July 17, 2014

Celebrity Dog Trainer, Harrison Forbes Talks Shih Tzus and Doggie DNA Testing

Celebrity Pet Expert Harrison Forbes at the Nashville Pet ExpoLast weekend at the Nashville Pet Expo, Gracie Lu and I had the pleasure of listening to a talk about the importance of Doggie DNA Testing from Celebrity Dog Trainer and Pet Expert Harrison Forbes.  And this evening, I had the opportunity to interview Harrison Forbes directly about Doggie DNA Testing, Shih Tzus and Dog Training.

Harrison Forbes, originally from Jackson, TN – two hours away from where I grew up – has always had a love of animals and an interest in dog behavior, from the time he was 8 years old and started working for a dog trainer who owned a small kennel in Jackson. His friends and good connections allowed him to be around great trainers.

He has over 25 years as a dog trainer and animal behaviorist, and his experience has propelled him to become a pet expert and popular radio and TV host. He’s appeared on  national TV shows, including The View, The Today Show, CBS Morning Show, and more. He’s even trained dogs for Hollywood films – including Francis Ford Coppola’s film “The Rainmaker”. He is the New York Times bestselling author of “Dog Talk.”

He’s a pretty impressive guy. He makes Gracie Lu daydream of the day when she will become the world’s most famous shih tzu! And get to meet famous people, too!

Adorable Gracie Lu Shih Tzu in the Grass

Chatting about Shih Tzus

What I think is even more impressive about Harrison Forbes is the fact that he owns a Shih Tzu! He’s a muscular, manly guy and yet he owns the most adorable, fluffiest Shih Tzu. Meet Abigail Elizabeth, the 9-year-old Shih Tzu. She’s been around the raising of his kids and is a mellow, sweet girl.

Pet Expert Harrison Forbes and Abigail Elizabeth, His Shih Tzu

Photo Credit: Harrison Forbes’ Facebook Page

“I know a lot of shih tzus and the range of temperaments and behaviors is really wide. Our dog, Abigail is on the mellow side and easy going. But I have friends who have shih tzu who are bouncing off the wall, barking nonstop and wild,” Harrison said. “Part of that is genetics with the combination of the atmosphere the shih tzu is accustomed to.”

Like Abigail, Gracie Lu is pretty chill and relaxed. She is not a barker, except when it comes to other dogs. The moment that Gracie sees another dog, she goes crazy, barking – even aggressively and tries to run over to them. But when she gets close to another dog, she quietly sniffs them without any aggression or trouble. But the moment that the dog walks away, Gracie begins to growl and bark again. This behavior worries me, because Gracie Lu is such a wonderful dog in all other situations.

I asked Harrison about it, and he said, “This is fairly common among Shih Tzu. It’s a very aggressive call to play that is over the top. Abbie does the same thing. She sounds like a maniac, and then she goes up to them and she’s fine.”

Black Lab loves his Shih Tzu sisterBecause Gracie grew up around a black lab – do you remember Bo? - and now we live 400 miles away, she misses that.

“Dogs are pack animals. There’s a void that she misses and that can be frustrating. She’s barking at other dogs ‘I want to play,’ but they can’t play and that is frustrating. The barking is out of frustration,” Harrison explained.

To help Abigail with this exact same problem, Harrison took her to a doggie daycare, where she was around other dogs for eight hours a day. The socialization helped and mellowed her out.

I appreciated his advice and will be working on getting Gracie Lu more socialized with other dogs in the future. In the meanwhile, we will work to perfect the “High-Five Trick.”

Teaching Gracie Lu Shih Tzu How to do a High Five

Doggie DNA Testing

I didn’t know much about Doggie DNA testing before listening to Harrison Forbes’ talk, but it’s interesting to learn how advanced research has come in this field.

For many years, DNA testing only came from a blood test performed at a vet’s office. Now, it’s a simple cheek swab that you can do in the comfort of your home. You can buy a Wisdom Kit or one from Petsmart, Petco or from other retailers.

“Finding the DNA history of your dog can help predict behavior and the possibility of genetic problems that certain breeds have. From a behavior standpoint, it can help you predict the predisposition of behavior. If you’ve had a dog for a long time, DNA testing can help you understand the WHY to their behavior,” says Harrison.

A dog’s ancestry can influence your dog in many ways. Interesting traits and behaviors, like digging and barking could all be related to the dog’s breed or combination of breeds. It can help you understand more about why your dog does certain things, and help you create a tailored training regiment to suit his needs.

* * * * * *

Thank you to Harrison Forbes for taking time out of his schedule to chat with me. Tune into his new show, starting on August 14th, Pet Talk with Harrison Forbes, a one-hour talk show all about pets -including celebrity pet interviews, Ask the Vet, Ask the Trainer, and other interesting segments. We are super excited about it!

Adorable Gracie Lu Shih Tzu Hanging Upside Down

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4 comments to Celebrity Dog Trainer, Harrison Forbes Talks Shih Tzus and Doggie DNA Testing

  • Daniel

    I really enjoyed hearing about some of the character traits of shih tzus. I have wondered if it was just my dog that was so aggressive around other breads of dogs. I will have to take mine to a dog park to socialize. It was also great to hear that DNA testing is so easy. I am not sure mine is pure bred. Thanks Gracie Lu and Harrison Forbes.

  • If we had a mixed breed, Mom would have had it tested to see what the breeds were, but since we are all purebreds, no need really.
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