Founder and Director of Smart Pups Assistance Dogs
I was 10 years old and won my first Obedience competition with a Dalmatian called Lady. I lived in England and I wanted an Alsatian (English version of a German Shepherd) because I had seen how well they worked in obedience trials. But since I was a small 10 year old, my parents bought me a Dalmatian (believing I would not manage a large German Shepherd!). Back then, there were no Dalmatians in obedience trials so we were a bit of an oddity. But we got noticed when we continued to win trials throughout Southern England, winning from Novice competitions to Tracking Trials! We often travelled long distances by bus and train to attend competitions.
I arrived in Australia at aged 19 and bought a young Weimeraner pup and bred, and trialled, Weimarners. I won obedience trials at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney and regular competitions, usually with scores between 91 -98%.
I changed breeds and bought my first Golden Retriever in 1980 and have bred, showed and trialled Golden Retrievers for the past 30 years. From my first Golden, I went on to raise Show Champions and Obedience winners as well as many litters of pups.
In 2000, I set up my own business as a Dog Behaviourist, doing ‘in home’ training for problem dogs, as well as running a successful puppy preschool and adolescence dog group training class. My clients mainly came from recommendations from local veterinarians and dog training schools.
I was asked by a client to help train a dog for a child in a wheelchair with various disabilities. After an extended search I realised there were very few organisations that trained these special service dogs in Queensland. Seeing a need for trainers for these special dogs, I found 4PawsforAbility in Xenia, Ohio, USA. 4PawsforAbility was the first and largest organisation in the USA to place Service Dogs for Children with Autism as well as training Multipurpose Service Dogs.
4Paws for Ability have successfully placed over 500 service dogs in many categories throughout the USA and other countries. I contacted the founder of 4Paws Karen Shirk and she invited me to do a 5 month internship to learn the specialised training of Service Dogs for Multipurpose Assistance, Seizure Assistance and Autism Assistance.
Seeing for myself the amazing success of dogs helping children with disabilities, has convinced me the internship was well worth it to have this knowledge and train these dogs back in Australia. Since completing my training with 4Paws and returning to Australia I am now actively training “task specific” Assistance Service Dogs.