How I came to be a Canine Therapist
BSc.Hons., AdvCertVPhys, Dip.APhys. P1
Cindy was my first dog who taught me that life is so much better with dogs than without.
My education began in 2002 with the arrival of a particularly trying puppy into my home when I was still a novice dog owner.
Cassie was a huge challenge for me and so began a long and winding quest for knowledge and answers. Along the way I received a mix of helpful and not so helpful advice from various sources.
I finally realised Cassie’s diet was a huge part of her problem, found a good training class and things started to come together.
Life with Cassie was the ‘unofficial’ side of my canine behaviour education but via much trial and error and many false starts, it led me to many people and places where I found the answers to all her problems and it gave me first hand experience of dealing with many behaviour issues and how confusing it can be for an owner, especially when they receive lots of conflicting advice.
Formal Education and Best Behaviour
I began my ‘official’ studies at Myerscough college for three years where I gained my BSc. Hons in Animal Behaviour and Welfare in 2005. At the same time, in order to gain hands-on experience, I was assisting weekly at the local animal shelter, working at the local vets in various roles and studying Canine Studies at City and Guilds level also at Myerscough. I also got Cassie to her Gold Kennel Club Good Citizen award, which is something I never would have thought possible when she first arrived in my life. It was a very intense 3 years of learning!
In 2005 I then set up Best Behaviour and began officially seeing clients for behaviour consultations. Having personal experience really helps me identify with what people are experiencing and how steep a learning curve it can be when you have a dog who is a challenge. At that point you don’t need to be judged, you just need to be helped.
Although I had gained lots of theoretical experience from studying for my degree, I felt i was still lacking in some practical experience and that there was a lot missing from my education so far.
Cassie was doing well in many ways but she was always a ‘special’ dog and there were things about her she needed more help with. I was drawn to the Tellington TTouch work and after attending a workshop I began the practitioner training, which I completed in 2007. Of all the methods and techniques I have learned over the last decade, this one is by far the most versatile and effective and underpins all aspects of my work with animals.
It taught me how to really look at dogs and see the small signals which lead you to understand how they feel. This had been sadly lacking in any study I had done this far. I also learned many simple yet hugely effective ways of changing behaviour using these techniques.
Ginger was the first cat I shared my life with and blended in perfectly with it. He had lost his guardian (who was a friend of the family) and was in poor health when he came. He had most of his teeth removed and blood results showed that his kidneys were not functioning as well as they might. He was always prone to fleas too so all signs pointed to him being not in the best of health.
I changed his diet to a good quality high meat wet food and was able to do lots of TTouch work with him and later blood results showed his kidney were normal and he no longer needed flea treatment every month. A great example of how you really can heal when you are given the right foods.
I met Candy in a rescue centre where I was volunteering and working with some of the more difficult dogs and cats there. Candy didnt allow anyone to handle her and would hiss if you tried to touch her and wasnt improving, no matter what I tried.
I suspected there was a pain issue as she had very long hair and it was knotted in places. I knew going to the vets would be very traumatic for her so I offered to take her home to see if I could gently work out the knots. As I worked with her I noticed she was growling as she ate so at this point a trip to the vets was unavoidable as there was a high liklihood of dental pain.
She had almost all her coat taken off and a few teeth removed and a couple of days later was a very different cat. I woke up on morning to her pouncing on my feet and rubbing her head against me. It was lovely to see the transformation and made me wonder how many animals out there are showing aggression only because they are in severe pain.
Sadly she developed a mass in her jaw after the dental which eventually made it very difficult for her to eat. However for those months she was the sweetest and most loving cat you can imagine. A far cry from the one I was working with in the rescue.
Veterinary Physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy
The TTouch work involved lots of observing of dog posture and movement with regards to its effect on behaviour. As I started to look more and more closely I was then drawn to physiotherapy training to give me a deeper knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and how it affects dogs.
This led me to study for a Diploma in Animal Physiotherapy at The College of Animal Physiotherapy, which I completed in 2011.
I went on to do a Diploma in Aqua and Hydrotherapy at K9 Hydro Services, which I completed in 2010.
I then completed a further Advanced Certificate in Veterinary Physiotherapy at Canine and Equine Physiotherapy Training (CEPT) and qualified as a Veterinary Physiotherapist in 2013.
These new skills came in very useful when I adopted Fizzie from a local rescue centre in 2011 at 8 years old. Fizzie came with elbow dysplasia and needed a comfortable home with lots of therapy readily available. I had been doing lots of work with her in the rescue and taking her for days out regularly for many years, so it was nice that she could finally come to live with myself, Cassie and Ginger the cat.
