I first spoke to Elaine in February 2011, feeling very guilty that I'd let my beautiful 19 week old German Shepherd down. In my haste to do the right thing and getting him booked into training classes, I ended up chose the wrong training school and my cautious "I'm not sure but if you say it's ok I trust you" happy to meet the challenges of the doggy world, turned into a "It's all scary, why won't they back off - isn't my bark loud enough!", panicked nervous young man.
Billy loved training and the event that turned his whole world upside down and meant he couldn't cope with being in a training environment, happened during off lead socialisation, and probably only lasted 30-40 seconds.
There was a group of 4 puppies all similar ages; Billy watched the other 3 from under the bench not really wanting to join in, happy doing his own thing, which was watching from afar. Then the others came over and cornered him, 1 was directly in front of him barking continuously, another kept bouncing on him trying to get him to play and the 3rd stood to his side and joined in the barking. From Billy's point of view he was cornered and had nowhere to go, so out of the 2 instinctive choices of flight or fight, the only option he had was fight and barked back. He backed into the corner further, hackles raised; the other puppies themselves had little or no social skills and kept coming towards him so the next step was show teeth and bark more aggressively. The trainers and other owners did nothing to move the puppies away and by the time I'd got him out of the situation the damage was done. I was reprimanded for not letting him work it out for himself, so add my tension to the mix and Billy was totally unsettled and confused.
The following week Billy's hackles went up the minute we got out of the car, he was tense and started barking and bearing teeth as soon as we got through the door to the hall. Any dog that came near him he lunged towards looking as aggressive as he could, all because he didn't want to be cornered again. I left the class rang my mum and asked her for the number she had found on the Internet after I'd booked the course with the first training school.
Important point to note here, Internet search engines are limited as Pets Behaving Better does not come up with my postcode yet the classes are nearer to my home. I think I was on the phone to Elaine for at least an hour!
I remember our first night training with Elaine so well. We arrived after all the other puppies had started the class and entered the hall at Uphill by the side door. Elaine immediately assessed the situation and didn't let us come into the hall properly. It was so evident that Billy couldn't cope with being in with the others that we spent the entire session in the little side room with the door open so that he could see the other dogs but not feel threatened by them. Billy had one of his turns every time a dog walked near the door, so Elaine and Edna sectioned of the corner by the door with chairs so that there was even more distance between him and the others. I remember going away at the end of the evening feeling completely wrung out and wondering if we would ever get to join the rest of the class, Billy walked out calmer than when he went in.
Thanks to the patience and knowledge of Elaine and her team by the end of April we had progressed into the main hall, Billy still had the safety net of 'his corner' and being behind a row of chairs but his outbursts were less often. By June he was in with the other dogs, he still entered the hall by the side door as he wasn't ready to deal with walking through the other dogs but he was happy to move away from the safety net of the corner. Then we had a week of no outbursts at all and that was the start of Billy relaxing into training and we haven't looked back! At first the goals were 1 week of no outbursts, 3 weeks in a row of no outbursts, and I don't want to jinx anything by saying how long it's been since he had to leave the hall.
Billy passed his Bronze Canine Good Citizen test on October 13th 2011. To do this he had to mingle with other dogs without showing any signs of aggression, he had to do a recall off lead and down stay for 1 minute with two dogs barely a foot away on either side. He is doing really well and is so relaxed he is able to work off lead in groups indoors and outdoors. He has been on a couple of the Dog Fun Days Elaine arranges during the summer and is starting to learn agility, which he totally loves and charges around the course.
We are now aiming for the Silver test and thanks to Elaine I am able to read his body language more effectively, so know when situations are too much for him and can avoid confrontations and upsets. He has been to Cornwall and Scotland on holiday this year dealing with crowds and lots of new situations with a confidence that I never thought we would see again.
Billy in Scotland playing with my Uncle's dogs, who he'd only just met, and our labrador. This for Billy was a major step forward as he was relaxed and loved charging around for the few days we were there.
