I'm Jo, Owner of Ravenpaws Training & Behaviour, an independent business specialising in force-free dog training and behaviour modification based in Cheddington, Buckinghamshire.
A brief summary of my qualifications & partnerships:
I only use methods that fall under the IMDT's stringent ethics. I strongly believe that to teach a dog any new behaviour, or re-condition an existing one, they should never feel forced to mask their emotions. Dogs should be able to express themselves, just as we can, and only then can we start to help with any negative feelings. I want to be able to discover the root-cause of the behaviour, rather than just dealing with the reactions. It's been scientifically proven that using fear to force a dog to change their behaviour not only causes psychological issues, but can also break down the trust they have for their humans, which is the complete opposite of what anyone wants!
I have always had a huge passion for dogs (and animals in general!) ever since I can remember. I spent over 4 years working as a dog groomer, until my personal circumstances changed and I had to accept a job working in an office, where I undertook training to become a Management Accountant, where I spent 7 years. However, COVID affected so many, and it became very clear to me that life is far too short to do a job you don't love! So, I took the leap and set up my own business!
Growing up, I had a Cocker Spaniel called Frodo. He was my absolute everything - my best friend. In my eyes, he was the perfect dog! Once I moved out with my partner, we decided to rescue an ex-racing Greyhound, Sable. She was a big wakeup call! Greyhounds are very different to Cocker Spaniels, and I needed help! So, I decided to do some research into modern dog training. 13 years ago, when we brought Frodo home, the dog training scene was very different to what it is today. I bought as many books to fill a small library and found there were force-free training methods that actually work! Time, patience and building the trust are so important when training any dog, especially sighthounds as they're such a sensitive breed, but also rescue dogs in general. Therefore, when I teach or help owners - considering breed specifics is vital!
Sadly, Sable passed away in April 2023, but not before we brought home Gavin our Cocker Spaniel in 2021, who is very different to Sable! He is a generally anxious dog, new scenarios scare him and cause him to bark. However, Gavin is almost two years old now, and is doing so much better. But since having him, it has certainly given me an insight into the challenges many owners face with dogs who suffer from anxiety / reactivity, and has allowed me to hone my techniques and offer clients a real-life example of how I can help them.
Unfortunately, the Dog Training & Behaviour industry is currently unregulated, meaning anyone can call themselves a 'Dog Trainer'. But I am proud to be regulated by the IMDT, and hope the industry as a whole can make positive changes for the better, in time.
I am very passionate about continuous learning - our knowledge and understanding changes all the time, and if we, as dog professionals, don't keep up with the very latest research out there, we (and subsequently owners) will end up using out-dated and potentially harmful information. As well as currently studying my Level 5 Advanced Diploma Applied Animal Behaviour (Canine) which is accredited with ABTC (Animal Behavioural & Training Council), I regularly enroll in webinars and CPD teachings in areas such as canine cognitive dysfunction, breed and predatory motor patterns, resource guarding, anxiety, aggression and thoughtful enrichment. I am particularly interested in diet and how, scientifically, it impacts a dog's behaviour.
I am also very proud to be partnered with Pawsable, an organisation who match dog trainers and people with Autism and/or Epilepsy (but also many other conditions such as ADHD, PTSD, Anxiety and Depression) who wish to train their own assistance dog. I provide suitability assessments, assist clients to home-train their assistance dogs and undertake the final assessment to allow their assistance dog to hold fully qualified status.
I can help you with all aspects of training but have a real passion for Sighthounds, Spaniels, Rescue Dogs, Anxiety, Reactivity, Aggression and Canine Nutrition!
This is Sable, our ex-racing Greyhound. She's been with us for three years now, and is our first rescue dog. It has been such a rewarding and eye opening experience, when we first brought her home she had never even entered a house before - so literally everything was a new experience for her! But we slowly learnt each other's ways and now she's an excellent advocate for the breed - passing her Therapy Dog assessment earlier this year!
I often use Sable as a "stooge" dog for clients with nervous, anxious or reactive dogs, as she is an excellent dog for these types of dog to meet and work with - Sable will ignore another dog if asked, which allows the other dog to get used to her and say hello in their own time (however fast or slow that may be!). She also enjoys helping me socialise puppies!
UPDATE - Sadly, on 1st April 2023 we had to say goodbye to Sable. She was suddenly diagnosed with multiple brain tumours which were very aggressive and fast-growing. It meant that from the day of her first symptom to the day we had to say goodbye only lasted a week, so she did not suffer. But our whole world has shifted, and we (along with all the clients she's helped over the years) miss her dearly everyday. She was the inspiration behind Ravenpaws, and it will always be her legacy. Sable, we will never forget you. 22/11/2015 - 01/04/2023 <3
This is Gavin, our Cocker Spaniel. He is a true cheeky chappie - who loves to steal your shoes as soon as you take them off at the front door and run upstairs with them!
He absolutely adores his big sister Sable, even if he does drive her up the wall sometimes! But his favourite pastime is learning new tricks! So far, he's learned (above all the standard Sit, Down, Stay etc): Roll Over, Bow, Pick Up, Hold, Shy, Spin, Around, Leg Weave - and we have lots more to learn together!
Learning new tricks are a really excellent way to get him to focus, stregthen the bond between him and I, and it's great at relieving any anxiety that's built up for him during the day - as Gavin does find the world a scary and overwhelming place at times! His latest fear...the watering can for our indoor plants!
But gradually, we are working through his reactivity to people (especially men!), and helping him to increase his confidence!