Oli Juste Loved People As Much As He Loves Dogs | DogLife360
Oli Juste looks at black puppy
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Oli Juste Loved People As Much As He Loves Dogs

 

Best known for his appearance on Channel 4’s Puppy School, he was sought-after as a dog trainer and behaviourist with a string of celebrity clients.

In early 2021 we caught up with Oli to chat about how he got into dog training, how the pandemic has changed his practice and the impact of lockdown on puppy socialisation. 

What brought you to the UK?

I came here from France when I was just 20. I was only going to be here for 3 months to learn English but I just loved London and I really enjoy the culture in the UK so I’m still here!  

 

Originally I chose the hospitality industry and I just loved it.  I really tried going around the world whilst staying in London through food.  I worked in various restaurants, met some amazing people and I learned so much about customer service.  I then ended up working at Soho House.  I was working at a Japanese restaurant at the time when a girlfriend of one of the chefs came for dinner and said “I work for Soho House, you should come and work for me”. This was when Soho House was tiny.  So, I landed up at Soho House where I worked as a receptionist; as a waiter; a restaurant manager; and then I became the club manager.  

 

As a club manager, I enjoyed training the staff and inducting people and getting them to thrive in their new environment. And as much as I loved it, there came a moment that I wanted a new challenge.  I didn’t want to be a general manager, I didn’t want to be doing budgets -  you know the higher you get the less of the fun you have in hospitality. 

 

There are a lot of teachers in my family and I found I enjoyed training the staff and getting them to thrive, so it came naturally to me to start working as a Learning and Development Manager. I loved Soho House and I travelled the world with them, opening clubs in New York, Miami, Berlin, Chicago, Los Angeles.  I learned so much about training and about business -  I didn’t know then how useful it would be to me in the future! .  If you are going to be a dog trainer who is going to help people train their dogs you’ve got to be good at human relationships.

 

wagging finger training big white dog

How did you become a dog trainer? 

I travelled the world for work and I learned a lot about customer service and owning your own business. But you miss home, and you miss your partner, and I was missing my dog as well.    I had a dog then and still have, called Bernard who is somewhere here, oh just over there!

 

I think that, for many dog trainers, it is their dog that turns them into dog trainers. My partner and I got a puppy, but Bernard was tricky, sometimes difficult with other puppies, he was a bit reactive when he was younger. 

 

So I looked for advice and help online and, as a non-professional at the time, I took whatever advice I could find and I quickly realised there were a lot of different schools of thought out there. It just became a bit of an obsession, trying to help my dog and trying to find what worked. So, there was a real need for me, I just wanted to find out more.  This is where I was very lucky, early days, I met the wonderful Sarah Whitehead at The Clever Dog Company. I went to her masterclass and I thought, “When I grow up I just want to be her!”

 

I then decided to quit Soho House.  It came down that I had been with Soho House for just over 12 years and I loved it and it was time to leave on a high.  I didn’t want to be in hospitality anymore I wasn’t quite sure what to do and so when I inherited a small amount of money, I thought, “I’m going to open a daycare for dogs in central London.” After a few masterclasses from Sarah Whitehead, I enrolled with the APDT, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, to do the first year of training. 

 

Then I thought, “Oh my God, do I really want to start putting people on a payroll? Is it taking a risk? “  And I thought,  “What am I going to do now? I’ve left my job, I feel great!” I felt amazing, there was so much potential ahead of me.  

 

I did my business plan and then realised that I didn’t have enough money to get the business off the ground. I thought, “Well, I’m still enrolled in that APDT course so let me just go and have a look.” 

 

There were a lot of people attending the APDT course, there was a meet and greet.  I realised the other participants on the course were already working as dog trainers.  I sort of panicked and went to my own little Facebook page and I said, “I’ve started to do a bit of dog training. Does anyone need some help?  I will train for free any little new puppies”   I did a few one-on-one’s doing ‘Sit, Down and Stay’,  And I just loved it!  I love people just as much as I love dogs, it felt perfect!  And the tutors of the APDT were brilliant and I thought, “maybe I should be a dog trainer!” Although I loved my time in hospitality I thought, “why didn’t I do this earlier?" 

 

I’m very curious, I love going to people’s homes, find out more about them, find out more about why they picked their dog.  I love people just as much as I love dogs so really this was just perfect.   And so I thought, “maybe I should just be a dog trainer, I never thought I could but maybe I can? I seem to be able to do this!” 

 

One of the reasons why I feel successful is because I train people, my clients are the people that I train.   The way I look after them I think is really important.  I’m a people person, my job is to make sure that people are enthusiastic enough that they are going to be doing what I’m asking them to do. 