For me and my family it is fantastic to see Billy continually improve all the time. He is much more like the puppy I brought home 12 months ago.A small example of how far he has come since February. Billy had his annual jabs last week and as we walked in the vets there was a standard poodle that stared at Billy as soon as we entered and started barking at him, my boy looked at me, obeyed my quiet 'leave it' command and sat next to me patiently waiting his turn. He watched the poodle for a minute or so then found the noises from the cat corner a little more interesting! The vet was also very impressed with his good manners whilst being examined, which is basically what we all want as dog owners.
When my 8 year old bitch, Faith became pregnant in 2010, it was a bit of a shock; she had never had a season and my ancient ex-stud, jack was 12 years old and had never showed the slightest interest in her.
The puppies were born 10 days before I went to Australia for three weeks and the second puppy was dead on arrival. I managed to resuscitate him and although I hadn't considered keeping any of the litter, this one seemed special somehow and he decided he was staying…
In exchange for me agreeing he could stay, he insisted his name was Stanley; he also made it quite clear that he would not be expected to do anything even remotely strenuous - this is the laziest, most laid back Border Collie in the World!
We found Pets Behaving Better through an Internet trawl and I am glad we did; Stan has blossomed through the classes and the mental discipline has been good for both of us. Some bits have been very hard - he doesn't think it's worth doing a 'sit stay' when he can slide gracefully into a 'down' instead, where he can have a nice little nap for two minutes. And as for 'stand…'
Because of his calm nature, I thought he would make a superb P. A. T. dog, where we visit residential homes and hospitals, so that people deprived of the daily loving contact with a dog can pet and cuddle one.
The vetting process is rigorous, an hour's assessment (for both of us!) and here the training received at Pets Behaving Better was invaluable. We passed and have just completed our first visit to Madeira Lodge on the Sea Front.
It was lovely and so good to see how excited the residents were to be able to have Stan there - he had a great time and was particularly good with a lady who was crippled with arthritis. He nestled in close and put his head up so that she could use the back of her hand to stroke him; the dog treats and biscuits he received also went down well!
We hope to visit on a monthly basis and I can heartily endorse this very worthwhile scheme, which goes a small way to offsetting the bad press that dogs seem to get in the newspapers at present.
Anita and Stanley
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Gemma came into our lives in June 2005 as a six week old Lurcher. We had previously had two adult rescue dogs but decided this time to go for a puppy. I knew I needed help with training so joined Pets Behaving Better. I expected to go for a few weeks or maybe months but we are still going 3 years later.
We both enjoy meeting the other dogs and owners and also enjoy most of the tasks that Elaine gives us - providing we don't have to do them too many times, generally the first time is the best then Gemma gets a bored look on her face or her sense of humour kicks in and she decides to liven things up.
Gemma has her bronze and silver awards and on a good day could probably get her gold but until I get to training I don't know what mood she is in.
In August 2007 we had a setback when Gemma dislocated her hip. After a few weeks rest we went back to training but she couldn't sit squarely so Elaine gave her a massage and ever since she has been fine.
As a Lurcher with a lot of Saluki and Greyhound in her, she is not always the easiest to train but with Elaine's help I think she has turned into quite a decent adult dog.
Our dog Sadie is a German Shepherd who came from Holly Hedge Animal Rescue she is very special to us, she has had to overcome so much in her short life.
We went to Holly Hedge one Saturday, to see if they had any German Shepherds after having not long lost our German Shepherd "Dee" from old age, they'd just had one brought in that day, Tanya from Holly Hedge had just been to collect her from a Birmingham dog pound . She'd been found roaming the streets for about six weeks before the R.S.P.C.A. could catch her.
When Tanya first brought her to Holly Hedge, she told us she (Sadie) was so frightened, she shook from head to toe with fear, she messed everywhere, she was also very under weight, her hair terribly matted, she was so frightened no one could get near her, she just cowered in the corner, she showed no aggression just fear.
After at home a home check by Holly Hedge they agreed it would be best if she was put into a home environment.
The following week we brought her home, she had to be carried to the car and covered with a blanket for comfort. On her first home night home she pulled the curtains down in the dining room trying to get out.
