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What is it?
Ireland is a pet-loving country; and while our heritage as a farming society heavily reliant on its animals for produce and exports has much to do with this, our fondness for all creatures great and small goes well beyond this.
Pets offer us companionship – whether we live in bustling city centres or in remote valleys. And this is not the only reason we keep animals: research has shown that owning a pet can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress and assist convalescence after illness or surgery. It is therefore important that we learn to keep, train and exercise the animals we keep: they care for us; we care for them.
What does it involve?
Doing a part-time course in Animal Care is an excellent way of ensuring your pet’s good behaviour, rude health along with your own peace of mind.
Animal training centres, institutes of further education and community colleges throughout the country run courses that will teach you the basics of animal welfare and grooming. These part-time courses will allow participants to develop a basic understanding of the needs of animals and teach them how to respond accordingly. Not only will a programme in animal care be of great enjoyment to any animal lover, but it will also act as an important introduction to anyone wishing to work with animals in a full-time capacity.
Of course with over 35 per cent of families in Ireland owning at least one, dogs are by far our most popular and beloved pets. However, giving your dog too much leeway is bound to cause problems down the line – messiness, unruliness, a lack of respect…so, what can you do about it?
Typical Dog Grooming courses will teach participants how to get even the feistiest (and filthiest) canine companions in to Crufts-standard condition. Trainers will show you correct handling procedures; effective clipper work, cleaning, expressing glands, dematting (how to remove ticks, fleas, lice and the like) and brushing as well as bathing.
And don’t think that Canine Obedience classes are fun-free exercises in control. On the contrary, learners will be shown how to bond with their pets by teaching them behaviours that will help them to live happily by your rules. As the dog owner, you will be given instruction by a qualified canine obedience trainer and will learn how to make your pet to consistently respond to commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘lie down’, ‘come here’, and even ‘high five’! Participation by the dog owners is essential for effective results and classes will rarely exceed eight dogs per class.
Students on more general Animal Welfare classes will be given training in the vital components of pet care such as nutrition, first aid and behaviour.
Those with more serious aspirations of becoming professional animal carers are advised to enrol on a Diploma in Animal Husbandry programme (which can also be taken online). Such courses tend to be extremely thorough and will cover areas such as Dairy Cattle Management, Horse Management, Wildlife Conservation and Zoo Keeping. Students on the diploma will learn all about aspects of animal anatomy (e.g. digestive and circulatory systems), welfare indicators, feeding and nutrition, animal handling techniques.
Why do it?
While having a clean, well-groomed pet is no doubt a good thing, training and caring for animals several far more serious benefits too.
Unruly pets can destroy property and create problems with neighbours and local authorities. The Irish Farmer’s Association estimated that dogs attacked 740 sheep in 2012. Not only are the dog owners themselves at risk of legal action in such cases, but the lives of the animals themselves (sheep and dogs alike) are placed in danger by similar waywardness. Also, given the fact that families with children are more likely to own pets, domestic safety is a huge advantage of owning a well-trained animal.
A final consideration must go to the 60 dogs (figures for other pets were unavailable) that are placed in pounds per day – many of which are there as a result of their unmanageability.
What comes next?
Potential roles for anyone with an animal care qualification include everything from veterinary surgeon to dog groomer or wildlife rescuer.
For those who just want to teach their pets to behave, what comes next is normally some peace!
At a glance