I first got interested in dogs when my then partner and I got Pagan, a German Shepard Dog x Belgian Shepard; I was at a complete loss as to what to do with a puppy and it soon transpired that my ignorance quickly turned into impatience. To be honest I hadn’t wanted a dog, as I liked my foreign holidays and I saw Pagan as a threat to them. Between us, my partner and I didn’t have much of a clue as to how to train and handle a dog, especially a very young puppy.
At the time we lived in very rural Somerset with the objective to have a dog that we could walk off-lead, but as we didn’t know how to train a recall we just relied on Pagan wanting to be with us. We tried several so-called dog training classes and were appalled by the way we were expected to CONTROL our dog by force and over-correction and no matter where we went the methodology always seemed to be the same – dominance and control!
By this time I was beginning to fall under the spell of Pagan and started to enjoy her and see my dog as a companion and relish spending time with her. Before the end of her tragically short life at 6½ I was completely smitten by her; Pagan became my companion on my regular three hour Sunday runs and frequently we’d set-off for a few days of hiking and camping and somehow she always managed to grab my sleeping bag and air bed with me on the ground yet again. We joined a dog agility club at the National Animal Welfare Trust, Heaven’s Gate centre http://www.nawt.org.uk/somerset/index.asp and were soon participating at country shows to promote the excellent work of this organisation.
Shortly before Pagan’s tragic death (from Auto Immune Haemolytic Anaemia – due to vaccine damage we believe) we got Bryn, a delightful Collie pup, and although we now had some experience of puppies we still had very little knowledge. Bryn took-to Pagan immediately and treated her very much as his surrogate mother and was devastated when she died when he was just 10 months old.
Bryn proved to be a very able agility dog, frequently let-down by my poor handling skills, he’s been, and continues to be, a very close companion. I retired Bryn from all agility aged 11 in 2012 due to him becoming unsteady on the contact equipment and the on-set of deafness.
When Pagan died Bryn became very lost and morose and we felt that he needed a new companion so I answered an advertisement for “10 month GSD, free to good home”, and so we got Bear (he was called Barney then). Bear and Bryn being of the same age got on wonderfully and there’s never been a cross-word in the 10 years they’ve been together.
Bear has a Gold KC Good Citizen certificate and Bryn has a Silver, both of which we achieved during my convalescence following a heart attack.
It was the frustrations of knowing that the training classes we attended were just not right that encouraged me to look for alternative methods to train dogs and it was this need for information and the discovery of Catherine O’Driscoll of Canine Health Concern http://www.canine-health-concern.org.uk/ (following Pagan’s death) that spurred me on. I attended a Turid Rugaas workshop on Canine body language which set-me-off on the path I now tread. I then had the hunger to learn more about dogs and began to investigate possible courses; I decided to attend the Sheila Harper course, The International Programme for Applied Canine Studies (IPACS) http://www.sheilaharper.co.uk/index.php as it included a lot of practical hands-on work with dogs as well as excellent tutorials compared with traditional university theory-only courses.
Since completing the IPACS course I have attended subsequent Continuous Professional Development (CPD) workshops, and I’ve attended Canine Stress and Canine Communication workshops also presented by Sheila Harper.
- My original inspirational tutor was Turid Rugaas http://en.turid-rugaas.no/ who’s Canine Communication and Handling workshop I attended.
- I have attended a Tellington TTouch course presented by Sarah Fisher http://www.tilleyfarm.co.uk/
- The Behaviour Adjustment Training (BAT) seminar and workshop for Fear, Frustration & Aggression in Dogs, presented by Grisha Stewart. http://functionalrewards.com/
- A four day shadowing course held by Angela Stockdale, who rehabilitates aggressive and reactive dogs. http://www.dogpartnership.co.uk/
- Canine Autism and Nutrition seminar presented by holistic vet Nick Thompson http://www.holisticvet.co.uk/
- I have also volunteered in Canine Rescue Centres in Somerset and Carmarthenshire.