For the first few weeks she just stayed in her bed in the corner of our dining room. She wouldn`t come out or venture into any other room, her eating habits were terrible, pinching bits of food from her bowl when nobody was around also hiding food in the garden.
After about four weeks she started to venture into other rooms but any quick movement she would just disappear back to her bed. After around six weeks we decided it was time to put a lead on her, she just flipped doing somersaults trying to get the lead off. We had to drag her out of the house for a walk, she was terrified of traffic and if there was anyone walking by she would just freeze, she is still nervous but getting better all the time.
We taught her to play, we don`t think she ever played before, now she loves to chase after her ball, she still doesn`t get on with other dogs but is getting better all the time.
We started taking her to Pets Behaving Better and 2 years down the line she's like a different dog, she now loves her walks and lets us know when she wants to play ball by dropping the ball at our feet.
Sadie still isn't confident around other dogs but with training is improving all the time with Elaine at Pets Behaving Better (don`t run up the back of the shepherd) when training.
Sadie must have been very badly mistreated but has overcome so many obstacles, she is still a bit wary at times, but she`s a loyal, friendly and affectionate dog whom we're very proud of.
MY FIRST TIME EVER OFF THE LEAD ON WESTON BEACH XMAS 2005
I am now a very happy dog living with Kevin and Dawn, going for walks across the moors near our home. Once a week Kevin takes me training at "Pets Behaving Better" where we have completed the 'Kennel Club Bronze' award.
ON HOLIDAY PLAYING WITH MY BALL
Saye Families Testimonial - Jak's Story
Jak was put into Brent Knoll RSPCA in April 2007, as his previous owners did not want him anymore. Unfortunately, around this time we had lost our own border collie unexpectantly to cancer, which upset the whole of the family. After having time to grieve we were keen to get another Border collie as the family didn't seem complete without one. Our previous dog wasn't without his issues like many border collies, so we turned to the RSPCA to find a new member of the family. We felt that the RSPCA would be able to find us a border collie that was suitable, but also that the family could provide a home for a dog that perhaps others families would not consider or find unsuitable. In our eagerness to get the ball rolling which search the RSPCA website and that is where we saw Jak for the first time. He was a two year old blue merle border collie with a unique issue; he was completely deaf and had been since birth. The whole family read his story and unanimously, all fell in love with him. Although, we talked through whether we felt we could provide a loving home for a deaf dog, it really seemed the decision had been made long before the discussion. We rang the Brent Knoll RSPCA the following day and arranged to go and see him after he had his operation.
None of the family has forgotten the first day we saw Jak; he was even more impressive and handsome in real life. He has the biggest star like blue eyes and an incredible soft white fur with a marble saddle across his back. When he was brought out he immediately snuggled his gentle head onto our laps, with his long tail wagging. He seemed to known that we would be his future family and could not have made a more loving impression. The deafness was never a problem for us, we really only desired a dog that was loving, and he provided us with buckets full from the day we met him.
We took him out for a walk from the RSPCA Kennel's to see what he was like with the family, he seemed completely stressed by the experience. When talking to the RSPCA we all came to the conclusion he wasn't well socialised, as it was felt he hadn't been on many walks.
This never put us off, and after what seemed like ages, but was actually only a week, we brought Jak home for the first time. Since bringing Jak home we found that he was very insecure and suffered extremely from separation anxiety and found being left on his own traumatic. Furthermore, he had a severe barking issue as he would bark at random things such as road signs, bikes, umbrellas, people in hats, piles of stones and the list goes on. He would often flinch and cower when you moved too quickly towards him especially if you went near his ears. He was also terrified of water. We were relieved to know that we soon would be attending training sessions to help us help Jak to over come his past and become a happy, obedient and emotionally balanced dog in the future. This was an agreement that was made between us and the RSPCA, as they felt that this was compulsory for him, so he could learn how to be road safe and obedient. A local trainer called Elaine was recommended. He has flourished since attending her classes and really enjoys going. She has helped us solve many issues that have arisen concerning Jak and as a RSPCA worker also attends, we have yet to find a problem that either one of them can't help solve. Jak loves to learn and consequently is a quick learner; he quickly picked up the basics of sit, down, leave etc. What took the time were us learning the hand signals, which we initially kept in a log. However, things became a little more complicate as we tried more complex exercises. Firstly, having to work out possible signs that Jak could understand was tricky and took many attempts of trying them out. We often had to try many different signs to see what Jak responded best to before a sign was decided. It required a lot of patient not just from us and Elaine but Jak as well. He would often get confused as to what we wanted from him but he would never give up and eventually he would understand and then quickly he would learn the signal. It was clear to see that Jak was equally as pleased with himself as we were with him, every time he mastered a new signal. To this day every achievement is a mile stone for him and is still as exciting as the previous achievement.