Fizzie has taught me so much about supporting older dogs with arthritis and neurological problems, which has now become my passion in life. She was so determined to do as much as possible and with a combination of that determination, my skills and amazing homeopathic veterinary assistance she lived through lots of well managed physical ups and downs until she was 15/16 years old.
She helped me develop my physical therapy skills and knowledge with first hand daily experience up until April 2019. She helped me realise how many older animals can be greatly helped through their later years with physiotherapy and other complementary therapies and yet this is rarely offered to owners as an option, which makes me extremely sad and frustrated. So began my quest to introduce integrated therapy to my clients.
I knew I needed to find a way to help other animal guardians with animals at this stage in life so they can be a major productive part of their animals therapy and care.
In 2015 Ollie the cat came to live with me. He was estimated to be around 14 years old and was brought into the vets looking very unwell.
As an elderly cat with health issues he wasnt going to find a home easily and the only other option was to put him to sleep. However, after a dental, healthy food and supportive therapy he began to enjoy life again. Another great teacher to discover how older cats can be helped greatly too.
Ollie had a variety of health issues but with the right support and management he went on to live a further contented 2 years. He was a pleasure to live with and benefited greatly from TTouch work and veterinary homeopathy.
Opening a Training Centre
In 2015 I opened my training centre in Rossendale and began doing workshops and in-clinic physiotherapy sessions.
I set up a four week Puppy Life Skills and Socialisation class and continue to teach Puppy Socialisation classes here at the centre after teaching them for Shuttleworth Veterinary Group since 2003/4.
I pursued my passion to educate and began teaching TTouch workshops for other physiotherapists and writing articles for Healthful Dog Magazine.
I started to teach TTouch workshops, which gives a lot of help to those wanting new ways to connect with and help their animals with all kinds of difficulties.
I also began bringing in excellent and knowlegable guest speakers such as Toni Shelbourne, Janet Finlay, Rachel Bean, Isla Fishburn, Sue Armstrong and Sarah Fisher.
In June 2016 Jake came to live with myself, Fizzie and Ollie. He has been a long term rescue dog with failed rehoming attempts due to behavioural problems.
It took 8 years to discover that the reason for this was the severe hip dysplasia he was struggling with. This was the reason he was growling in certain situations when he found things difficult or painful. However, this was mistaken for unprovoked aggression.
Jake is a challenge as he has had years of being misunderstood and in pain and expects close interactions with people to go badly. He is also very sound sensitive and has a fear of the noise of rain and hail and bangs. Despite this he is sociable and does like people as long as they stay hands-off with him. He is a work in progress and yet another great teacher. He is just one of many dogs out there struggling to live a normal life due to undiscovered physical issues which are the cause of the more visible behaviour problems. I see so many dogs like him in my behaviour consultations and have no doubt there are a great many in rescue centres everywhere.
Jake helped me be inventive about how to work with a dog who really doesn’t want you to touch them or put anything on them. We have progressed to the point where he will allow some very gentle work on his body, which is a big thing for him. We have also used veterinary homeopathy, Flower Essences and CBD oil which have all played their part in keeping him comfortable and reducing his anxiety.
The Birth of Canine Mind and Body Balance
It is because of dogs like Fizzie and Jake and so many others that in 2018 the Best Behaviour centre needed a change of focus and direction.
Many dogs need a combination of the right therapies and vet care to give them the complete support system they and their guardians need and so Canine Mind and Body Balance was born.
The aim is to bring together a variety of therapists to work together in any combination to give a complete treatment and support system for any dogs needs throughout their entire life. This gives continuity of care and enables an overlap as everyone understands the complete picture of the dog’s life and treatment so far and can add to that process whatever they feel they need.
I am currently in the process of updating my hydrotherapy qualification by studying to Level 5 at K9HS. I have completed all the theory work and exam but had to postpone the practical exam due to a shoulder injury and the need to care for Fizzie at home.
I have also started to develop the integrative side further by offering new treatments by other therapists to add extra layers to the behavioural, TTouch and physical therapy already available.
I will continue to bring many inspirational people to the North West to teach and inspire both owners and fellow trainers/therapists via workshops and seminars. The aim is to bring attention to all things which enable animals and their people to lead happy and contented lives together and to show them the many not so well known ways to achieve this.
There are many options out there and yet many people are only offered a handful of old traditional ones. I believe people should know all the options and make a considered choice for their animals as a result of that. Times are changing and so should the way we think and choose.
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