Hello everyone and welcome!
I thought I'd tell you a little bit about me and how The Dog's Choice came about.
As a baby I used to throw a tantrum if we passed a dog being walked or a horse being ridden and couldn’t follow it, I was often found on the floor trying to share the cat’s food with them. I must have been a nightmare child but the writing was well and truly on the wall that I was destined for a career with animals! At the age of six or seven I taught our Labrador puppy to put his paws over the side of the sofa and slide off because I was frightened he would hurt himself. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing but it was taught with kindness and reward and for the rest of his life Sandy would always get off the furniture like that.
I am a certified Dog Trainer, Trick Dog, Hoopers, Mantrailing Global and Scent work Instructor, I’m also very proud to be one of Janet Finlay's, Your End of the Lead Coaches. I strongly believe that learning is never done and attend regular courses to continue my learning so I can deliver the very best and latest information to my clients. I'm currently studying a level 6 Behavioural degree and working towards becoming an IMDT and Control Unleashed Instructor. I also continue to train my own dogs with some of the most amazing trainers in the country. My style is very much positive reinforcement and free from pain or fear. I also love games and try to turn every learning opportunity into a game. Dr Karya Purvis has quoted that Scientists have recently discovered that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain – unless it is done with play and games in which case it takes about 12 repetitions. That goes for dogs and humans alike!
My journey to get here was as a result of my own dog, Matty. He came into my life in late 2013, as this beautiful, gorgeous, energetic bundle of joy. I took him to training classes with a lovely trainer, and he was great in class, he did very well, was always well behaved, and was certainly the class clown! But away from class I was having lots of issues, in hindsight I made some bad choices. I had him neutered too early, when he was in vital development stages, and also, in my attempt to have a well socialised, well rounded dog I over faced him in a lot of situations, this resulted in him becoming extremely reactive.
I can remember clearly the first incident we had. We had gone to a Horse Trials, it was very busy with lots of people and dogs, and later on in the day, for what seemed like no apparent reason, he lunged and barked at someone that was just passing by minding their own business. I was surprised, I was shocked, I was embarrassed and thought what the heck was that and where did it come from! From there it got worse. He was reacting to people, dogs, bicycles, motorcycles, livestock, horses, about the only thing that he wasn't reactive to was passing cars. I was doing lots of training but nothing was working towards improving this behaviour that he was showing.
One day I happened to stumble across an advert for a four day workshop, the marketing was so on point; it literally was like I was reading about Matty! I took a leap of faith and packed Matty, myself and Shelby, who was still a puppy in my old car and headed off across the country on a 300 mile trip to attend this workshop! When I got there, literally, within the first hour they said to me, you know, he’s not actually trying to give you a hard time; he is having a hard time. That is the way he is coping with the world. Honestly, I cried. I had got it so, so wrong. There was this dog that I absolutely adored, that meant the world to me, that I would do anything for that was crying out for me to help him and I had totally misread him.
That started me off on a path of learning and discovery; it opened up a whole new world to both me and my dogs. At first I was driven by improving Matty's life, making his life better. I wanted him to be happy and confident, I wanted him not to go through life so fearful, I wanted him to enjoy life and our lives together. I honestly thought that I was the only person that had these problems, I was the only person in the world that had a reactive dog and had these issues and that I had been a terrible pet parent and let Matty down but the more I learned, and the more I observed, the more I realised that I was so not alone, that there was so many people that were in the same situation as me who absolutely adored their dogs but were struggling, who felt alone and weren't living the life they imagined with their dogs and that is what spurred me on to form The Dog’s Choice. Where I offer support and training to both ends of the lead throughout the dog's life from when you first think about getting a puppy, even before you bring it home, through the puppy socialisation period, and into the terrible teens, and on through life with these amazing creatures. So, that's what's brought me here. There's been an awful lot of learning, an awful lot of training and a lot of up’s and downs along the way. But now I want to be able to pass on what I've discovered and what I've learned and share with the world, my vision is that everybody gets to lead the life with their dogs that they imagined through building amazing relationships, confidence, understanding and that's why I'm here.
Sam and the Crew.