He has come along way in the past year and it is hard to remember family life without him. He has come from a scarred and insecure dog that barked at everything, to a confident boisterous dog that has achieved so much. He has already got his Bronze Citizen award with two different handlers and is hopefully soon going to have it with another handler. He is also expected to take his Sliver Citizen award shortly, and who knows maybe in the future his gold.
Although, we can't deny that this year wasn't without its struggles with Jak and we can't say that his barking has been solved completely. We can say that it is a pleasure to have Jak in the family and that daily walks are enjoyable by all. The whole family is grateful for all the help that Elaine has given us. Jak would never have made such progress or achieved as much as he has with out her. She has really changed Jak's life by giving us the ability to communicate with him. The family can not imagine not having Jak and we wouldn't swap him with any other dog in the world.
Jak on a day out with his Daddy
Jak's first sailing trip
Jak on one of his many beds.
Jak in training
Jak's favourite toy
I have been a regular client of Elaine's for some years in dog training, myself and my dog Pepper have always enjoyed our classes each week. However, Pepper is getting on in years and she was origiinally rescued from the streets of Wales 8 years ago, she has had a hard life and it is starting to show in her old age. She was finding doing simple downs difficult and sitting for long periods in a stay without fidgiting and getting up, she never breaks a stay normally, we have been doing training for the whole time I have had the privalidge to own her.
I had been aware that Elaine offered canine massage and reiki, so I enquired about booking up a session as Pepper had been diagnosed with the start of arthritis in her left shoulder. This added onto the strains her body has been through, from her previous life, to the accidents that she has had with me, including a tail amputation which has made her regularily pull her hamstrings. After consulting with the vet they were happy for Pepper to have anything to prevent her going on pain killers at an early age of 8 (she is now 9 and still tablet free).
I felt that it was time she had some attention to her physical wellbeing now that her mental scars were improved on, and last year Elaine gave Pepper her first massage. It was not easy for Pepper, although she was not in pain, she has shown signs of being abused, she was determined to fight Elaine and dictate where she was going to receive the massage, but she was not hating the process. Elaine offered Pepper reiki, which she took eagerly. One thing that Pepper did make sure of, when she had her reiki, she leant on me and gave it to me too, I think she felt I needed some help with issues too.
Over the following year Pepper had more sessions, usually once every 6 weeks, she did not fight the sessions, but she will still skip parts to get Elaine to attend to the worst areas, she feels need attention. She sometimes wanted to skip the massage and just have the reiki, but she needs to have the massage to put back her muscles into a state where she is able to move better and eleviate the stress on her old joints and that bad shoulder of hers.
Now over a year has passed and Pepper is still moving well, she is still having the odd accident - she is very active and fit, and refuses to grow old gracefully. She does not show signs of the arthritis getting worse at present, she has good overall movement and I am still able to show her at lurcher shows, even the judges have commented on how well she moves for her age, they are even more shocked when I point out her condition.
I would recommend anyone who has a dog with any mobility issues to think about massage and reiki, it has kept my old lady going for a great while yet and many more years to come, she can remain a puppy for as long as she can and run around like a hooligan when the mood takes her and chase her toys.
When asked what I book Pepper in for when it is time for her next session, the answer is always the same "whatever she wants done".
My name is Jake, I am an eleven month old Jack Russell.
