Animals: The Greatest Teachers of All

Jan 2, 2022

A PPG Member Profile featuring Anna Francesca Bradley, who owns and operates Perfect Pawz Training and Behaviour Practice in the northeastern part of the UK.

 

Anna Bradley credits her own pets with kickstarting her whole career from a very early age.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you first got into animal behavior and training and what you are doing now::                                  

A: I was lucky enough to share my life with animals (horses to begin with) who, at that time, were given labels such as ‘difficult/stupid/bad’ etc. Even at the age of 11 years, I knew that was far from the truth and that, with compassion, trust, care and understanding – and above all, listening, I could learn a lot from them. And my gosh, did I! I owe so much to these early experiences with my horses and dogs.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your own pets?

A: I am currently part of a menagerie that includes two beautiful Labradors, who we show at championship level, horses, pet hens, pet Shetland and Herdwick sheep, a cat and a bunch of fish – all named of course.

Q: What do you consider your area of expertise?      

A: I specialize in canine behavior issues, no one specific topic.

Q: Why did you become a dog trainer or Pet Care Provider?

A: I became a behavior consultant and trainer because I really wanted to promote the fact that dogs are sentient beings and should be truly part of a family, not treated as an object or to be bullied into submission. I felt strongly that dogs should be happy to learn, have fun, and totally enjoy the experience, rather than be coerced and feel afraid, bending to the will of whoever was imposing ‘correction’ and change.

At the time I became a behavior consultant and trainer (1999), this was very new thinking and was only just beginning to take hold in the area where I am based. Sadly, even now, there is still a lot of resistance to change.

Q: Are you a crossover trainer or have you always been a Force Free trainer?   

A: Always force-free, but my theories and techniques have most definitely shifted and improved with the advances of time and scientific evolution.

Q: What drives you to be a force free professional and why is it important to you?          

A: Simple! The difference in making emotional behavioral change in a dog via positive and fun, force-free techniques that both dog and owner enjoy as a team1, vs. aversive, harsh corrections and punishment and a sad, anxious, fearful animal who only ‘complies’ out of sheer desperation to avoid pain.

Q: What awards, competition placements, have you and your dog(s) achieved using Force Free methods?

A:

  • 2021 Leading Dog Training School Northeast England
  • 2020 Dog Trainer of the Year
  • 2018 Best Dog Training School

Q: Who has most influenced your career and how? : 

A: In all seriousness, my experiences with my own animals as I outlined earlier. My horses and dogs are truly my greatest inspiration and my greatest teachers.

Q: How has the PPG helped you to become a more complete trainer?:

A: Having the backing of PPG is hugely helpful, knowing that an organization dedicated to force-free methods and equipment is actually out there and available to assist with resources, materials, articles, and a support network.

Writing for BARKS is also great for me as reflective analysis and helps keep my brain cells firing. It makes me question myself and keeps me fresh (and the rest of the mag is fab!).

Q: What are some of your favorite positive reinforcement techniques for most commonly encountered client-dog problems?

A: Desensitization and counterconditioning for reactivity, plus response substitution techniques for behaviors that owners find inappropriate.

Q: What is the reward you get out of a day’s training with people and their dogs?         

A: When I see people in the park after I’ve finished a course with them and they’re letting their dogs run free (they may have been undertaking recall work). Or maybe they’re happily walking with another person and their dog/dogs are playing together after we’ve been working on reactivity issues.

It’s especially satisfying if we’ve come a long way with a dog, or maybe have been working with a dog who has been a ‘last chance saloon dog’ from a rescue.

Q: What is the favorite part of your job?   

A: Probably working with rescue dogs who have, supposedly, very little chance of behavioral rehabilitation and being able to substantially improve their behavioral wellbeing – especially if they have been poorly treated or living in a very poor situation.

Q: What is the funniest or craziest situation you have been in with a pet and their owner?          

A: Right at the beginning of my career when I had just started offering training courses, clients were sent the usual ‘Don’t forget to bring’ list prior to class (vaccination cards, treats, leashes, poop bags etc.). A lady arrived and parked right in front of the venue. She looked a little flustered so I went over to assist. I asked if I could help and whether I could run through everything with her: vaccination card – check, leash – check, poop bags – check. But…no dog!

Perfect Pawz Training and Behaviour Practice is located in Hexham, UK.