I have been around dogs since the age of eleven and although I wasn't allowed one as a child, I adopted a family with a beautiful German Shepherd called Lupo - it was love at first sight!
I have studied canine behaviour and psychology since 2003 and I'd obviously done a pretty good job of training myself, as it led me to the privilege and opportunity to work at a highly respected dog training and activity centre as their Head Trainer and Team Leader in Wales.
I continually keep my training and behaviour knowledge fresh and up to date which are always positive reinforcement techniques. Dogs are a highly intelligent species and we experience a much richer relationship with them when we learn to talk with them in their language and base the relationship on trust. If your dog doesn't trust that you are their protector, then they have no one to turn to in their hour of need - and that can be a daily occurrence with a lot of dogs trying their best to fit in a human orientated world.
I truly believe that my starting block for practical experience learned in Wales was the best on offer in the UK at the time from a professional dog walker and behaviourist point of view.
It allowed me to combine my academic studies with the practical application. The set up is wonderful. There are one hundred acres of 'dog proofed' land, a constant flow of dogs arriving (mostly from London), an agility course which is great fun for both dog and owner and much more. My team and I taught most things, from puppy socialisation to gun dog training, agility, doggy swimming lessons and even plane desensitisation! Essentially, our job was to exercise, train and feed/water all dogs but we also had to look after sheep, cats, chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl and peafowl. In fact, if it had feathers, we probably had it. Part of the reason for all these other animals was to train the dogs, not to chase wildlife.
Thankfully, we didn't have to train the birds and sheep to sit, too. That was just as well when we had anything from twenty to sixty dogs to exercise at one time, and all off lead. It certainly kept me on my toes. The most difficult thing, though, was not the training or the exercising. The dogs arrived in a specially adapted dog transporter that could house up to sixteen animals. If several of those dogs were black Labradors, (which did happen) can you imagine having to pick a distinguishing feature on practically identical dogs so you could work out which was which? Learning who was who and remembering their names so I could call the correct dog within two minutes of their arrival, was definitely the hardest part of the job!
After running my own dog walking and behaviour company in Hertfordshire for 17 years with barely a break, I spent a much needed 6 months in the Aude Department of Southern France in 2018 with all my pets (pictured above minus 2 cats).
I returned to the UK, but a bit further north in the stunning, rural Perthshire, Scotland and became a part of the team at Bella and Duke (a raw dog food, health and wellness company) learning even more valuable information about canine nutrition which has added to my knowledge and confirmed the link between diet, health, longevity and behaviour in our pets, as well as ourselves. Although I can't advise on nutrition, it has given me the confidence to be able to outline the basic health benefits and pass on my own personal experiences with confidence and give clients reliable sources of information to be able to do their own research.
I haven't resumed duties as a dog walker in Scotland, but I am continuing to help people with canine behavioural communication breakdowns and get them back on the right track.