I thought I had it made when I came to live with my present owners. I thought I could jump up and bark at everything. When I went out for a walk I would pull on my lead to make sure that I was in front. Little did I know what was ahead for me.
One evening about 4 months ago I was taken to this Hall in Banwell where I met some other dogs with their owners. I thought I could carry on in my usual way. I soon found out differently. I was introduced to Elaine and Andy who were very patient with me and they introduced me to the reward scheme. If I sat quietly or did as I was told I would get a treat. This seemed to be a good idea. Over the next few weeks I was gradually joining in with the other dogs and began to enjoy the classes. At the end of the first 8 week my owner and I were presented with our puppy award. I am now at Uphill on a Thursday night as Banwell had to close, still with the same trainers. I am working towards my Bronze award now. I still do not always get it right but my owners think I am much better and they would recommend anyone to the 'Pets Behaving Better' dog training classes.
BENJI'S STORY BY ALAN BROWN
Benji is a Chinese Crested Powderpuff who is 3 years old. He came to live with us on 22nd February 2003.
We found Benji at the National Animal Welfare Trust's home at Heaven's Gate Farm at Langford in Somerset on 15th February 2003. We had gone to the sanctuary after losing our 17-year-old dog called Murray earlier in the year. We knew that we wanted another dog and had all agreed at the outset that a Greyhound/Lurcher would be a good companion dog for our ageing Labrador/Collie called Lacey and our cat called Bert. Heaven's Gate had six such dogs, all just, what we wanted. We had been told at reception to go and look at the dogs, make a list and bring it back to them. They could then discuss whether or not they may be suitable bearing in mind our present situation. We took our list back to reception and were told that five of the six had difficulties with living with a cat due to their ex racing background and the sixth dog had a queue of people waiting for him. We didn't want to join a waiting list. We asked them if they had any dogs, which they thought were okay but that we may have overlooked.
The lady at reception suggested "Patch", whom I had seen and thought he was cute. Lesley had not even given him a second glance. She advised that he was very good with cats but had a few problems, which had gradually manifested themselves during his six months at the kennels. She suggested that we meet him before making a commitment. They brought Patch into reception, and what we saw was a very frightened, very bedraggled, very thin little dog with a huge basket muzzle and a blue coat which was too big for him. His kennel maid told us that he had become very territorial and quite aggressive towards other people who tried to enter his kennel but he was fine with her. We took him for a very short walk and he seemed to love being out of the kennels. Our daughter did not like him at all, thought he was a fluff head.
Heaven's Gate do not allow you to take a dog home on the first visit and like to discuss in a group meeting including the current kennel maid, their behaviour expert and other members of the team if they think you are suitable and if you pass that stage, they like all of the family to visit with the dog before you make that final decision to adopt.
We rang on 16th February and were told that we had passed the first stage but there was another couple also wanting Patch/Benji, which was disappointing, but we thought that we'd take a chance and join the queue.
We took Lesley's Mum and Dad to see what they thought as it would be them who would be bearing the majority of his looking after whilst we-were at work. They were smitten as well but were concerned over how thin he was.
During this second visit, we met with Heaven's Gate's resident Behaviour Counsellor. The way, in which she described him, it seemed that his problems were insurmountable. If we had been in any way faint hearted, there would have been no way that we would have adopted him.
He had been found to have many problems, mainly his distrust of strangers which manifests itself in snapping. Also, he lacks social skills, which appear to be due to his previous owners neglecting his socialisation when he was a puppy. He was not properly housetrained, had probably never lived in a proper home environment, and would find it very hard to settle in. He was a fussy eater and only ate when he felt like it. She said that he would need counselling and training. She suggested at least 10 more visits before we could even think about bringing him home.
On 22nd February, Lesley went to Heaven's Gate and had a long meeting with the behaviourist and after much debating, it was agreed she could take him home. She had to sign a disclaimer because he had bitten a member of staff and we were advised to keep him muzzled in all public places for the time being.
He had never been in a car before and was terrified but now he will leap onto the back seat when invited without hesitation. In fact, we have a struggle to get him out!
