Tell us a bit about yourself and Barkers In Balance
“Never work with children or animals”….. OOPS! I must have missed that memo. Initially trained in general primary I went on to qualify in Children’s Literacy and Special Education. I spent my last 14 years with the Department of Education teaching Intensive Reading classes, for children of average to above average intelligence who had failed to learn the foundations of literacy. These special classes were closed in 1999 so, disenchanted with the public school system, I resigned and started my own private business teaching children with learning difficulties
The next step was to undergo a sea change and move to beautiful Port Stephens twenty years ago. After two years marking time as a casual teacher in the area, I decided it was time for a total career change. I spend three years discovering why purchasing a dog behaviour franchise was NOT a good idea; a tough lesson but one that pushed me into believing in myself and opening my own business; and so began the creation of Barkers in Balance, a perfect match between my Special Education qualification and my hands-on experience with the dog training franchise.
What are the five most important facts humans should know about training their pooch?
1. Puppy School is a MUST. It needs to be conducted by a qualified behaviourist. This means it needs to focus on exposure and desensitisation to the world, along with basic obedience and positive approaches to eliminating unwanted behaviours. Puppies must enrol before they are 18 weeks of age. Puppy school cannot be replicated at home just because your previous dog has attended puppy school.
2. Once the puppy is fully vaccinated they will not naturally adapt to the distractions and new experiences beyond their home environment. This can lead to frustration for owners trying to get their dogs to focus and walk properly on the lead. Therefore adolescent dogs benefit enormously from small group classes in a controlled environment so that basic principles can be explained and practised without the risk of “over threshold” interruptions.
3. Dogs need to be specifically taught our expectations around human life, e.g. barking at certain times and in certain places, toileting needing to be limited to outside the house, teeth and claws should be kept off skin, settled and calm behaviour inside the house is expected, seeing other dogs out on lead is not cause for a hyperactive meltdown, to mention just a few.
4. An ideal day for a dog will be structured and contain a good balance of exercise, mental enrichment, training and rest. Humans need to plan and accommodate this.
5. To avoid separation issues, start early with teaching your puppy to be content in a separate area from you, even though you are still at home but not accessible.
Did you pivot your businesses during covid and if so have you kept these new ways now?
During covid I offered online classes for puppies and adolescent dogs, along with private consultations online. The big plus for these clients was that they received a recording of the session, along with specific resources from my resource library. During this time I reworked the content of my adolescent classes, teaching a specific theme each week. This structure I have continued in face-to-face classes since Covid and I find this most meaningful to the participants. I also continued with the idea of sending a recording of each lesson in a follow-up email. As far as continued online appointments go, the demand now is much less but the service is still offered, and certainly a positive option for those living too far away to attend in person.
What do you love about being part of the business community in Port Stephens and why did you choose to be a member of BPS?
Being a sole trader and the leader of a small team working for me, I appreciate the collegiality and opportunity to debrief with others in the same position. I take delight in helping others to promote their businesses, especially now that the post-Covid climate is affecting so many. I’m a people-person and I love feeling connected.
What do you like to do on your days off?
Days off? What’s that? Hahaha! No seriously, days off are so important because burn-out is real and scary! I must admit that previously being a school teacher means I’ve continued to spend parts of my days off catching up on work but I also try to prioritise:
1. Catching up with friends and family. (A recent phone catch-up with a long-time friend lasted for just on 5 hours.)
3. Photography which includes making videos and creative slide shows
4. Walking and playing with my dogs in a variety of outdoor settings
5. I LOVE camping and hope to reach a work-life balance that allows me to commit to small camping trips away.
6. At this time in my life I am travelling to Brisbane once a month to spend time with my nearly 94 year-old father.
7. Having a session in a float tank. I’ve had four sessions now and I’m hooked! It’s one of the few things that can turn off my busy mind!
Shout out to your favourite Port Stephens businesses: cafes, shops, services, activities.
I’d like to name all of our local businesses because we’re all part of a great community and together we can maintain this greatness. Some businesses that come quickly to mind for a shout-out are:
1. Salamander Pet Shop (near Mc Donalds)
2. All of the vets but a particular stand-out is the newest vet, Dr Kathryn Stalder from Nelson Bay Vet Clinic.
3. Katrina Ridley who provides the gentle body work that is Bowen Therapy, for humans and dogs alike. (Bowen Health Care and Animal Bowen Care).
4. Fiona Brown from Youtopia Well-being. Honestly, if your head is doing you in, she’s your person!
5. I’ve always loved Essence on Donald for great coffee and very friendly and accommodating staff.
6. Be Enabled float tank, Salamander Bay.
7. Anna Bay Pharmacy – such kind and friendly staff who are always so friendly and helpful. Nothing is ever too much for them.
You shouldn’t have asked me this question; I could go on and on, as being a primary school teacher, I think everyone deserves a merit award!