I just can't remember a time when I didn't want to be around dogs.
Dogs have always had a special place in my heart, however there
was never a desire to understand them or learn how to train
them, that would come later. As a family we took on
ex-breeding bitches who were older and relatively simple to
live with. Things changed when we brought our first puppy
into our home ........
My Introduction to Dominance Theory
Life with the other dogs had been straightforward, I fed them, groomed them and walked
them, they were great company and I was excited about the arrival of a new puppy.
Before puppy arrived I had looked into training, I didn't know about positive training but by
luck my local club was one of the early APDT registered clubs. I learnt how to train a dog
to sit, lie down and stay with food. Despite following the guidance in books and practicing
the positive training our pup developed some issues that made our family life difficult and I
had to seek more help. These were the days of dominance theory and I faithfully followed the
advice to eat first, sit in his bed (yes really!), go out the door first etc. Things only got worse and
we weren't enjoying our dog so I stopped this regime, put better management in place and went
looking for more answers.....
Discovering Clicker Training
My research led me to the work of Kay Laurence and her use of the clicker to teach dogs. This was a time before the internet and I promptly subscribed to her Teaching Dogs magazine which was posted out several times a year! I could experiment with the clicker whilst training at home but although the training club used food for training they drew the line at using a clicker in class. I really saw the benefits of clicker training for dogs and as I wanted to continue learning I had to research further afield......
From Keen Amateur to Professional Trainer
To put it simply I was asked to leave a class as my dog was 'unsuitable' and was left with very few options for help. Standing alone in the car park wondering what to do next I decided to not only do everything I could to help the dog with me but also become someone people could turn to when they found themselves in similar situations.
From that car park I took every opportunity to learn about dogs, reading books, continuing to follow Kay, take some formal correspondence courses, volunteering at classes run by a qualified behaviour therapist, working in a rehoming centre, fostering for local charities, training my own dogs and driving many miles up and down the country to attend conferences and training events.
In 2007 I successfully passed my COAPE Advanced Diploma and began to work formally as a pet behaviour therapist.
What I do Today
The majority of the dogs that I helped through rescue displayed a lack of confidence, this was seen by people as aggression or dominance, today we would call this reactivity. I discovered that by working on building the dogs confidence rather than trying to stop the undesired behaviour, the dogs were transformed and by extension the relationships with the families they lived with. I am proud that many dogs scheduled for euthanasia have been able to lead full and complete lives into old age thanks to the confidence building program. Although confidence building has been the backbone to all my work in classes, fostering and 1 - 1 training/behaviour consultations, I have decided to make it my main focus for 2018. Together with my friend and colleague Lindsay McLaughlin we have collated all the learning into one course called Discover the Confident Canine.
I have mentioned Kay Laurence a couple of times. Kay is an inspirational woman and I remained a willing student but the distance between us meant that learning was sporadic and difficult. The internet changed all that and in 2009 I joined Kay's online learning community. After a few years of developing my own learning via many different courses, I was privileged to become a staff member and discovered a love of helping other trainers develop their skills and learning. These days I still work with Kay but also mentor a growing number of trainers that train and teach dogs and their people across Central Scotland.
I also continue to teach classes in Glasgow and Lothian. I deliberately keep classes small as this allows me to give everyone my individual attention and design an individual learning experience. It isn't unusual to come into my classroom and find 6 dogs working on 6 different activities. The classes are interactive and I will ask you to get involved in training your dog whilst taking responsibility for your own learning.
If you are curious, want to discover more and transform your relationship with your dog please get in touch.