Alison Kirby-Cooper (nee Edgington) describes how her ability to sense the connection and communication between dog and handler gives her an edge in her career as a dog (and human) trainer.
I started doing Agility with my first rescue collie cross in 1991 and joined Prestbury Park Dog Agility Training Club with Greg Derrett. The following year I became an Agility Club Approved Instructor and started teaching at all levels every week at Prestbury Park. I continued teaching there for 8 years, whilst also competing at a senior level with my own dogs all over the country.
During this time, I also began teaching at other local Kennel Club affiliated clubs in the area and gained a vast knowledge and experience of working with lots of different breeds and sizes of dogs and abilities of handler. I soon identified that there was a need for specialised agility training for specific problem areas that were hard to resolve within a normal class environment. I therefore set up an alternative training concept with 3 other trainers, which we called “Over and Above”, to compliment local club classes.
In 2014, following redundancy from my day job, I set up my own business as ChangeStart Dog Agility Coaching. I decided that the best way to utilise all my skills and knowledge was to continue in the vein of “Over and Above” and offer specialised training for agility problem areas on a one to one basis. I also still teach at 4 different local dog clubs in the evenings during the week and have recently begun to offer Hoopers lessons and workshops.
From the feedback I received, I soon began to realise that my teaching style and ability was quite unique as I was “feeling” the connection and communication that was taking place between the dog and handler. From a young age I was always very intuitive and seemed to just know things sometimes but couldn’t tell you where the information had come from. An example was when I came home from school one afternoon and had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to do all of the ironing and make the house tidy before my mother came home from work that night. That evening my mother did not return home at her expected time and phoned from the hospital to state that she “had a little bump in the car and was fine but could I get my Dad to ring the hospital when he got home”. It turned out that her car had been crushed between 2 lorries and she was very lucky to be alive!
Due to experiences in my personal life I have always had an interest in how the mind works and how our thoughts can have such a profound effect on our lives. I also find this has given me a deep level of understanding of other people’s emotions and how they are affecting them. I can often feel what state of mind my clients are in when they arrive for their lesson.
I began to realise how important our thoughts are to our dogs and how easily our mind can contradict our physical and verbal cues. This can quickly lead to frustration or demotivation in our dogs due to the contradictory messages they are receiving from us. Our dogs can become so in tune with us that they actually “read our minds”. If our minds are full of doubt, we lack focus or struggle to remember courses, our dogs struggle to perform the job that we are asking them to do. It is fine to work on a positive mental attitude but you still need to communicate this information to your dog. Sometimes life gets in the way and if your head is a jumbled mess then even with all the dog training techniques in the world you will not get the best out of your dog.
As Albert Einstein once said: “Everything is a vibration.” The principal behind intuitive coaching is that we, as human beings, are vibrating energy but on different frequency levels, depending on the emotions that we are feeling. Often our dogs are mirrors that reflect our actions and emotions. They are great teachers and healers if we are prepared to listen and push our egos aside once in a while to acknowledge that sometimes our dogs know best.
To contact Alison on Facebook, click here. Website: www.changestart.co.uk. Alison trains in the Tewkesbury area of Gloucestershire.