companion animal behavioural services
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Background and Experience

Childhood Experience

My parents bred Devon Rex and Persian cats for most of my childhood. I was always involved in their whelping, feeding, and socialisation. A lot of my childhood was spent on my grandparents farm in Maidstone, Kent, where they had cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, a cart-horse, barns of wild cats, and a working collie. My grandparents got me interested in working dogs and I remember my grandmother teaching me how to teach a dog to recall by using a silent dog whistle and some treats. The wild barn cats were only socialised to my grandmother and would scarper if we approached too quickly, she had trained them to approach her on command.

My childhood pets were guinea pigs (Ferdinand & Alister), gerbils (Dilly & Dally & Skunkie), a canary (Goldie), 2 Budgies (Wally & Wilma), a hamster (Ulrika), a much adored Devon Rex called Bonzo, and a Shiatsu called Puddy.


Animal Related Work Experience

I worked for Hearing Dogs and loved all the recipients I worked with tremendously. Prior to working at Hearing Dogs I worked with Elisabeth Kershaw of Canine Education in Berkshire with her puppy socialisation clicker training classes. I learnt an enormous amount from Elisabeth about clicker training and training dogs in a fun and positive way. For this start in my career I am eternally grateful to her. A sound knowledge of training techniques is vital if you want to work within this field.

Following Hearing Dogs I worked for the Blue Cross Tiverton Adoption Centre in Devon, as an Animal Welfare Assistant. I was the main carer of about 20 dogs, which I had admitted into the centre, cared for and rehabilitated whilst at the centre and then matched then to their new adopters. Several dogs I worked on had developed behavioural problems, many of which could be re-trained and adopted out to more suitable homes.

Working at the Blue Cross gave me an insight into why people give their dogs up for adoption, the behavioural problems that people don’t want in a dog, and what dogs actually go through whilst in a kennel environment (despite good quality care). I was greatly relieved to discover the attention this centre paid to animal welfare and behaviour, animal assessments and the matching process in general. However I felt strongly that there were people that I could have helped to prevent them having to give up their dogs to rescue centres.

I left the Blue Cross determined to set up my own Companion Animal Behaviour Service called Dylan’s in order to help to reduce the number of dogs ending up in rescue centres and to educate people into paying more attention to the types of breeds they chose and the importance that early good socialisation has on the behaviour of your companion animal. Sadly some people that brought their dog into the rescue had seen a trainer or behaviourist for advice, but has been given wrong or inadequate advice, and thus had ended up bringing their pets into rescue anyway. Hence it is vital to check out the credentials of the person who may be helping you to keep you dog.

My formal education in Animal Behaviour and groundwork to which my theory is based on comes from studying at the University of Southampton. I was completing my third year of my degree in Zoology and one of my Animal Behaviour lecturers, Dr. Anne Mc.Bride, was talking to us about the behaviour of rabbits. She completed her lecture by informing us about a course she was starting which was a Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling. Four years later I had finished the course and gained a dear friend who has helped me with completing my practical and theory work, setting up my career and supported me through some of the most emotionally difficult times of my life. Thanks Anne

Having completed my diploma I began studying again, completing my Deaf Awareness Certificate and Stage One British Sign Language at Reading College. I have always had an instinctive natural awareness of deafness as my grandfather and his brothers were deaf. They didn’t sign, so getting their attention first using natural gestures, and speaking with clear lip patterns were essential for communication. My mother was a speech pathologist and audiologist and taught me finger spelling as a child. It all seemed a natural progression and before long I had completed my Stage Two and was working for Hearing Dogs.

Currently I am running my own companion animal behaviour business, running consultations for behaviour modification, training, holistic therapies and bereavement counselling. I now run puppy and junior dog and adult clicker training classes aged 8 weeks upwards. So don’t wait until your puppy is 6 months old! Your puppy needs to start learning to communicate with other dogs as soon as possible which is easier if s/he mixes with dogs of their own age.

I work closely with the Blue Cross seeing dogs that owners want to re home, and also as a fundraiser (The Wine tasting we did at the Riverbank Hotel & Vegetarian restaurant in Tiverton was a great success!).

I am also working some days for The Royal College for the Deaf in Exeter as a Communication Support Worker. It is important for me to stay working closely with the deaf community and people with disabilities and would like all people to know that my services are there for them.