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My training journey

How it started

As some of you may know I have not always been a dog trainer. I originally came to Holistic Hounds (back under their previous business name) as a client with my dog Oliver in July 2021 and they haven't got rid of me since!

I have always loved animals, having worked at a horse riding school when I was younger and having volunteered for the RSPCA when I was at university, but I had never had my own pet until October 2019 when I adopted Oliver from Croatia. I came to Nathan and Charlotte in around July 2020 when Oliver was showing some reactivity towards dogs. At the time I was training to be a solicitor, but I knew that I wanted to work with animals again at some point. I found myself wanting to spend any spare time I had training Oliver and I asked Charlotte if I could shadow them once I had finished law school. They agreed of course, and so I spent just under a year shadowing them before joining the team officially in March 2022.

Oliver at his first group walk!

From client to trainer

Having previously been a client, hopefully this means that I have a bit of an understanding of what it is like to be on the receiving end of the training. Granted, I was always very interested in the behavioural science side of things and was overly keen to pick Nathan and Charlotte's brains about anything dog-related but I definitely know what it feels like to struggle with something, for my dog to then behave perfectly at a training session!

In particular, I know it can be frustrating to walk away from a session that went really well to then struggle over the next few days/weeks, and feel like you are making no progress. Or your dog has a bad day and it makes you question whether you will ever get anywhere. I also know what it feels like to wonder why we are working on basic behaviours like heel and sit when the "real" problem is something completely different like resource guarding or dog reactivity. Or to think you are doing the exact same thing as your trainer did but for some reason it is just not working.

But, I can assure you that it does work, provided you put in the work and stay consistent. You are not a dog trainer and we don't expect you to be. One of the most important things to remember is that your trainer handles your dogs for short periods, during which time they do not let them get into any bad habits. On the other hand, you probably have months or even years of bad habits to break down, and there are bound to be times where you are not 100% consistent. Dogs are opportunists and will constantly be working out what they can and can't do. Your trainer also has way more experience and is able to pick up things you may miss. They only make it look easy because they have had hours and hours of practice and know exactly what to look for.

Another thing to remember is to give it time - there are generally no "quick fixes" in dog training. I have had Harley for nearly a year and he still doesn't walk perfectly on the lead. Sometimes I question if I can even call myself a trainer if my own dog doesn't behave perfectly, but compared to how he was when I first got him there is a huge improvement. I am also able to recognise that there have been times where I have accidentally rewarded the wrong behaviour and so it is unfair of me to hold him to such a high standard if I haven't held myself to that same standard. It is very easy to forget what improvements your dog has made, particularly when you have started your training journey and your expectations of how your dog should behave have changed.

One of the first training sessions I had with Harley to work on his calmness around other dogs

Even trainers need training

Being a dog trainer doesn't exclude you from having setbacks in your dog's behaviour. Training your dog is just like training in the gym. You might reach your goals but you cannot expect to maintain them if you don't keep it up. Old behaviours can creep back in out of nowhere and we all get stuck sometimes. I often book in for a training session if I am struggling with something or want an extra pair of eyes to identify what I need to work on with my dogs, and Nathan, Charlotte and I are always commenting on how each other's dogs are doing or picking each other up on any bad habits!

There is a lot of information in the dog training world, and different approaches and methodologies on how to best train your dog. It can be difficult to know what to do when you receive conflicting advice, and this has definitely not changed since I have become a trainer. We are always open to new ways of training and regularly try out different approaches with our own dogs to see what works best before we apply it to your dogs. So, if you are ever feeling confused, do not feel afraid to ask us why we do and do not do things a certain way. The main thing I have learnt is that whether you are a client or a trainer you never stop learning!


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