For the love of dogs

2018-07-03 06:01
PHOTO: suppliedMandy Barrett with her dogs.

PHOTO: suppliedMandy Barrett with her dogs.

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DOG lover Mandy Barrett, who has a passion on training and caring for dogs, says she has always loved animals.

“I always loved animals and would naturally be drawn to them. One of my favourite memories is my dad telling me how natural I was around animals, and that I had a way with dogs. I used to tell people that, when I grew up, I would be an animal trainer. Every year, we would go as a family to the Dog of the Year show. We would go and watch all the dog events, and I could always be found watching the army and police displays as that is my first love — tracking, scent and protection work. I think this inspired me to be a dog trainer,” she said.

Barrett said her work allows her to spend most of her time with animals that need to be trained.

“I work with dogs all day. I have worked in rescue organisations and kennels, as well as a vet. I work with dogs that are anxious about being handled and groomed and I run a small company assisting these dogs. The most important part of my work revolves around making a better life for dogs, creating a better understanding of the human-animal bond and helping people understand how dogs think.

“A large part of my life is rescue work, and working on dogs that have had a bad start in life. Currently I have two dogs at home who are under-going specialised work in order to help them have a purpose in life, including one that is being trained to track humans in the hope that he will do search and rescue work.”

She said to be successful in this field one has to be patient.

“You also need to be understanding, be able to step back from your ego, and always remember that dogs are thinking and feeling-beings with their own set of likes and needs.”

Even though she enjoys what she does, she says there are also challenges that come with being a dog trainer.

“The hardest part of this job is the raw deal that dogs get from so many owners. Few people commit to training, and many are reluctant to spend money on helping their dogs.

“Being one of the least well supported sports; dog training is not lucrative and can be hard as a full time career. The biggest challenge is to keep at it, and keep educating people on how to look after, and get the best from, their dogs.

Another big challenge we face is using force free methods to train dogs. Most people assume that force and pain are effective training tools and really battle with using methods that only work via reward systems.

Barret currently runs The Dog Guru Training School. She also runs a sister organisation, Rescue-ology SA, where she and a friend assist rescue organisations.

“We run training programmes and educational workshops, and offer enrichment and training ideas to rescues.”

She advised anyone who wishes to pursue a career in dog training to: “practice, research, read and spend time with people in as many dog sports as possible. Training a dog for scent work is totally different from training one for agility or obedience work and each sport has much to offer.”

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