About Gone To The Dogs - for dogs that are going places

Gone To The Dogs is born out of a passion for working with dogs.  For as long as I can remember, I have been ‘dog mad’.  In most photographs of me as a child, I was either with a real dog or with a toy dog or holding a dog ornament.  To say I was obsessed, would be an understatement.  In those days, not many families had dogs and so I was one of the lucky ones, to have dogs in our home.

As I grew up and got married and had a home of my own, my husband, Pete and I also had dogs.  For all of our married life we have had Labradors, which Pete used for duck hunting and we showed at conformation shows.  We are still involved in showing dogs and we sometimes breed dogs when trying to improve the quality of the dogs we have.

Training dogs has always been part of what I enjoy doing and whether it be training potential hunting dogs or training for the show ring or just training for everyday life, I have always enjoyed the challenge and satisfaction that working with the dogs has given me.  I wouldn’t say my dogs were always perfect, that would be untrue, they can get up to mischief and they can do things that they really shouldn’t do, but I do know that I am responsible for that and I also know that their behaviour can be changed.

In recent years, I have been involved in Adult Education and Training and this has also helped me to grow and develop a better understanding of how people learn.  During that time in education I worked with youth and found that I really did enjoy spending my day with teenagers and I consider myself lucky to have learnt so much from them.  Teenagers can be very challenging, they quickly ‘suss out’ whether you are genuine and real and always like to ‘push the boundaries’.  If you believe in them and expect they can be successful, they will be. If you are honest and fair and consistent and show them respect, they will respect you.  They will also remind you sometimes that you are not perfect. It was always a pleasure to work with them and watch them grow.

On reflection, it occurred to me, that working with teenagers was very similar to working with dogs.  Dogs like to have boundaries, they like to know what you expect of them, they like to please you and if you expect them to be successful, they will be. 

Just as we are not born with an inbuilt code to tell us how to be a parent, our success at parenting is often a challenge we have to face and something that causes us to doubt ourselves on a daily basis.  We all grew up and many of us became parents, basing our parenting decisions on what we had experienced as a child and observed in other families. 

Similarly, often people decide to bring a dog into their home and have not had any previous experience in owning a dog.  Their decisions are based on what they have observed and what they can learn from others or on the internet, which are all good options and there is a wealth of knowledge available to dog owners. 

Sometimes all goes well and the training is successful and the relationship between the dog and owner is awesome.  Sometimes it doesn’t go so well, which can lead to frustration for both the dog and the owner and sometimes the frustration can lead to bigger problems in the dog’s behavior.  In some of the sadder cases this can end badly for both the dog and the owner where the owner is overwhelmed and unable to deal with the less than positive behavior of the dog.  In the worst case scenario, this can lead to a person getting hurt and the dog being euthanized.  In lesser situations, it may see the dog passed on to someone else by rehoming, leaving the owner disappointed and disenchanted and the dog out of control and confused.  In saying this, sometimes this is the most appropriate solution to stop the anguish both the dog and owner are experiencing.  In the majority of cases, this solution proves beneficial for the dog and the owner.  However, I believe that no one really wanted to get to that point, when they decided to be a dog owner.  I bet they had a vision of nice walks with their dog, shared family outings and a pleasant, well behaved dog around the house. In nearly every case, this could be achieved. 

People feeling badly about the way their dog behaves only leads them to doubt the decisions they make and the way they are training.  Don’t get me wrong, reflection is a huge part of training your dog.  However, just as people are different, so are dogs.  Dogs have different personalities, they have different things that motivate them.  There is nothing worse for a struggling dog owner than to see other dog owners being successful in their training - just like people really.

Comparing ourselves to other people and comparing their dog to ours does not help us.  We are all unique and so are our dogs.  What works for some will not necessarily work for others.  The more we compare ourselves and our dogs, the worse we feel and the less confident we are.  This of course just compounds all the worry and feelings of failure. 

The first thing we need to do is to stop beating ourselves up, that only makes things worse.  I also know that this piece of advice seems ridiculous at the time when you are really struggling, but hindsight is an amazing thing and if I can stop someone feeling that way and help them understand that there never is just one ‘right’ way and that things will improve, then I am happy.

I will never tell you that I have all the answers, I have a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience and I am comfortable with telling you ‘I don’t know’ but I will also do the research and try to find the solution so that I can give you the skills to train your dog. 

My goal is to help owners to have the skills and understanding to train their dogs to be the dog they want them to be.  It is my hope that this will create a much more harmonious relationship between dogs and their owners and prevent many of the situations people find themselves in when they feel their only alternative is to rehome their dog.

I am really looking forward to meeting you and working with you and your dog.

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