I originally thought of the concept of Dogs Helping Kids (or DHK as it is fondly referred to) in the late 1980's after being both moved and inspired by a film called Skeezer, who was a very unique dog. Skeezer, based on a book of the same name, is the true story of one of America's first 'canine co-therapist' who helped emotionally disturbed and troubled children at a Children's Psychiatric Hospital in Michigan. From this first initial 'seed' Dogs Helping Kids has grown and developed over the years into a charity that now trains dogs to work in educational establishments for children and teenagers as both therapeutic and educational aids.
I am a qualified professional Canine Behaviour Counsellor and I have been a professional Dog Trainer for over 25 years. I have a Master's Postgraduate Degree in 'Companion Animal Behavior Counselling' from Southampton University and I spent almost three years undertaking academic research looking at animal abuse by children, why children are cruel to their pets, and using dogs in schools as classroom assistants.
I was the first person in the country, at that time, to undertake academic research on the effects of using dogs in the school environment. My research showed that there were tremendous benefits to children from introducing a dog into a school environment and that this in turn could reduce cruelty to animals. Dogs Helping Kids officially came into being (2002) during my research.
I am a member (00671) of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (A.P.D.T.), which only believes in kind, fair and effective dog training and has a 'no choke chain' policy. I have been a puppy specialist for almost 20 years and I am an honorary member of Puppy School, Gwen Bailey's national network of qualified puppy tutors. I am a member of The Society for Companion Animal Studies (S.C.A.S.), an academic organization which promotes and funds research into the special bond between humans and animals and I am a Registered Animal Training Instructor with the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC).
For over 10 years (1996 - 2007) I was the Founder and Director of 'Canine Etiquette', North Devon's first Dog Training, Behaviour and Education Centre, based at Chivenor Business Park, on the outskirts of Barnstaple. We used to run 22 dog training classes every week for dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds, and a plethora of workshops, seminars and conferences throughout the year. Following on from this I then founded 'Puppy Gurus', the South West's first ever Puppy Consultancy where our motto was that 'Every Puppy Matters'. I was very passionate about making sure that each puppy had the best start in life to prevent problems from developing in the future, and the puppy consultancy was a huge success for Devon puppies and their 'parents' for almost 10 years (2007 - 2016).
I now (2016 onwards!) devote my time completely to the running of the charity, as it is has grown and flourished into a national charity, with DHK School Dogs working all across the country - something I am really proud of. I have been incredibly lucky to have met some amazing 'doggy' people who have helped me, inspired me and encouraged me to make Dogs Helping Kids into the unique charity it is today. I am thrilled to have the support of so many incredible people and I am really grateful too everyone who has worked with me and supported me over the past 25 years and counting!
I have loved and trained dogs for over 30 years, mostly spaniels, labradors and labradoodles. All of which have been trained to a high standard and most of them have or have had a job; competing in working tests, obedience, agility and now helping children.
In that time I fell in love with the Labradoodle breed. I already had my Labradors and eventually brought home our white standard poodle. 64 puppies later I retired from breeding but have contact with each and every Labradoodle puppy/family. I currently have 3 home bred labradoodles and two of them work with DHK.
I had a long association with Puppy Gurus (DHK Founder's puppy consultancy) through training puppies and the opportunity arose to support DHK with Teazel when she was spotted as being 'exceptional' during early training sessions by Tracey.
Teazel is the 'face' of the charity being one of the first dogs to certify. Her temperament is such that she is a confident girl, energetic when performing agility and calm when working with children. She has had 3 years experience of working weekly at Southmead Primary School and changed many children's lives for the better. Teazel also represents the charity with demonstrations during educational talks, teacher's workshops, and talks to local interested groups and organisations. Teazel is also our PR dog for promotional work. Teazel has featured on BBC TV, ITV and Australian TV. She also features in a book called 'The Pawprints Exhibition', with proceeds going to DHK.
Teazel's niece Pepsi (also bred by me) is certified as a DHK Support School Dog. She appears shy on initial meeting and being a very calm dog suits Pepsi in her role working 1-1 with a child, in a private setting.
The rewards are immense for child, dog and handler, which is why I chose to put a second dog through training. For my part I particularly enjoy educating the children who will be our future dog owners, trainers and breeders. Breeding is a passion and I am able to impart my knowledge to young children who learn that dogs are an important part of our family to love and cherish. They learn from Teazel and Pepsi just what it is to be loved unconditionally, even for just one hour a week.
