Dialogue with dogs and chatting to cats

Of course dogs can’t talk but, as dog psychologist Rita Lewis explained, they can communicate with us in many other ways.

“People think that we can speak dogs’ language but we can’t.

NILALM110216B3 - Broomfield hall talking to your dog feature. Amy Hirst with Rosie

NILALM110216B3 - Broomfield hall talking to your dog feature. Amy Hirst with Rosie

“People think that because dogs are intelligent animals they can understand the things that we say to them but they can’t.

“But there are ways for you to understand them and get them to understand you as well and that’s basically what the course is about.”

Talking Dogs: An Introduction to Dog Psychology, is one of the many unusual courses on offer at Derby College’s Broomfield Hall campus.

Rita said: “One of the first things we teach on the Talking Dogs programme is about the history of the animals and how they came to be domesticated.

NILALM110216B1 - Broomfield hall talking to your dog feature Animal management Tutor Rita Lewis with Rosie

NILALM110216B1 - Broomfield hall talking to your dog feature Animal management Tutor Rita Lewis with Rosie

“That’s important when you’re learning about why they behave the way they do now.”

Rita has been teaching at Derby College for 15 years.

Before she began studying dog and cat psychology she worked at London Zoo. She said: “I actually became interested in animal mentality and behaviours while I was working at London Zoo.

“I studied the behaviours of and worked with the polar bears there.

NILALM110216B7 - Broomfield hall talking to your dog feature Amy Hirst with Rosie the dog

NILALM110216B7 - Broomfield hall talking to your dog feature Amy Hirst with Rosie the dog

“It was an amazing experience but I soon realised there weren’t many polar bears to be analysing so started with dog psychology.”

The programme is lecture based but Rita’s own dog, Rosie, is a regular attendee of the lessons.

Open to anyone, the programme caters for people who just have an interest in animals, owners with problem pets or people working with or looking to work with animals.

Rita said: “I had a student once whose dog had literally destroyed her whole house and she couldn’t cope any more.

“After a few weeks on the course she learned how to approach and deal with situations better and the dog soon calmed down.

“That’s an extreme example but there are so many things that can have an effect on the way dogs behave.

“It can take a good two or three hours of speaking to owners and observing a dog’s behaviour before you can decide where someone’s going wrong and how to fix it.”

Another section of the course explores the relationship of dogs and their owners.

Rita said: “The best kind of relationship you can have is when they know that you’re in charge but you listen to them as well. People compare it to a parent and child situation where as I think a sibling set up is more successful.”

Talking to Cats: An Introduction to Cat Psychology is also available to take as a night course at the campus.

Rita said: “People often think cats are cats and they can be just left to it but it’s not that simple.

“There’s a lot of unhappy cats out there because owners just don’t realise their pets’ needs.

“The cat course really is fascinating, they have a totally different mindset to dogs.”

The course, which costs £85 for the six weeks, starts on Tuesday March 1.

Sessions run from 6.30pm to 8.30pm at Derby College’s Broomfield Hall campus in Morley.

To sign up to either course or for more information call 0800 0280289 or visit www.derby-college.ac.uk.

Rita said: “People might think it’s a bit of a weird or strange course but once they get into it and realise it works they just really enjoy it.

“Who knows though? Rosie could be stood here hearing all this and thinking I’m a mad woman!”

The dog had no comment.