In January 2015 I quit my job – I was working full-time as Manager & Technical Team Lead at an award-winning digital agency in the West End of London. Why? I had decided to go freelance with my email career. This was a tough decision for me, I’d never had that desire to be my own boss. I’d always valued stability and a regular income over everything, but I’d had enough. There was a whole mixture of reasons that went into making this decision, but that is a whole different story which I won’t go into now.
Having made the decision to go freelance, I decided that I would be doing it on my own terms, and in my own way, and to counter the fear of irregular income I decided that I’d need to have at least two sources of income. I became a Tasker at Task Rabbit, but never ended up taking a single job, as I found email development work reasonably quickly. I looked into furniture upcycling, but never quite got round to starting my own projects to see how that would go.
But let’s go back a few months. During my three-month notice period at the aforementioned digital agency I did something that would unwittingly change my entire life… I got a dog. I got a beagle puppy, and I called him Kimber.
Kimber was a much harder investment than my boyfriend and I had ever imagined. He was very clingy, and combine that nature with the fact that he had to have a 4-night stay in doggy hospital 3 weeks after we got him and he was a handful and a half. The sleep deprivation led to ridiculous squabbles between the two of us, tempers were frayed and tears were shed. I remember downloading kindle books at 3am and Googling at all hours of the day and night trying to figure out ways to get him to sleep without us, how to be able to leave the room for 2 minutes to go to the loo without him etc
And this is where it all started properly. I was spending my gardening leave with a puppy asleep on my lap watching re-runs of “It’s me or The Dog” and “The Dog Whisperer”, reading countless puppy-training articles, and getting more and more confused by all the contradicting advice out there. I quickly realised that Mr C Millan’s methods were cruel and not worth following, so he got cut from my list, while Victoria Stilwell’s book “Train your Dog Positively” became a kind of bible. From there I was a frequent visitor to her site, and after failing to find a VS approved trainer in our area I stumbled upon an article about becoming the Victoria Stilwell Academy and becoming a dog trainer. I’d had some success with little Kimber, in terms of sits and lie downs etc, and after comparing the cost of the course with those of paying a trainer I decided it was worth a go – and hell, I’d never be accepted onto the course anyway!
I was accepted onto the course, the the very first class inthe UK. And what a ride! 6 months of learning that comprised of two intensive weeks in the north of England, part theory, part hands on with dogs, alongside the rest of your class (just shy of 20 students) taught by Victoria Stilwell herself, Brad and Lisa Waggoner, Dr Paula Bloom, Sarah Heath, J Nichole Smith and Sarah Fisher. Back home in the interim periods, you are teamed up with a mentor, who has a dog training business. For me it was Eryn Martin-Godfrey of Believe in Magic, and wow, what a mentor! Eryn quickly became a friend and not only helped me through the course itself, but helped me with Kimber, including finding a suitable doggy daycare, after we established that the original one I was using was unsafe. I attended both group and private classes with Eryn, starting off observing and then transitioning into assisting, and leading exercises. There were also online classes during this time, some live led by a tutor, others just slides that you can complete in your own time. At the end of it all, there a multiple choice exam, a written exam, two essay questions and you also have to submit three videos tat adhere to very strict criteria. At the end, I was a wreck – along with every other person on the course. But not only did I pass, but I got a distinction!
So that’s how I ended up becoming a dog trainer, but what about The Office Dog? How was that born?
I was working at a client’s office, about halfway through the VSA course, when a company-wide email came through from HR, declaring that it would soon be ‘Bring your Dog to Work’ Day, and that they would be participating. that was it. No details about registering if you wanted to bring your dog, no details of limits as to how many dogs would be allowed, no rules or guideline for what types of dog or what training they needed to have had. Nothing – just an invitation to all employee to bring a dog into the office on a certain day.
I sat back, and looked around the office with fresh eyes. It was large. It was multi-floor. It was completely open. there were cables dangling under desks. There were open bins with food waste. There were cakes and chocolate on desks. there was so much potential for disaster. It took every ounce of self-control not to reply back with a million questions and observations. This was nothing to do with me, I didn’t work here, and my concerns would most likely be dismissed without thought. ‘Bring your Dog to work’ day is a cute thing, how could it need so much planning? I thought back to an interview I’d had at a company that had an office-dog policy, we’d discussed the logistics a bit and it started me thinking. And it was then that the lightning bolt of training and consulting for aspiring office-friendly dogs and dog-friendly offices was born…