I haven't always been a dog trainer, originally I was a media lawyer and spent several years working in various media organisations such as the BBC, Comedy Central, BSkyB and ITV. As a media lawyer I helped structured the best deals so that everyone was happy with the end result. I now use the skills gained within this industry crafting creative strategies to enable me to do the same for my dog training and cat behaviour clients. I’ve always had a strong affinity with animals and it was whilst volunteering in 2012 that I discovered my true vocation! Having been bitten by a feral cat, I decided I really needed to know a LOT more about animal behaviour and to understand how our pets feel and how best to help them. So with a real right turn at the traffic lights style decision my career change journey began and I haven't looked back since!
Qualifications & Awards
I hold an Advanced Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour & Training – passed with a grade A Distinction from COAPE 2016. I am also a graduate with distinction from the Victoria Stilwell Dog Training Academy. This six-month intensive course involved working directly with a mentor to improve my technical training skills and also covered human psychology, marketing and how to run a professional dog training business.
Kats & Dogs was nominated and then shortlisted for an Innovation award at the 2018 Greenwich Business Awards for the creative way in which I work with both dogs and their guardians.
Why I Train How I Do
To me ‘Positive Training’ means ensuring that your pet learns in the most effective and enjoyable way possible.
It does NOT have to mean a lack of boundaries, consequences or leadership
‘Leadership’ does not mean putting your pet down in order to elevate your status.
Dominance theory really is a myth! If you'd like to read more about this and other dog training myths Jean Donaldson says it best here.
Your pet has to rely on you for food, shelter, keeping them healthy as well as love and entertainment – we even get to influence whether they have a romantic life! Therefore if your pet is acting up, they are not trying to ‘dominate’ you – but just trying to figure out how to live with you.
Your pet needs to know that you can be relied upon.
In short that ‘You’ve Got This.' It is, therefore, important that you have a relationship based on trust and reassurance.
Boundaries and Consequences
I often get told that positive training = permissive training. This is not the case, as it is important that your pet knows what behaviour is and is not acceptable.
Sadly they do not speak English and so will only learn by interacting with you and the rest of your family. Clear and consistent boundaries and household rules are very important so that your pet can predict what may happen and therefore relax.
I don’t use aversive methods such as shock collars, spray collars, rattle cans or water bottles as these have been shown to cause increased stress (see research), unpredictable behaviour (see research) and increased incidents of aggression (see research).
Positive training, however, does not mean a lack of consequences following undesirable behaviour. Often the consequence is to make sure that the behaviour is no longer effective – i.e. we have removed the outcome that was causing the animal to repeat the behaviour and we encourage them to do something we do want instead. In my view, pets can be taught consequences without the addition of something which induces fear or unnecessary stress. The trick is to teach them that providing an alternative more desirable behaviour has a positive consequence and therefore makes it more likely to be something they will repeat! Funnily enough I have also found (much to his amusement) that this approach also works with husbands..
If you want to know more about positive training methods and the science behind them, click on the links below to discover some fantastic articles all about the subject. You can also follow my Facebook page and subscribe to this site so you don’t miss any updates.
The Science Behind Positive Training (Victoria Stilwell)
The Squirt Bottle Controversy (Pam Johnson-Bennet) is a great article on why punishment with cats doesn’t work.
Fairy Tales – Top 10 Behaviour Myths (Jean Donaldson), Behaviour Magazine, January 2008 Issue
Why Avoid Aversives in Dog Training? (4Paws University- Facebook page)
Training Dogs With the Help of the Shock Collar: short and long term behavioural effects (Schilder, van der Borg) Applied Animal Behaviour Science 85 (2004) 319–334
Dominance in domestic dogs-useful construct or bad habit? (Bradshaw, Blackwell, and Casey) Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 4(3), (2009), pp.135-144.