best students are also the most patient and the most consistent ones. Above all, keep it fun. That’s why one gets a dog in the first place!