I am currently concentrating on promotional work in Mid Devon and hope to find a new school in the area where Teazel can continue her regular school work. In the meantime, regular DHK workshops are held in Bampton and my role as School Assessor and Head of Primary Education keep me busy.
From my earliest memories, I had a real love of animals. I grew up in Birmingham and during this time began a one women crusade to re-home the growing number of feral kittens in the local area which was successful. As much as I was in love with cats, our neighbours has a “guard dog” which for me needed so much more than being stuck in a garden day in day out with a dirty dish from which he would be given what-ever left overs the family had. I remember offering my favourite posters to my friends next door if they would agree to wash out the bowl!! My canine love affair had started!
A German Shepherd Cross named Bruno only added to my passion as I became part of his family and missed him when we were apart. To get my doggy fix when not with Bruno I became involved with the Evesham Branch of The Dogs Trust (Canine Defence League then), walking the growing number of dogs every weekend that had been rescued. This continued for a few years until I moved to sunny North Devon. Again I re-established myself as a dog walker for The Dogs Trust and had a growing overwhelming desire to adopt a dog (or three) of my own.
This was when we (my partner & I) took on Ripley, a young adult stray who had been moved here from Scotland. That's when my life completely changed. Initially we believed he was great with other dogs as he had shared a kennel with a Greyhound. As the “honeymoon” period passed, Ripley's behaviour became a lot more dominant with other dogs and extremely rude. We decided some basic training was needed and enrolled on a course with Canine Etiquette with Tracey Berridge and Sally Ansell. Ripley excelled in his training and continued to advanced level. Following the advanced training Sally recommended that we take our boy to see top behaviourist Angela Stockdale. I worked alongside Angela with my own dog and others, learning all about Canine body language, interaction and methods to help create a less unpredictable, aggressive and anti-social Ripley. I found the methods and facts fascinating and began to read a plethora of books on canine behaviour and training methods. I loved the training so much I became a trainer for Canine Etiquette with Tracey and Sally and was in my element!! I also worked alongside Sally on a weekly basis socialising dogs (my own included) that had issues with other dogs and again so loved being part of assisting and helping and seeing these dogs with issued learning from their peers, owners and trainers to become more sociable and less aggressive.
I am currently a trainer for Tracey Berridge with Puppy Gurus, teaching both beginners and advanced classes which I love very much. Having a dog that clearly had not been socialised or trained from an early age highlights the importance of these classes not only for the dogs but also the owners and the family unit itself. I am very proud and privileged to be a DHK trainer which I am thoroughly enjoying and looking forward to seeing it grow from strength to strength.
Since I was a little girl I have surrounded myself with animals. My very first memory of my passion for animals is when I set out to help the local wildlife, I was around 7 years old at the time, I put a sign outside my house asking for injured animals to come to me so I could make them better. I always knew I wanted to work with animals. Once I left school I worked as a veterinary nurse in Hampshire until I had my first child. I have 3 children, Brooke 22yrs, Harry 17 years and Liam 15 years.
Currently I have three dogs, Fly who is 8 years, Charlie who is 2 years (both lab x springers) and Menace who is 1, a rescued sprocker from The Dogs Trust. I work with Tracey as a dog trainer at Puppy Gurus which I absolutely love. I also help at Jaws Agility and my dogs also enjoy taking part. I am currently studying for my Think Dog certificate with Sarah Whitehead, which I am thoroughly enjoying and can't wait to further my qualifications in dog training. My dogs are a huge part of my family and having fun together is my favourite pastime.
DHK has a very special place in my heart, my youngest son has had PTSD and depression for the past 8 years. DHK have taken him under their wings and have given him support, understanding and self esteem, he has also been able to trust again, all with the help of his Trainee Support Dog Charlie - one amazing dog and the DHK team. I have seen the impact DHK has on a child who feels totally lost and I really want to help DHK make a difference to other children's lives who are also in a very vulnerable place. Without DHK I'm not sure how my son would have coped. I couldn't be more thrilled to be involved with DHK and I can't wait to raise awareness of this truly amazing charity and to help more children like Liam.
Being Tracey's sister, I have watched from the sidelines with the greatest admiration and respect whilst she has devoted many years of her life to the intricacies of canine behaviour and its intrinsically linked relationship to a multitude of issues involving children and young people.
In my finance role for Dogs Helping Kids, I am now thrilled to have become more directly involved with such a worthwhile and important charity which directly benefits modern society in its most humble form. I can only hope that my background of many years in business and marketing will be of some help to Tracey as she moves forward with her passionate cause.