Our family always had pet dogs and cats and I learned to ride at the age of three. ‘You are what you eat’ is a saying that I often heard from my family when I was young. My aunt and uncle lived on a farm and I adored them both. Uncle Sydney had a huge allotment and Aunt Elaine was the greatest cook ever. I spent all my time walking around the farm, watching failing piglets being put in the warming oven of the Aga and brought back to life, lambs being hand reared and Elaine cooking real wholesome produce. She started me on the pathway to realising that what we eat plays an important part in our physical and mental health.
Throughout my school days my passion for animals continued and I went on to compete in Working Trials with my dogs and at County Shows with my horses. Through the 1980’s I ran a very busy dog training club and developed one of the first puppy socialisation classes in the UK, and I continue to be involved in the training and rehabilitation of problem dogs and horses. After qualifying as a Medical Scientist I went onto to pursue a career in animal behaviour and training, and helped to establish the charity SUPPORT DOGS, becoming recognised as the world leader in the art of training dogs specifically to assist people with epilepsy and other complex medical conditions. Writing a number of booklets on canine behaviour and training and co-authoring several research papers along the way I was very proud to be elected to the Board of Directors of both Assistance Dogs UK and Assistance Dogs International.
In 1998 I gained my MSc in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling from the University of Southampton, studying, as seems very logical now, the effects of nutrition on canine learning abilities by comparing how successfully dogs can be trained to perform specific tasks when fed different dietary formulations.
I have been heavily involved in education, course accreditation, regulation and curriculum development within the Companion Animal Behaviour Sector and remain passionate about teaching students about animal behaviour, dog training and the impact and application of nutritional science in canine behaviour therapy. Naturally, my on-going research and constant interest is how our dogs and cats are the physical and mental shape of ‘what they eat’.
I hope to be able to design a CPD Event for members of IntoDogs on nutrition and the effects of diet on behaviour.