‘I feel very privileged to be able to do something I love’

Dog trainers for over 20 years Elaine Cook, centre left and Leonie Bull, centre right, from Forton with some of the dogs, and owners,  they're currently training.

Dog trainers for over 20 years Elaine Cook, centre left and Leonie Bull, centre right, from Forton with some of the dogs, and owners, they're currently training.

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Elaine Cook “fell” into her job as a puppy trainer 20 years ago, and hasn’t looked back.

She said: “I’ve always liked animals from being little and me and my husband got a labrador just after we got married.

Dog trainers for over 20 years Elaine Cook, right and Leonie Bull, from Forton with a couple of dogs they're currently training.

Dog trainers for over 20 years Elaine Cook, right and Leonie Bull, from Forton with a couple of dogs they're currently training.

“I thought, perhaps we’ll take it to training, and so we went to one run by Leonie Bull, who has ended up becoming my training partner.”

The pair’s beginners classes run for 11 weeks and during that time they teach sitting, recalls and walking the dog on the lead.

In the summer, the class holds fun agility sessions to give the dogs a change and keep their interest.

Elaine said: “A lot of people are too soft with their dogs.

“That doesn’t mean you have to shout at them, but rules are rules and they have to be kept.

“A lot of the time you find that people’s children have grown up and they baby their dog instead.”

She added: “A lot of it is common sense and confidence. We want to produce very nice, obedient dogs that know how to behave.

“Dogs like to know where they stand.

“It’s also important that you’re consistent.

“People say that they don’t mind a dog jumping up at them, but don’t want it doing that to their mum, but dogs don’t work like that.

“Rules are rules.

“And if you don’t want a dog jumping up and sitting on the sofa, then sit with it on the floor when it’s a puppy.”

Some people have been going to Elaine and Leonie’s classes for 20 years with different dogs and Elaine admits “it’s become a bit like a social club”.

In the past, Elaine has also trained Guide Dogs and, although she has now finished that role, she has a retired Guide Dog as a pet.

She said: “The lab me and my husband first had was a PAT (Pets as Therapy) dog and we used to take him to old people’s homes and let them stroke 
him.

“We were out one day and saw a Guide Dog pup and I said to his handler that I was interested in dogs, but didn’t know where Guide Dogs came from – they just seemed to appear, so he told me about the process.

“Then afterwards I was at the Oyster festival at Old Nells and one of the charities they were sponsoring was for Guide Dog puppies.

“They had a stall and I went over and talked to the people about it.

“The man there was called Gary Stephenson and he said I was just the kind of person they were looking for, but I said no, I was concerned about how it would be when you had to give the dog over.

“But he pestered me a few times and I said I’d give it a go.

“So he dropped a pup off and we went from there.

“With my work doing the 
dog training classes it all went from there.”

She added: “You train Guide Dogs with voice control, because that’s what blind people do.

“It’s nice working out how to get them to want to do things for you.

“It’s about going over some things and it’s not about getting mad with them.

“You show them things like how to get on the bus, 
but they have to want to please.

“You never know when you take a dog on whether it’s going to make it, but it’s usually the more 
confident, louder ones that 
do best.”

In the middle of training guide dogs, Elaine also began work as a dog groomer.

She said: “Dog grooming was always something I’d fancied doing, but it was expensive to learn and I had the boys to look after.

“Then I heard that Myerscough College was running a course with big discounts for people living in Wyre, so I went along to see if I’d like it.

“You learn that some dogs need to be clipped and some need to be handstripped.

“Back then you didn’t have quite so many crosses like Labradoodles, and there were certain rules.

“Now with these cross breeds you’ve got to have more input from the owner on what they want, but you still have to be careful you don’t go too short and start taking undercoats out.”

She said: “I only do the basics, I don’t do any of the colouring, but it’s quite hard work, though I love it.

“Grooming and dog training feel like hobbies. I feel very privileged to be able to

do something I love and to do it all the time.”