How did a trainee architect become a puppy trainer?

One afternoon in 2008 I was sat at my desk at the architects offices that I worked at, doing the most glamorous of jobs – designing bathroom layouts. My challenge was to fit a shower cubicle, a wash basin and a toilet into a tiny tiny space in a new build house that we were designing.

This was about a million miles away from what I had imagined my job would be. I had graduated from University in Liverpool 5 years earlier and the reality of the jobs that I had worked in since then were a far cry from the exciting design projects that I had worked on during my degree.

It was a sunny afternoon and I just wanted to be out on a walk with my dog Joey who was a 3 year old Lab. We went to dog training classes in Manchester every week and had done since he was a puppy and I loved training with him and learning about him. It was my favourite way to spend my time.

That evening I did some research – were there any dog trainers in the area? Were there any suitable venues? And how did I learn to be a dog trainer? That night I had found a training course nearby and signed up to spend my weekends studying dogs, dog training and how to teach.

Later that same year I set up my first puppy training classes, took a part time job at a local kennels and left the world of architecture for good.

This year I’ll celebrate 15 years of my business!

Back then dog training wasn’t such a big industry. There weren’t really online courses and certificates you could do, it was in-person practical courses and they were few and far between.

And as far as I was concerned, if I wanted to be taken seriously as a dog trainer I wanted to become a member of the APDT. (The Association of Pet Dog Trainers)

The APDT was founded in 1995 and was one of the only organisations to properly assess its members before accepting them – still today to join the APDT you must pass a written test, teach a class under observation, and then pass an oral assessment.

I remember the day of the practical assessment so well. Thomas was still a baby so had to come along for the day so that I could feed him throughout the day. I was so nervous, coming to a venue I had never been to before and meeting a group of unknown dogs to teach them a class. When I found out I had passed I was absolutely delighted!

Every year I renew my membership with pride. I’m proud to be a member of an association with such strict assessment procedures, that makes sure that I’m continuing learning every year, and that my training methods are the most up to date effective methods which are also kind to dogs.

As the APDT website states, years ago choosing a dog trainer was pot luck – you had no idea what their methods were going to be or if you were going to be comfortable using them on your dog. Owners might not even realise the methods are unkind, and many dogs are damaged physically and mentally by outdated and unnecessarily cruel training practices. It just isn’t necessary to use harsh methods of training, when kind, motivational methods work better and are more enjoyable to use!

I hope to be a member of the APDT for the rest of my dog training career! To find out more about them, take a look at their website here;

About the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (

Or to find out more about me, click here;

Puppy Training and Socialisation – The Puppy Nanny

Nicola x

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