Gelert’s Spring 2020 Update

Over the winter, everything tends to slow down – that’s very normal in nature, and a good example for us to follow for our own well being.  This past winter, I have spent a great deal of time reading, learning and thinking very hard about the future of my work.  This has been prompted partly by an amazing opportunity to move to mid Wales, something I have been working towards since falling in love with the area whilst working there after leaving school.

Another major catalyst has been meeting an inspirational yoga teacher, Lucy Murray. ​Lucy is one of many fabulous teachers I have learned with, but is a brilliant example of “when the pupil is ready, the teacher will come”.

For a very long time, I have been drawn to Buddhist practices, and Lucy’s teaching of both yoga and meditation have opened me to exciting new ideas about my work (amongst many other benefits).

My interest began when someone shared this Buddhist prayer on Facebook.  It immediately struck me how closely this fits with animal welfare legislation, summarised nicely here (sheep focused, but I love sheep and you could replace “sheep” with any animal of your choice).

The irony that the Five Freedoms are general thought to pertain to farm animals and that many Buddhists are vegetarian has not escaped me!  The Five Freedoms and all animal welfare legislation applies to all domestic animals.

Through a process of word association, my mind then leapt to the scientific process of meta-analysis, defined as “examination of data from a number of independent studies of the same subject, in order to determine overall trends”.

Compared to many of my colleagues, my reading of primary research pales into insignificance, but I do read a great deal and also follow trusted people who I know research deeply before writing.  Prominent examples include Dr Isla FishburnDr Janet Finlay (who chooses not to use her title as her doctorate is not in a subject related to her present work, I use it here as it’s relevant to her rigorous approach to researching all her wonderful work) and Dr Nick Thompson. There are many, many others, but listing them all would make for a dull read !

As a result of mulling this over for many hours, and combining the ideas from the above metta prayer and the process of meta analysis, I am making changes to how I work and will now be focusing on people who truly want to delve deeply into understanding their dog.  I can and do work with other animals, but it’s very rare to find guardians willing to learn and make changes for animals who don’t share their homes.  If you are that rare person, I will be delighted to help you, whatever species of animal you care for.

I will still work with guardians training school dogs through Dogs Helping Kids and assistance dogs through DogAID and anyone else who is truly committed to helping their dog live its best life.

To facilitate this, once settled in Wales, I will be offering residential training for guardians of reactive dogs as a new service.  I quite deliberately say “for guardians” because I cannot train your dog – the bond of trust needs to be between you and your dog, I can only teach you practical skills to keep safe, and ideas and techniques to build and develop that vital relationship.  My new home is set in the perfect spot to get away from daily routines and to immerse yourself in learning, nurturing and supporting your dog and to take some time for yourself, without having to worry about who will look after your dog, if you choose. Everyone’s timetable will be different, to match where you and your dog are at already.

We will be hosting workshops from many people who have inspired me to share knowledge more widely from the original source (I can’t replicate the passion of these teachers, however inspired I have been!).

Keep a watch on the website – plans are rather disrupted by the current Covid-19 situation but we are continuing to work as normal, except online.  Despite my reservations, now that my hand has been forced, it works just fine!

I’ll be back with another update soon. In the meantime, any questions can still be emailed to me on morag@gelertbehaviour.co.uk 

Morag