When and how did you got into dog training?
I have always had a love of dogs, as long as I can remember. My involvement in dog training goes back over 40 years to when my grandmother owned a Boxer dog. At the age of 14 I was handed the lead and instructed to take the dog to a local training class! This was the beginning of my love affair and passion for dogs and their welfare. I thoroughly enjoyed attending the classes and training this exuberant young pup! We went on regular walks, after school, and had lots of fun together. Another great love was when we went each summer to South Uist, my mother’s home, and I attempted to teach my uncle’s collie some basic commands. Unfortunately, the dog only understood Gaelic and I only spoke English. I quickly pestered my relatives for a crash course in the Gaelic language for canine commands! I also helped out, many years later, training young dogs for agility at a local training club.
What do you like the most about dog training?
For me, what I like most about dog training is watching the bond grow between human and dog. From the boisterous, young puppy to the lovely companion dog can be a long journey but an incredibly rewarding journey. I also love having children attend the class and having fun training their dogs. It is heart-warming to see our future dog owners learning to train dogs using positive reinforcement techniques and experiencing the joy of achieving their goals and expectations. I am fortunate to combine my love of dogs with my love of teaching children.
How long have you been part of the KCAI scheme?
I have been part of the KCAI scheme for around 10 years. I gained accreditation in Companion Dog and Good Citizen Dog Scheme. I joined the scheme when I was working as a classroom assistant as I thought it was a great way to build up my knowledge of dogs and dog related activities. It is a great way to learn as it encourages you to read, attend mentoring sessions, meet up with like-minded people and attend courses to broaden your knowledge. It is not a formal course, more of a journey, but it really suits my style of learning as it is both written and practical based.
Why are you a member of the KCAI Scheme?
I enjoy being a member of the scheme and a small part of the Kennel Club organisation. I love the fact that there is so much information available and support for members of the scheme. Choosing the right dog trainer is vitally important for members of the public and the Kennel Club helps owners by assessing trainers against Kennel Club standards and having a Code of Practice which all members have to abide by. It also works across a wide range of canine activities and members have to keep up to date with continued professional development.
What would you say your biggest achievements in your career so far have been?
That is a very hard question! Gaining my KCAI accreditation must be up there at the top! I competed in agility many years ago with Jack, my Lurcher. He was a rescue dog from Greyhound Awareness League. We attended Olympia in 2005 as the “crowd pleaser”. Jack had his own style of running a course, back jumping, missing obstacles, running round the arena but at each performance he did a perfect 12 pole weave! He certainly pleased the crowd with his antics. I like to think he helped to promote Lurchers and greyhounds as pets. I also achieved The Kennel Club Gold Good Citizen Dog Scheme with Sam, my Whippet now deceased. He is one of only a few Whippets to have participated in agility and obedience also. Sam was also a Therapet and a Blue Cross education dog.
Any work that you do with or for dogs, in addition to dog training instructing?
As well as being a dog trainer, my other passion is volunteering for Blue Cross Charity. I visit schools with Gilly, my Whippet, and teach children safe approach to dogs and how to respect your pet. Last year over 28,000 children were visited in Scotland and the North West. They are our future dog owners and I hope they have learned more about understanding dog behaviour and the responsibilities of being a pet owner. Children go home and tell their parents about the dog visiting their school and this leads to parental discussion and discussions with other family members. Hopefully this will lead to fewer attacks in the home by family pets. My other interest is helping people to source a puppy or rescue dog and how to avoid the pitfalls of puppy farms.
Do you own a dog yourself and if so its name/breed?
My current dog is Gilly, a six year old Whippet. His buddy, Sam, left us in November. Gilly is a perfect companion. He has achieved The Kennel Cub Good Citizen Dog Scheme Bronze award and is working towards his Silver. He is my third Blue Cross education dog, as well as Sam and Hal, a small Lurcher. Hal was also rescued from Greyhound Awareness League. My next dog will be a rescue, perhaps next summer.