When Charlotte the corgi nearly killed herself jumping through a window to be closer to her owner, dog behavioural therapist Laura Vissaritis knew she had a challenging case on her hands.
Rather than focus on the dog, however, she spent more time talking about the life of Charlotte’s owner.
“He called me in absolute distress, and I went there and listened to him and his life,” Ms Vissaritis said.
“His wife had passed away not long ago. And Charlotte was his confidante, his best friend, his companion, his listener, his therapist and basically everything all rolled into one, and as a consequence they were inseparable.”
Rather than keep Charlotte locked outside, Ms Vissaritis recommended her owner install a doggy door and let the pair continue to have unrestricted access.
Her unconventional approach is based on the growing idea that dogs are more than just pets: they’re part of the family.
Ms Vissaritis, author of the new book Dognitive Therapy, said she was surprised at how quickly attitudes were changing.
“There’s so much research now going into how your dog being part of the family is mutually beneficial,” she said. “It improves our health, it improves theirs, it improves happiness and everything else.”
The radio personality said her book is as much about self improvement as it is about dog training.
“We often get a full history of the dog, their background and behaviours – which you should do anyway – but I think it’s just as important to get a full background and history of the owner. Because most dog behaviours are shaped by our behaviours,” Ms Vissaritis said.
“I think we’ve always talked about how dog training has got a lot to do with humans, but I think my book and the way I work is really about living that belief, walking the talk, changing who you are, improving your life, being more empathetic and respectful, and thinking more about others.”
Ms Vissaritis will be appearing at Woof-fest in Bungarribee Park this weekend.
There she will be speaking about Dognitive Therapy and taking questions about her approach to dog training.
She said her main advice for pet owners was to be consistent, focus on the positives, and set your dogs up for success rather than failure.
“Our dogs rely on us for everything. They're like a three-year-old forever; they never grow up, they never leave home, they never become independent. So we’re completely responsible for their mind and their behaviour,” she said.
Woof-fest is running from 9am to 1pm this Sunday, June 25. The free community festival will feature more than 50 stalls and plenty of fun events.