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Tune in to this top dog trainer’s new series and discover how even the naughtiest pet can be tamed

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but many owners have bitten off more than they can chew – even more so now that the pandemic has led to a large increase in the number of people buying dogs. So thank goodness for the return of It’s Me Or The Dog featuring famed dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, the canine equivalent of Dr Dolittle, turning problem dogs into perfect pets and restoring harmony to desperate families.

But it’s not just about coaching the dogs, it’s also about training the owners. The first in the new series is seven-month-old Shelby, an angelic cockapoo but one who makes life hell for Aimee, Adrian and their five children in West Sussex.

Busy mom Aimee is at her wits end with Shelby’s lack of potty training and has to clean up after him up to eight times a day. He is also aggressive towards her husband Adrian, even biting him. “Adrian is the disciplinarian in the house, and Aimee was the one who gave Shelby love,” says Victoria.

Victoria Stilwell (pictured), from Wimbledon, trains mischievous pets in the return of the hit show It's Me Or The Dog

Victoria Stilwell (pictured), from Wimbledon, trains mischievous pets in the return of the hit show It’s Me Or The Dog

“So he was actually protecting her and himself. Our instinct is to point out bad behavior to a dog, but I’m not labeling any behavior as bad – it’s just behavior, it’s just how the dog feels and reacts.

“So I had to teach Shelby that Adrian was good, not bad. And training him to go from aggression to cheerful sitting next to Adrian only took 15 minutes. Positive training is about changing the picture, and it’s really fast.

“So instead of Adrian coming into a room and the dog wanting to attack him, Adrian came in, threw food on the floor and then left. Immediately you eliminate the fear that this dog feels. We repeated this as Adrian got closer and closer, and eventually he stayed and was able to pet Shelby, as the dog had completely changed his mind.

“With the potty training, I think there was an idea that Shelby would just learn. But they hadn’t taught him how to go out. So they took him out every hour so he could pee outside, and eventually the dog thinks, “Oh, I’m going out.” That’s a work in progress, and I’m making it clear on the show that they need to work on this while I’m gone.”

Then there’s Max, a 14th St. Bernard who is way too big for owner Christine to handle. “Due to his strength, Max had her hospitalized twice and had to undergo surgery on her leg, back and one finger,” says Victoria.

“Max walked pretty well on a leash, but if he saw a cat, a human, or any other dog, he just ran and had Christine come after him. Max also likes water, which is why he nearly drowned her when she jumped into a lake.

Victoria taught Max, a 14th Saint Bernard, that his owner Christine (pictured right) is on the other end of his harness

Victoria taught Max, a 14th Saint Bernard, that his owner Christine (pictured right) is on the other end of his harness

Victoria taught Max, a 14th Saint Bernard, that his owner Christine (pictured right) is on the other end of his harness

“So I swapped his choke chain for a harness that guides the dog by the chest, limiting pulling. Then I learned to understand Max that his owner was on the other end of the line. It was also about teaching Christine to be unpredictable, to change direction so that the dog has to keep its attention on you.”

Born and raised in Wimbledon, Victoria was an actor who started dog walking to raise extra money.

Realizing that she had a knack for training dogs, she expanded her sideline into a full-time business and presented the idea for a related TV show after seeing the parenting series Supernanny and realizing what Jo Frost did with children and their behavior problem was similar to her own work with dogs and their owners.

It’s Me Or The Dog was a huge hit when it launched in 2005, and it is broadcast in over 50 countries.

“At first it caused a stir because I was very different from the TV dog trainer of the ’80s, Barbara Woodhouse,” says Victoria. “People have said, ‘You’re too soft,’ because I don’t wrestle dogs to the ground and I don’t constantly reject them. Yet I still get success with big dogs with big problems because I approach it in a different way.”

It’s Me Or The Dog UK, Wednesday, 9pm, really.

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