One woman’s perfect retirement plan that’s gone to the dogs – Stuff.co.nz

Dog trainer Tania Love, with some of her charges on a walk, has sold her house and bought some land to build a puppy nursery.

LISA BURD/Stuff

Dog trainer Tania Love, with some of her charges on a walk, has sold her house and bought some land to build a puppy nursery.

Tania Love’s idea of the perfect retirement is to be able to play with puppies all day, and she’s on track to achieve it.

The Taranaki dog behaviourist is not planning to hang up her leash and whistle yet, but is about to launch a new venture, a purpose-built early learning centre for puppies from nine to 24 weeks old.

Caesar, a briard, gives Love a kiss during one of their regular walks.

LISA BURD/Stuff

Caesar, a briard, gives Love a kiss during one of their regular walks.

The puppy nursery will help owners raise pups into well-adjusted pets who are adaptable, confident, easier to train, friendly and emotionally stable companions for life, she said.

“People often spend thousands on a puppy, they are really invested in their puppy’s future and want to get it right.”

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It will complement the work she does as a dog walker, holding training classes and working with owners one-to-one.

Love became a dog trainer at the age of 54, after losing her husband and leaving her corporate role of 22 years.

Her own dog, a boxer named Tia, had serious fear and aggression issues, and Love began studying to learn how to help her, eventually coming out with a new career.

Through a course with the International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants, she learned a new way of training which centred around no fear, no force, and no intimidation.

Love launched Love Thy Dog shortly after completing the training, initially working three jobs to get by.

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Now, she’s ready for another big step.

Love said much of her work as a trainer involved helping owners with dogs that have behaviour issues because they had missed out during the crucial early months.

When that happens, issues such as fearfulness and aggression towards other dogs and people can develop as the pup matures.

“There is a critical period of socialisation in all puppies from five to 16 weeks. It’s much like the first two years in a toddler’s life when neurons are forming new connections in the brain and early learning is based on experiences – is the world safe, or is it dangerous,” she said.

“As a behaviourist, I’m the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, I’m seeing all these behaviours which could be prevented,” she said.

The socialisation period coincides with the few weeks when pups are not fully vaccinated and need to be protected from infectious diseases including parvovirus, she said.

Buster, Bonnie, Patrick, Caesar and Sam enjoy weekly beach walks with Love.

LISA BURD/Stuff

Buster, Bonnie, Patrick, Caesar and Sam enjoy weekly beach walks with Love.

For the past two years, Love, helped by a band of volunteers, has run a weekend Puppy Club at the Hounds’ Hangout doggy daycare in New Plymouth, with vet-approved hygiene measures in place to keep the puppies safe.

It was extremely popular and showed there was a need for the service, she said.

She has closed it now, so she can focus on the new nursery, which will open in September at Bell Block.

“I sold my house and lived in a caravan on-site for six months, with no power and no water for the first three months and re-located a cottage onto the land December 2019 while I planned the build,” she said.

Brook Sabin/Stuff

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She will offer foundation training including toilet training and getting pups accustomed to being groomed, enrichment games and exposure to sounds, she said.

The nursery is a longtime-dream, which will also allow her a change of pace, she said.

“My retirement plan was always to stay at home and play with puppies, and find someone to pay me for it,” she laughed.

“I’m 60 this year, and before I get too much older, I really want to make a difference with puppies. The ones who already have issues, I’ll always be there for them, but I want to make a difference, one owner and puppy at a time.”