Top Dog: meet the woman who trains puppies over video

It’s not just humans who’ve seen their classrooms go online this year. Read on to discover how puppy trainer Heather has been using Whereby to train four-legged friends during lockdown.

This year has been a busy one for professional puppy trainer, Heather Ward.

Based in Northamptonshire in England, Heather has been helping new owners train their four-legged friends since 2017 when she established the Puppy School with Heather. However, when lockdown was announced across the UK in March, Heather knew she had to find a way to continue her training in a way that was both safe, simple, and effective. So, she did what many of us did, and transferred the real-life experience to video calls.

Starting virtual puppy training sessions using Whereby was a leap of faith for Heather. “I didn't know what lay ahead or how it would work but I made the decision to jump in and go with it, learning as I went along.” Luckily for Heather and her four-legged pupils it was a gamble that paid off. “My pilot course started on 30th March 2020. Three puppies, three puppy owners and me! We all learnt together and they all did brilliantly.”

Prior to founding the school, Heather worked as a change management consultant, so adapting to new and unfamiliar situations was second nature for her. “After the very first online session I could see it was definitely going to work. That's when I started to get excited!”  And work it did. She recently completed training for her hundredth pup online — a miniature dachshund called Little Bear.

It’s not just Heather who’s adapted easily to training over Whereby — her customers have too. “I recently worked with a 79-year-old woman who wanted some help with her dog, but wasn’t sure she could manage the technology. Together her son and I encouraged her to give online training a go and she did - and she loved it!” says Heather. “She was so pleased that she managed to take part in the training online, as well as being pleased her dog learned some skills, too!”

Heather’s training is focused around personal coaching, and she’s often assisted by one of her two dogs — “Crumble is always on hand to help with a demonstration, and really is the star of the show”. During the sessions, her customers decide a particular skill or behaviour they want the puppy to learn. Once Heather has explained the exercise, the owners practice it with their puppy during the session. Heather provides live coaching and feedback to help the owners perfect their training.

With Whereby, she’s able to easily give up-to-the-minute advice throughout the online session by being in direct contact with the owner (and the puppy). “It's in these moments that the skills I learned in my old career really re-emerge. I’ve been training and coaching people for years; it’s strange to think that many of these skills transfer so easily to teaching puppies!”

Heather is accredited with the National Animal Behaviour and Training Council and is a fully-certified Puppy School trainer.

Heather’s Puppy School can be found here
Heather’s Puppy School Facebook
Heather’s Puppy School Instagram
Network of accredited tutors in the UK National Puppy School

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