The first thing he did when he got in was to investigate the whole house, and then he settled himself on the sofa in the lounge. For all of the dire warnings, he has to date never had an accident in the house!
We had rung our vet before picking up Patch to see if they could recommend a good dog trainer and they suggested Pets Behaving Better, Elaine Hart. Our daughter rang Elaine on 21st February and told her that we were thinking of getting a dog with a few problems. Having told her some of the problems, she suggested that she would come and visit us on a 'one to one' basis. Elaine advised us to leave it for a few days so that Benji/Patch's behaviour in the home could be better assessed. She would then be in a better position to help. She came on 28th February (we had had Benji one week) and that's when his and our lives changed forever.
Elaine watched him for a while and advised us that there were various things that we would need to have patience to change about him, such as pinching from the waste bins throughout the house. She told us that he would benefit from socialisation walks with Andrew from Animals in Mind on Sunday mornings, which would help him with other dogs. She was slightly more concerned about his reaction to people; this was going to take time. He was immediately defensive and snappish towards anyone who wanted to stroke him (hence being muzzled in public). This would take lots of time and effort to overcome.
She gave us a few basic commands to use with him and asked us if we'd like to come to her training classes on Wednesday's at Wick St Lawrence. We started the classes during March, and our first night Benji wore a muzzle and was very nervous. During the course of the evening, Elaine suggested that we took off the muzzle but it was apparent that you still could not touch him. Since that shaky start, things have improved immensely. Benji is still jumpy when people invade his space and is easily spooked. Once Elaine called him, a "good boy" and that completely freaked him!
From watching him, it was obvious that he had scrounged for food because, he watches you eat and even attempted to get onto the dining table. Getting him to drink was a nightmare. He loves to drink the remains of tea and coffee that are left in the cups on the table or coffee table. During the summer, he would drink from the birdbath in the garden which was an effort because he is only little and birdbath is quite tall, but he made it! No matter how much we tried to persuade him that he had his own bowl with clean water, he would have none of it. During our weekend away on Dartmoor camping with him was the first time that he drank properly from a water bowl and now seems to have got used to the idea.
Feeding him was also very difficult. We've tried all sorts of dog foods including James Wellbeloved but his absolute favourite is Butcher's Tripe. He eats this with relish. He is now 71/2 kilos (he was 4 kilos when he came to us).
We went to class as normal, this particular week and for some reason Elaine suggested that she try to feed Benji a tit-bit. Lo and behold, he took it, and another and another. Eventually Elaine managed to stroke both his head and his back without Benji growling or snapping, much to everyone's amazement! There was all round celebration.
Benji still has a few problems but each one we now believe we can overcome. As time passes his confidence is improving, and so is ours that we can help him. Benji even tolerates our son's friends and some strangers who visit the house. He goes into town every day with Lesley's Mum & Dad on the bus and is very well behaved.
We have been going to this class every Wednesday, and Benji has passed Bronze Good Citizen award twice, once with Lesley and the other with me. Elaine has been a tower of strength and now it's time to aim for Good Citizen SILVER.
Diesel is a Staffordshire Bullterrier, he is 1 year old and has been attending Pets Behaving Better since he was 12 weeks old. He was a loving puppy however, was not the most obedient puppy at times. He was extremely playful (like puppies are) but didn't know when to stop. He also used to bark to get attention from anyone who would give it to him and did not like being ignored. On his walks he used to pull on his lead and when off lead he would not always come back when other dogs were around because he would want to play.
Within a few weeks of him attending classes we saw a big improvement, he no longer runs away, comes back when he is called and does not pull whilst on the lead. He does still occasionally bark for attention but we are currently working on improving that, but I believe that is more my fault not the dogs as I used to spoil him very much. I now spoil him less and have changed my behaviour towards him, which the trainers have advised me to do, he barely barks anymore. He passed his Puppy Award with flying colours along with his Bronze. He is currently in training for his Silver Award. I have found the trainers at Pets Behaving Better very helpful and patient with me when I (not the dog) get things wrong. Diesel is now the most obedient dog I have ever owned and I put that down to his training. He is an amazing little dog and will do anything to please and loves to learn new things.