Please allow me to introduce our new magazine forum! Instead of a quarterly PDF containing anywhere from 8 – 12 articles, I will send 2 – 4 article blog updates via email, similar to what you have received here. I will email the blogs when relevant news and news of interest is brought to my attention, and where applicable I will source further, complementary articles to add to the theme of the blog. Once published, updates will only be made available to CFBA members, to include a blog archive.
I always welcome unsolicited articles, and will still request articles or input based on the subject at hand, at which time I hope you will embrace the opportunity to share your expertise. Many of you have been diligent about doing so, to include a series of formerly published small business articles recently sent to me by Dean Hart (which will be used in upcoming marketing blogs).
As another example, one of the articles in this blog is written by me – an editorial of one of our member’s books. I know there are many published authors within our association, thus, and again, I encourage you to share your work with the rest of us, whether you provide your own summary or submit an editorial or testimonials written by others.
I am also interested in breed articles, rehabilitation challenges and successes, and insight into your individual work …
For this blog, and in addition to this introduction and member book editorial, I also welcome new member, Sam O’Connor.
Diane Kunas, MA, MCFBA
New Member Introduction by Sam O'Connor
I know it’s a cliché but I have been obsessed with dogs ever since I was a child. I have no idea where my interest came from – we didn’t have pets in the family at all, I wasn’t allowed a dog as my parents worked all day but from as early as I can remember I would invent imaginary dogs that I pretended I was walking round the garden and was desperate to play with my friends dogs all the time. I was forever going up to stroke dogs I didn’t know that were tied up outside the supermarket, which not surprisingly resulted in me getting snapped at quite frequently! This never put me off though and dogs held my interest throughout childhood, even doing my work experience placement at a local boarding kennels, until eventually I came to a bit of a crossroads and a huge decision to make – do I go to University or do I go and work with dogs?
When I was 18, going to University was the thing to do. Everyone at my school went, and I would never have imagined that I would be any different or have the confidence to be different. Animal behaviour degrees weren’t on offer back then and the closest thing I could get to anything related to my interest was Zoology and I tailored my A-levels towards this.. However, soon after my work experience, I spotted a tiny advert in the back of “Dog World” newspaper for Bellmead Kennel staff Training College in Berkshire, the largest & most popular animal boarding facility in the South East. Bellmead was offering a year’s placement to study for an NVQ in Animal Care & Management and whilst this was “going against the grain” as far as my school was concerned, ultimately, I decided this was the right route for me and at 18, I took a leap of faith.
Bellmead wasn’t just a dog & cat boarding facility and a training college, it was also the country residence for the most famous rescue in the UK, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
Right from the start I was in my element, surrounded by dogs of all shapes and sizes, some who had owners, some who didn’t, but it wasn’t all fluffy puppies & cute kittens, it was really, really hard work! Having sad that it was probably the best year of my life – I was out in the real world feeling really lucky that I was getting to do exactly what I had dreamed of, watching and learning how to handle and train dogs.
That first year at Bellmead turned into a 23 year career in the animal welfare industry working in numerous different roles including running & managing a rehoming department, collecting stray dogs as a Local Authority dog warden, working as a canine temperament assessor, handling and training dogs of all ages, breeds & temperaments & most recently in an extremely emotionally challenging position as an intake co-ordinator for Battersea, helping people who were no longer in a position to care for their dogs.
I’ve owned two dogs of my own – Tia, a Border Terrier X who suffered with nervous aggression towards people & dogs and Dudley, a deaf Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I worked so hard with Tia’s issues and we made such great progress together that she went on to compete in agility and was also a Battersea mascot, making appearances & greeting guests at various red-carpet events, attending photoshoots and starring in an TV advert for the Home.
So here I am now with a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. My skills have come from observing, handling & training literally thousands of dogs but I feel my full-time career within animal welfare is drawing to a natural close. Not because I don’t genuinely love it, I do, but because, like many jobs that involve such heightened emotions & hard-hitting issues, it definitely gets harder to cope with as you get older!
My choice now is to put everything I have learnt along the way into practice and utilise it to prevent more dogs ending up in rescue. I am passionate about educating people in how to raise and socialise their puppies in the very best way so as to avoid the sorts of problems I faced with my own dog & have seen in so very many of those who come through rescue and I want to work with those owners who are struggling with their dogs but who are committed to working through problems.
I have recently committed to updating my education and am currently working towards a Higher Certificate in Professional Canine Behaviour Practice with Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour & Training. Late last year I was ackowledged as a Master Trainer with the Guild of Dog trainers and am proud to say I am the newest full member of the CFBA.
I offer private, 1-2-1 training for puppies & adult dogs and behaviour consultations throughout Surrey & West London.
Sam O’Connor, MCFBA
I recently welcomed a puppy to my home! It’s been a while, so I thought it a good idea to brush up on what is new in the land of puppy journalism – for both my puppy and professional benefits. What better way to start than to check out what my CFBA colleagues had to write on the subject! The reading began with Puppy Coach by Jo Croft (2017).
Puppy Coach is literally everything and all-encompassing puppy: 30 Chapters and 300+ pages, all of which I read in a matter of days. Of course I was very motivated by the impending arrival of my pup, but my eagerness to keep reading went beyond my own puppy-brain – it is an incredibly solid and immensely practical book!
Another sign of a good (and again, practical) book are the number of pages that are dog-eared, and mine looks like it’s prepared for a lecture. And while I could list the depth and breadth of what is covered, much of which, to my knowledge, has not been covered in so much detail and in one place, my biggest takeaway was an overarching theme of keeping calm regardless of whether you’re training, engaging in play, socialising, or when you’re dealing with the whole realm of common puppy problems. This may seem like common sense, especially when you work with at least one puppy every other day of the week, it is different when the puppy is your responsibility every second of their critical, early developing life! Therefore, and with this said, maybe the best sign of all is that I believe either I have an exceptionally remarkable puppy, or I am doing an exceptionally remarkable job – I am inclined to say the latter, because at the top of my mind and at every moment (even when the ‘mini monster’ horns were full-on out), I stayed calm, and what is shaping before me is a calm and balanced dog. I’d like to think that this book reminded me of what I needed to remember most, and it set me up to success!
In perfect world, all new and novice dog owners would be required to complete the tasks at the end of each chapter. If one doesn’t have time, inclination or interest to do so, perhaps they are not ready to take on a puppy!