Janet’s Puppy Skool is an award-winning training school, devoted to being a place where people feel welcome and their dogs enjoy returning to on a weekly basis. Taking time out of her busy schedule, the firm’s Founder, Janet Garrett provides us with a detailed insight into how she created and maintains her successful business.
Janet’s Puppy Skool started life at the beginning of 2007 and we are now going into our 16th year. After many years of Showing and having fun with my own dogs, I decided in 2005 to study for some pretty hefty qualifications. When I passed them with Distinction, I was encouraged by my family and friends to leave my job as a bilingual Personal Assistant and start my own dog training school and Behavioural practice.
During the early stages of planning the business, I wanted it to be one of the biggest, most talked about and most important dog training centres in the area. A place where owners and their dogs would feel welcome and would love to come each week. Here at Janet’s Puppy Skool, our strapline is ‘Fun and Friendly’ and I am thrilled when our customers tell us repeatedly that our classes are just that.
Taking it back to the start, one of my earliest training memories is bundling my beautiful big rough collie on to a bus after school twice a week and taking him to training classes when I was only about 10 or 11. Even during this time, I was well aware of how important training classes are. Although I don’t remember if he was particularly obedient, I can recall that I could take him anywhere – on buses, to my friends’ houses, into busy areas and even to pet shows, which I loved.
I have always been fascinated and can’t get enough of seeing dogs behaving well. However, I do not mean the sort of serious obedience we see and wonder at every year at Crufts which needs so much full-time dedication. I mean every day well behaved dogs taking their rightful place in daily life alongside their owners, for example on the school run, in the park, on holiday or at the café or pub garden.
I could go on, but I think you get the general idea of the sort of behaviour I admire and encourage in dogs. All of this is easily achieved with a little work on our part. It’s worth every bit of effort we put into a puppy when the result is a grown-up, well-rounded dog that can be taken anywhere, one that can cope with all situations – a dog that has good life skills in fact.
In 1992, the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme was introduced in an attempt to combat anti dog negativity. It incorporates a comprehensive learning structure that is focused around domestic dog owning situations. My dogs all took part in the scheme, Blue, achieved Gold medal status and was chosen to represent the Kennel Club at Earls Court and the NEC three years running as part of their Gold Level demonstration team. Seb had his Silver, which was quite something for this particular rescue boy. Gus passed his Puppy Foundation test at 16 weeks, his Bronze award at six months old and then later on his Silver award – even Daisy the Shih Tzu had her Bronze! Riff has her Bronze, Silver and Gold which she achieved amazingly all by 12 months of age. As for my youngest Bouvier at seven years old, Mack, he has his Bronze, Silver AND Gold amongst his very many other accolades. Currently, Mack is the only Bouvier des Flandres in the world to hold both the English and American Trick Dog title of Champion, and so he has all sorts of letters after his name. In addition, he spends a lot of his time demonstrating to our classes or visiting schools or other groups.
Fast-forward to years after the bus rides to training classes with my collie and sadly many dogs later, I still get that same feeling when I see a well-behaved dog and owner partnership and get a great buzz from seeing new and experienced owners enjoy teaching their dog something new at my classes.
Over the years I have shared my life with some truly wonderful dogs, from Great Danes to Shih Tzus. To this day, I still marvel at how our dogs manage to understand what we want them to do, even when the body language they study so closely tells them something different almost every time.
That is a testament to how fantastic their understanding and intelligence is – and of course their desire for a yummy treat or two whilst learning! These incredible animals interpret what we want and decide whether to do it in a split second.
All of my classes are positive reward-based experiences for both owners and dogs. They aim to help both dogs and puppies learn life skills, as well as provide the socialisation and experiences that allow them to take their place in the family. We have a pretend pub garden and pavement café, equipment to gain confidence on in preparation for steps and bridges in the big wide world, visits to class from police officers to help puppies learn about uniforms, hats and walkie talkie type noises. In addition to this, we also have a PA system to get our dogs used to the noise at summer fetes and country shows by playing music and announcements during classes, which can be frightening if they are not used to it from young. Our Skool is full time with lots of classes during the week and at weekends.
We not only teach life skills and what used to be called ‘obedience’, but also Flyball, Agility and hold Tricks Workshops (the dog world’s word for behaviour).
I have now also been qualified as a Coape (Centre of Applied Pet Ethology) Behaviourist since 2009 and see many dogs for 1-to-1 behaviour consultations who have not had this wonderful start in life or who have become troubled for some reason. Helping them back on the right path is incredibly satisfying. Overall, I think I must have the very best job in the world!
See Next Courses page for dates and times!