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The Thoughtful Dog Trainer


This month we’re chatting to Joanne Perrott about the launch of her book, ‘The Thoughtful Dog Trainer’, which offers a unique blend of hands-on gundog training tips and personal growth techniques. Jo, leveraging her extensive experience with dog owners and her understanding of human psychology, presents a guide that is as much about training the trainer as it is about training the dog.



From personal struggles to professional triumphs

Jo is the founder of the Ladies Working Dog Group (LWDG), the host of a weekly podcast about working dogs ‘Found It, Fetched It’ and a regular contributor to the Gundog Journal. Jo's personal journey of resilience and determination, including her fight against three brain tumours, has been a source of inspiration for many. Her book reflects this journey, offering readers not just training advice but also a guide to overcoming the mental and emotional challenges that come with training a working dog,


Jo regularly interviews working dog owners and trainers. To mark the publication of Jo’s book, we thought we would put Jo in the interviewee’s seat for a change and ask her about her journey and, of course, how she came to write her book.



What was your introduction to working dog breeds?


It started well before I owned spaniels and the LWDG. I always had dogs when I was younger, starting off with a Labrador called Griff. I then had various breeds over the years including collies and terriers. In 2010 I found out that I had a brain tumour and underwent an operation to remove it. I was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD and epilepsy. It was a very dark time. I was just getting my life and my confidence back when, in 2012, a scan revealed the tumour was growing back. I was devastated. As the tumour grew, my confidence shrank, and my anxiety worsened to the point where I would regularly go days without leaving the house. By 2015, I was having daily panic attacks and getting me outdoors was nearly impossible. Whilst all of this had been happening in my life, my Dad had faced challenges of his own. Multiple spinal accidents had left him unable to ride horses and he had begun working and competing with his spaniels. One day, Dad convinced me to go beating for the day with him.


From the moment I started working with his dog that day, for some reason, I felt at peace. I should have been stressing about the new environment, new faces, new everything. But instead, I just felt happy. I was back outdoors but instead of dwelling on myself, I was busy thinking about Grace, the dog I was working with. That day I walked for miles, disconnected from my daily life and technology, and it felt so good. I was hooked.



When did you start to train your own working dog?


Dad’s dog Grace was fab, she had competed with Dad and knew her stuff. But as soon as she would hear Dad’s whistle, she would abandon me without a thought just to get back to him. I decided I needed a dog of my own.


Bob was five months old when I got him, and we were inseparable. He lived with me in the house, wherever I went he was there. If I visited people he came, he sat on the passenger seat of my car, and lay on my lap, he was my shadow. He was too young to work on a shoot, so instead, I carried him around all day in a canvas bag, his head poking out as we went about our work. When the season ended, I began training him, and he became my rock. Slowly and surely, he helped me get my confidence back. Any time I felt my anxiety starting to climb I would grab a ball and we would get outside. His need for exercise increased mine and this is known to help with what I was facing.


In January 2017 I had to face another 6-hour operation to remove my brain tumour that had decided to grow back. This time I faced it with a newfound strength. I had hunted my dog Bob and my new addition Jess (yes, they are addictive) up until December but knew the rest of the season would be out for me. The dogs sat with me through it all, their looks of understanding keeping me from reaching a meltdown.



Why did you decide to write this book?


I wanted other people to have something they could refer back to when they felt like giving up. Something they could take with them wherever they went - it's like having a mini cheerleader in your pocket! It’s also a legacy for my father. Sadly Dad, the man who brought me into training working dogs, passed away in October 2019 and it means a huge deal for me to be able to keep his memory alive.



If you could go back to when you started training your dog and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?


I would say to give myself time to learn what I needed to. I was very impatient, and I didn't allow myself time to learn skills properly. My advice would be to take it one day at a time and break your training down into smaller pieces.



‘The Thoughtful Dog Trainer’ is an essential tool for anyone looking to improve their skills as a gundog owner and build a deeper connection with their dog. Jo delves into the mental hurdles you face and gives you a roadmap to help you build a stronger, more successful relationship with your dog. Drawing on her academic understanding of human psychology and her extensive experience with working dog owners, she guides you to cultivate the assertiveness you need to train the dog in front of you to be the dog you want. 'The Thoughtful Dog Trainer' addresses the emotional, psychological, and practical aspects of dog training.


You can get your copy of Jo’s book here.


Find out more about the Ladies Working Dog Group, their online training and educational resources at www.ladiesworkingdoggroup.com


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