Howls to Hounds!
by Beth McDonald // November 2017
Howls to Hounds!
I’m Beth and I’m the new coach here at Dog School Shropshire. Since, I was a little girl in school the teachers would always ask the same question “What would you like to be when you grow up?” and I would always reply, “I want to work with animals.”
As soon as high school came to an end and we had to decide on what path we would like to go into, I knew it was a career with animals, the same as what I wanted when I was a child. I looked around at my options and decided to go straight into studying animal management at college. I couldn’t believe that I could just focus on studying animals, I found the course to be fun and exciting.
Throughout the course we had lots of opportunities to work in different animal sectors. When you say you are studying animals people would just assumed you’d want to be a Vet or a Zoo Keeper and throughout the course I did a lot of volunteer work in different vets, groomers and rescue centers and found them all very rewarding and discovered many other different jobs within the animal sector.
I decided to carry on my education and went on to complete a degree in Animal Science at university, it was during my degree I found the direction in which I wanted to progress and it was animal behaviour and training. Since completing my degree, I was lucky enough to get a job as an animal keeper at an animal park in North Wales.
At the animal park, there was a range of different species such as reptiles, farm animals, lemurs and a pack of three hybrid wolves. The main duties of an animal keeper would be record keeping of the animal’s behavior and training the animals, so you can move them to different enclosures and health check them.
I especially worked with training the wolves, I would train them so that the keepers could go in with them, handle them and showcase them in wolf keeper talks. The method of training I used was called positive reinforcement. This method of training is when the wolf would show a behavior I would want, I would then reward them straight away with a piece of meat, if they did a behavior I didn’t want, I would simply ignore it and walk away until they showed the behaviour I wanted. During the wolf keeper talks, I would find myself talking to people mainly about the wolves behaviour. People would ask how I’d trained them and it would shock them when I’d say I wouldn’t use hierarchy and dominance in training.
I then heard about the job at Dog School Shropshire and knew it was exactly the job for me as they use and promote the same training method I have used in the past with the wolves, I also want to coach and help owners understand their dogs behaviour. A part of me will always have a little connection to the pack of wolves I worked with and I regularly go and visit them and check how their doing. Whenever I do, their reactions always makes me overwhelmed, just because they remember who I am.
I’m excited to start my journey working at Dog School and helping owners create a life-long bond with their dogs and promote
reward based training!