How a black labrador puppy changed my life

Joey my black labrador

I’ve got a confession to make…

I wasn’t supposed to work with dogs.

That wasn’t how my career path had been planned out.

But sometimes life takes you on journeys that you weren’t expecting, and this is mine!

I grew up in rural Lincolnshire, the oldest of 7 children (yes you read that right!)

At school I loved animals and art, and thought I had to choose between the two. I was rubbish at science so I chose art.

I went to University in Liverpool and took a degree in Architecture. I was training to be an architect.

I spent 5 years after I graduated working for various architectural firms but nothing quite seemed to fit.

Then in 2005 we decided to get a dog!

I had grown up with Labrador and lab-crosses so that seemed the sensible choice (go with what you know!), but I soon realised I actually knew nothing!!!

I fell madly in love with Joey, my little black bundle of fluff (and teeth and claws) and it broke my heart leaving him at home every day while I went to work.

In the evenings I would try to understand Joey better by taking him to dog training classes and absolutely loved it!

I travelled around the area working with lots of different trainers learning different techniques and practising on Joey who was my poor guinea pig (sorry Joey!!!)

I became really interested in learning theory and dog behaviour, and around my full-time job I started reading everything I could find about dogs and dog training and behaviour.

Then I started to have this niggling idea that I just might be able to have a go at teaching dog training classes. And wouldn’t it be great if Joey could come to work with me?

I came across a course which looked like a great introduction for me, and on finishing I took the leap, handed in my notice (which was terrifying!) and set up my first classes on a Sunday evening.

And that was how it all started!

I had to supplement the business initially with part time work at a local kennels whilst I got dog walking clients. Then as the classes got busier I was able to add more on.

Looking back I made lots of mistakes and I still carry on making mistakes now! I hadn’t the first idea about running my own business and was very naïve about what would actually be involved. I’m still getting the hang of it now, trying to keep up with changes in marketing, social media as well as the latest dog training techniques.

I tried a range of training methods before I found what felt right for me. Some of the techniques I used I really regret (yes, I sprayed Joey in the face with a water bottle, and was told to ignore him because he was getting dominant! Luckily he has forgiven me!)

But I learn from my mistakes and I’m sure there will be many more to come which will continue to educate me!

I have worked with some brilliant trainers who I owe a lot too, and with a brilliant team of staff who have been very patient with me learning the ropes of ‘being a boss’ .

And most of all I have learnt so much from all of the wonderful dogs and clients I have worked with. Every day really is a school day in this business and diogs are wonderful teachers if we take the time to listen to them.

That’s all before I start to get too soppy!

Nicola x

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