There was only one requirement and that was that I never did classes, I don’t like the idea of classes. I just do one on one.  If classes are well run they are fantastic but I just wanted to do something that I enjoyed and I wanted to do the one on one.  Going to people’s homes and help them with their puppy, now I only work online, but at the time this is what I was doing.

 

black dog tugs on toy

 

I then was approached by Sarah Whitehead who spotted me in the crowd, which I was very pleased about, she asked me if I would become one of the first people to qualify for her Clever Dog Company dog training licence.  I was like, “SURE , yes of course!”  I wanted to learn more from Sarah who was amazing to have as a mentor and it was great !  She gave me enough confidence to start doing behaviour training.  She’s incredibly knowledgeable, and always lets you know what’s current, and what’s new. There’s always more to learn, it’s great to have her as a mentor.

Do you have a preferred method for training dogs?

You learn that every case is different and that having only one approach isn’t going to solve every problem for every dog.  It’s a mix of experience and putting tools in your toolbox. It’s also learning to change your mind, and admit you might have been wrong. When you’ve got a problem  you start by looking at any health issues that might affect an animal’s behaviour; or you look at the environment. There are a lot of different ways I use to approach a specific problem.  

 

It’s always good to tap into Sarah Whitehead’s huge knowledge and ability.  She's science-based and really reliable, and I know that as a dog trainer, using her methods, I’ve got a really good foundation when it comes to my own knowledge. She’s great about sharing good information so I stay informed with the latest developments.  

 

doggie looks at poles before running in between them

 

How has COVID changed your practice as a Dog Trainer?

I already had an online presence in terms of my social media, and I was working online particularly with behavioural cases, but I was still travelling from client to client in central London. Now I’m only working online. I absolutely love it, and I think my clients do too. I’ve had some really amazing feedback, people are really enjoying the experience.

It’s very different. In the past, I would work with the client’s dog. I’m a good trainer so it would look easy, but of course, it’s harder when you’re doing it for the first time.  Some people would succeed and some not. Now I’m able to be “hands-off” with dogs. My clients can ask me questions and send me videos of their training. It’s a really good opportunity to watch what people do when I’m not there.  I look at the humans very carefully, because of course, I’m training the humans to train their dogs.

Now, because I’m not directly involved with the dog anymore, I can see the relationship between dog and human flourishing a little faster.  I’m completely hands-off: looking, giving advice, making them change a few things.  I’m trying to limit my number of clients so that between sessions I’m able to be in touch with everyone.

I think I’m going to carry on doing online training, even after COVID. I’ve got clients in Africa - Tanzania; in Italy; France; Thailand; America… But I do think there’ll come a time when I’ll really miss having contact with dogs, so in the future, I’ll do both:  online and one-on-one.

 

woman and spaniel bond

 

Dog ownership has boomed during the pandemic, bringing joy and comfort but also proving problematic. What are your concerns?

The number of people deciding that now is a good time to get a puppy has grown hugely. But the research suggests that 40% of people in the UK have had regrets about their lockdown puppies and dogs. That’s a huge number. And 32% have considered putting their dogs up for adoption post the pandemic. I’m not actually surprised I’m just worried about this puppy’s future.  I think the problem is we shouldn’t judge, the pandemic has just made it more obvious. 

 

The percentage of people not doing enough research before getting a puppy is way too high.  The problem is that when people say, “I’ve spent a month researching my puppy,” it’s not measurable. What does it mean?  People will go on Google and say, “What is the temperament of a CockerPoo?  Are they good with kids? Okay, that’s my research done.”  It’s not like, “I went to an event where a lot of dog breeders were represented and I spent a whole day talking to breeders about the potential breeds I could get”.  Now that’s more of a serious research because good breeders will be telling you all of the positive but also all the potential things you need to think about when you get whatever dog they’ll have.  I’m being pernickety here but for me the problem is people saying a lot of research. 

 

There are many people who get dogs from a puppy farm, or get stolen dogs thinking they are rescuing them.  I know someone who even though she had been wanting a dog all her life and claimed to have done a month of research still managed to get a puppy farm dog because she wasn’t actually aware about puppy farming.  So, she was aware that she should look for the right breed but in all her research she didn’t come across anything that said, “warning, warning you shouldn’t be bringing cash to the breeder the very first time you go, you should always visit your puppy once before” and so on. The pandemic has played right into the hands of those unscrupulous breeders. Suddenly there were more people wanting puppies, and the price shot up. People were spending up to ₤10 000 for puppies!  People often naïvely think the more expensive the better.  Actually, with puppies, there is a fair price that could vary, but more than two and a half, three thousand pounds this is NOT okay. 

 

I have some people, “Oli, we’re about to get a puppy, our puppy was born yesterday.  And he’s going to arrive with us in 8 weeks.  We’d like to book a pre puppy visit with you and a pre-puppy pack, we’d like to start in 3 weeks.”  And that is lovely, people that have clearly done all their research.  They understand that dog trainers are very busy, they know to book you in advance.  That’s a dream, when I get that email I think, “Oh my God, amazing!”  

