Did you know we offer expert advice on our PetsNet Forum on a range of generic topics?
We would like to introduce behaviourist Penran “Petshrink” Higgs our guest expert offering tips and advice on everything from separation anxiety to why your dog loves digging.
We asked Penran to tell us more about herself and her work in her own words, here’s what she had to say:
Lots of dogs need a bit of help when it comes to training: sit, wait, come here etc. But what happens when your pet does things that you wouldn’t expect to get sorted in a training class?
What happens when your dog is jealous when you, for example, stroke other dogs, growls when you approach when they are eating, attacks other dogs, or can’t be left alone without destroying your sofa? That’s when you need the help of a behaviourist.
Unfortunately, the dog behaviour and training industry is an unregulated profession. Anyone can set up as a behaviourist or trainer with no real qualifications whatsoever. I didn’t want to be the sort of person who “wings” it, or claims to know all about dogs just because “I’ve been around them all my life” or I “feel an affiliation with them” and I also didn’t want to be an academic who writes books and papers with no practical experience. My aim was to be a working behaviourist with a solid scientific grounding behind me.
I decided to start at the top and asked the Queen’s behaviourist what I should do to qualify properly! He said I needed to be a vet first, I felt my hopes and dreams were scuppered because I had just graduated in Psychology. A massive career fail?
Years later I when reading an article in the newspaper about a behaviourist I realised he had been wrong and that there were other pathways to the job. I swiftly upped my voluntary animal experience and was delighted to later be accepted into the part time Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling course at Southampton University. It was extremely tough and rigorous, I was surrounded by super clever people and the course took up all my holidays (and money) for 7 years, but I qualified well.
During my studies, I learned that to be a good trainer you don’t have to be a behaviourist, but to be a good behaviourist you have to be a good trainer. So, after graduating I applied and was accepted to be trained by the world- renowned behaviourist Gwen Bailey and started teaching her Puppy School classes so that my practical skills were up to scratch. I then wrote my 70,000 word application of behaviour cases, to become a full member of the Association of Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), www.apbc.org.uk and was accepted. The APBC represents a network of behaviour counsellors that have achieved the highest proven academic and practical standards available in the field of companion animal behavioural therapy. APBC members abide by a strict code of conduct and continually develop their professional knowledge in light of new research so that clients and the veterinary surgeons who refer them can be assured they receive the latest expert advice at a reasonable cost.
Today as well as behaviour work on vet referral, I teach puppies, and older dogs training and scent work, train assistance dogs to do things like load the washing machine, or pick up things for their owners. I also act as an expert witness in court and as an assessor of dogs for foster homes.
To find a qualified behaviourist visit www.apbc.org.uk