Having originally qualified and worked as a horse riding instructor, I then made the move into dog training and have over 15 years' experience training dogs, including fostering and rehabilitating rescue dogs, and have been teaching owners at all levels how to train their own dogs for more than 5 years.
I have a BSc with honours in Psychology and a Post Graduate Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling - a rigorous two year course at the University of Southampton, widely respected as the finest of its type in the country, passed with distinction.
I am a Full Member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC). The APBC provides a network of behaviour specialists throughout the UK and overseas, to whom veterinarians can confidently refer clients. Many insurance companies will cover the consulting fees of APBC Full Members.
I am a Full Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (MAPDT 1173), which means that both my theoretical knowledge and practical teaching skills have been assessed and passed by APDT examiners.
I am a registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist and Animal Training Instructor with the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC).
In accordance with the APBC Members Code of Practice, I only see clients for behaviour counselling upon veterinary referral. Ill health inevitably impacts upon behaviour and it is important to ensure that any medical conditions are identified and treated, or if they cannot be treated, are understood and accommodated within a programme for behaviour modification.
The animal behaviour and training world is constantly evolving, it is exciting and fascinating stuff, and it would be easy to get left behind. I regularly attend seminars, conferences and workshops led by respected industry professionals from all over the world.
What methods will be used?
I am a strong advocate for science based, humane training methods, which motivate behaviour change using a system of prevention, management and the judicious giving and withholding of rewards.
There are people who would have you believe that the more extreme the behaviour, the harsher the methods required to overcome it. However most behaviour problems are the symptomatic expression of stress, boredom, fear or frustration, and resorting to harsh handling of these animals just adds to their stress levels, potentially aggravating the problem and damaging the pet/owner bond.
I have worked with clients who have previously been advised to use punitive physical and verbal corrections, intimidation, throwing missiles, squirting, shocking, hitting, kicking, strangling or pinning their pet to the floor. These interventions leave animals stressed, frightened and confused. Trapped in a life with an owner they can no longer trust to keep them safe, many have resorted to aggressive behaviour in an attempt to prevent any further harm coming to them. Others have simply shut down - unable to understand how to stop the punishment, they have opted to stop doing anything at all rather than risk attracting attention to themselves.
This is a sad situation for both the pet and the owners, and could all have been avoided had they been given good information in the first place. This is why I am in favour of regulation of the behaviour and training industry, as it is incredibly difficult for pet owners to know who to trust.
The ‘one size fits all’ approach of those following a particular celebrity guru, trend, or franchised ethos can be ineffective or even deleterious, as it often leads to innacurate labelling of the animal’s behaviour and the application of a cure all treatment – effectively trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Alternatively, a modern, science based behaviour practitioner will review all the evidence and tailor a treatment plan for each individual case, which focusses on changing behaviour using humane but effective force free methods.
A Little About the Animal Behaviour & Training Industry
The animal behaviour and training industry is currently unregulated. This means that anyone can call themselves a behaviourist or trainer and offer their services to pet owners. Finding someone to help can therefore be a minefield, and choosing the wrong person and following poor advice could make things worse or could even be dangerous. Outdated and potentially harmful techniques such as dominance based rank reduction programmes and training using physical pain, fear or intimidation are still widespread. Modern training has moved away from these sorts of interventions as they have been found to cause both short and long term damage and to increase the likelihood of aggression. More information can be found on the Dog Welfare Campaign website.
Movement towards regulation of the industry is being addressed by the ABTC (Animal Behaviour and Training Council). Formed in 2010 of representatives from the most respected governing bodies (APDT UK and APBC included), academic institutions, welfare and rescue groups and the veterinary sector, the ABTC published their first registers of practitioners in 2014. I am proud to be registered with the ABTC as both a trainer and Clinical Animal Behaviourist.