 

little dog intent on treat

 

But what I do get is a lot of people who write, “I want to start training tomorrow” and I say, “Actually I’m fully booked for the next 3 weeks or months.” And then I’ve got the people who say, “My dog is unwell, he’s scratching, he’s got a rash, he’s biting me and I can’t do anything about it, I’ve tried to look online and I can’t find anything, I need help urgently”.  And that is really hard because I can’t say yes to literally 100’s of emails I get a week because I’m a one-man band.  It’s impossible.  Yes, I still get an array of people desperately asking for help because they’ve put themselves, due to lack of research, into a tricky situation with a puppy that is unhealthy, very nervous, experiencing fear on a daily basis, and are really having to deal with serious emotional troubles from a very early age.  

We know that anxiety is on the rise globally, and is spiking because of the pandemic. Do dogs absorb the increased anxiety of their humans?

At the beginning of Lockdown that was the case, and as things have progressed. There is so much uncertainty and dogs also pick up on our anxiety.  For young puppies, this is the only world they know.  Older dogs are not sleeping as much, because their humans are always around, always talking and keeping them awake. So, some dogs have a real lack of sleep.  Also, their routine has changed, they’re not meeting as many other dogs. Every case is going to be different. 

 

sweet dog rolls on back playing with owner

 

We’re all looking forward to life after lockdown but many dog owners are worried that when they return to work, their dogs will experience separation anxiety. Any advice?

Giving general advice about separation issues is something I stay away from. You’ve got to assess the specific emotional state of the individual dog.  It’s the same with humans, after all. Is it anxiety they’re feeling? Fear? Frustration? People say they’re anxious, but in fact, they’re frustrated because they can’t go out, can’t do what they want. What’s happening is that we’re getting a taste of what it’s like to be a dog where we don’t have control around when we can go out or where we go.  

 

People who suggest you should let your puppy cry out its ‘separation anxiety are making a big mistake, because if it’s separation fear, it’s the worst thing you can do, and there will be some really terrible long-lasting effects.

If you are worried your dog is likely to have behavioural issues because of lockdown, please don’t wait. There are people who can help you and many dog trainers and behaviourists like me are able to work online. 

 

hand and paw touch

 

What’s your top-line general advice for dog owners through the end of Lockdown?

It’s important to keep your dog well-exercised and well engaged, people should go online to find games they can play with their dogs.  Keep your dog loved, well-fed and your dog will be alright.  Dogs are potentially just as resilient as we are, you know! 

 

We know puppies have suffered during lockdown with some of them not leaving the home at all, what is your advice for socialising lockdown puppies?

Yes, statistics say that 62% of 'lockdown puppies' haven't been to a park, or met another dog which is very worrying. When it comes to puppy socialisation, it needs to be achieved by around the 16th week. Something must be done immediately.  

 

Worried about your puppy? Try Oli's top 5 tips to get your puppy ready for Puppy Socialisation Walk at Big Dog Walk. The series of events kicks off at the end of May at Belvoir Castle. 

 

black dog tugs on ball

 

Oli Juste’s top 5 puppy socialisation tips.  

1. Don’t delay another day give them some authentic life experience

If your puppy has not had any experience of “real life” beyond the home, don’t wait - get them out today. Be gentle - take it slow, be sensitive to their emotions.

 

2. Help your dog be alone with a food dispensing toy

Consider investing in a food-dispensing toy, such as Kongs or Odins.  First make sure to introduce them as a game you play together, so they don’t see them as a sign that they are about to be left alone.  

 

3. Teach your dog fun games and exercises

Starting at home is fine but soon to take them to the park where they can learn to focus in amongst the distractions.  The trick is to keep them focused and engaged on you while training them - this teaches them manners as they learn to stay calm when meeting other dogs.

 

4. Introduce your dog to a child as soon as you can

This needs to be done sensitively as children move fast and can react in ways that may either excite or scare the puppy.

 

5. Use the Dogs Trust Sound Library

Get your puppy familiar with new sounds e.g. a newborn baby and children playing. To start with play the tracks at a very low volume and play a game with your dog at the same time to keep them cognitively engaged.

 

What exciting plans do you have once Lockdown restrictions are lifted?

I’m looking forward to appearing at DogFest later this year!  It’s going to be a lot of fun I’ll be recording my podcast at the festival.  

 

Oli DogFest? You can catch Oli on stage broadcasting his fabulous A Dog’s Best Friend podcast live

 

Oli Juste Pod Cast Image

 

Oli Juste provided positive, modern, ethical dog training with an emphasis on behaviour, to dogs and their owners all over the UK & Europe.

 

 

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