MANILA -- Renowned Filipino dog whisperer Lestre Zapanta's passion in understanding animal behavior started when he was still a boy.
Growing up in the province, he looked up to his grandfather who seems to always know how to properly train his dogs.
At the age of seven, Zapanta remembered wanting a dog badly but only got one from his grandfather when he was 13.
“Sabi ng lolo ko, ‘if hindi mo kayang paamuhin, huwag ka nang mag-alaga ng aso buong buhay mo,” Zapanta said n an episode of ‘SKL Share Ko Lang’ on Radyo 630 with Migs Bustos last September 19.
(My grandfather said, ‘if you can't tame it, don't own a dog)
For Zapanta, establishing a connection with the animal is key to successful training. What the owner shows, their dogs will mirror. So if the owner shows fear, their dogs will also show fear, negating their energies and failing to create a bond.
He said that body language, along with careful observation, can help in taming and training pets. To properly train and command pets to behave properly, Zapanta said that understanding their emotions is vital.
The dog whisperer shared a few tips in training dogs, noting that common misconceptions about their behavior lead to accidents such as biting, attacking, and stress.
He said that biting is not just because of aggression. They can also be due to stress, fear, invasion of personal space, dog-to-dog aggression, and other factors that some owners fail to take into consideration.
Owners must also understand that a dog’s "excitement" is not necessarily a good thing, as excited happiness is different from calm happiness. Excited happiness can lead to behavior issues, such as biting, attacking other people and animals.
Tail wagging, meanwhile, can sometimes mean that dogs are riled up and overwhelmed.
“Minsan it can mean na excited sila, gusto nilang manghabol ng pusa,” Zapanta said.
(Sometimes it can mean that they are so excited, they want to chase a cat [or other animals.])
Owners should instead focus on calm happiness, which come from positive experiences, agility training, and dog games such as fetch.
Zapanta noted that some owners treat their pets as their own children. With this, Zapanta emphasized that they should be nurtured and loved like children as well, as merely feeding and bathing will not cut it if owners want to properly train their pets.
Household dynamics and environment also affect pets’ upbringing and overall behavior.
Zapanta stressed that he does not accept dog training without the presence of their owners as he merely shows what to do and that owners must do the work to create a stronger bond with their pets.
“For the dog owners who want to learn, lagi kong sinasabi ‘I’m not the best dog trainer for their dogs, they are the best dog trainer for their dogs’,” Zapanta said.