Animal magic of talking to man’s best friend
speaking part: Wendy Barratt is an experienced dog trainer who believes she really can talk to the animals. Julie Marshall meets her.
The notion that man can really speak to animals in their own language has been entertaining us for years – think Doctor Doolittle or the Lion Boy –but, says animal behaviourist Wendy Barratt, this idea is not quite as fanciful as it sounds. For, as well as running a successful dog training business, 44-year-old Wendy who lives in Morley with her three dogs, is also an animal communicator who ‘speaks’ to animals with behavioural problems, or with those who have become lost or injured, and then passes messages across to their owners.
She first became interested in animal behaviour when she took on a troubled German Shepherd. The advice she was given at the time was to shout, scream, and hit her and to make the dog bend to her will.
Wendy knew instinctively this was wrong and set about researching a more humane way of training animals.
Her interest was aroused and she enrolled on a number of courses to learn more about animal behaviour.
She enjoyed the challenge of changing behaviour in often very troubled animals and became so proficient that friends started to ask her to train their own dogs. In a brave move she sold her hairdressing business and went to work as a dog trainer. A few years down the line, Wendy was made redundant and decided to set up her own business Dogs B Good. That was seven months ago and she has seen demand for her services soar.
She said: “I wanted to set up a reasonably-priced service that every dog owner could afford. Most of my work with behavioural problems needs to be addressed on a one-to-one basis and it works much better in the animals’ own home environment.”
Her involvement in animal communication came about purely by chance when she accompanied a friend to a seminar given by James French.” I was the most sceptical person there,” she said.
“But by the end of the day I was convinced it worked and I continued to higher level study.”
A communication begins with a photograph, the name, age and sex of the dog–nothing more. Wendy clears her mind and concentrates on the photograph writing down what she can see, smell, touch, taste and hear.
As a verification she will ask the dog–or other animal – for a key fact that only the owner will know. She said: “The most interesting verification I had was when I was communicating with a cat and I had the most awful smell of cheese, beans and toast in my mind. Turns out this was one of the cat’s favourite treats – the owner was amazed.”
Wendy has communicated with animals all over the world, including two in Bahrain, one of them a dog whose owner faced an agonising choice as to whether to send her dog away for surgery or have it treated at home.
Wendy sensed that he wanted to stay in Bahrain and he is currently undergoing treatment there.
Training a dog with behavioural problems takes a lot of time and patience – there are no short cuts. But often it’s just a case of the wrong dog in the wrong household.Wendy maintains there are no untrainable dogs – just untrainable owners, but it does depend on how badly a dog has been treated in the past as to how much progress can be made.
“I don’t coerce dogs into doing anything, she said. “All my training is based on rewarding good behaviour. This makes for much happier animals who want to please their owners and, as such make happy lovable pets.” and never, ever punishes. Just like children, dogs love treats and cuddles, and if there’s a particular behaviour I can’t solve, I’m always honest. But I’ll try everything I can before I admit defeat.”
In the past few months she has dealt successfully with five noisy Pekingese who were annoying the neighbours; a German Shepherd with OCD who spent hours spinning in circles and a boxer dog who had been used as a breeding machine. She said: “Its pups had been taken away and sold on far too soon. She was very distressed and becoming nasty with its new owners so I came up with a plan. I introduced a stuffed teddy, which looked just like a young puppy, which she kept with her permanently. She took it everywhere, washed it, and curled up with it in her bed. She needed the comfort of the teddy, and will probably need it for the rest of her life.
“I’ve worked with a woman who was so terrified of larger dogs, she’d panic and gasp when she was out walking her own. her dog sensed her reaction, and was becoming agitated too. I suggested slowly introducing her to bigger dogs, and as she became more comfortable around them, her own dog did too.”
I introduced Wendy to my own dog Max, a four-year-old rescued Springer Spaniel who is friendly with humans and gets on well with my other three dogs, but turns into a monster when he meets other dogs while we’re out walking.
Wendy watched him walk around the garden for a while and diagnosed that he was quite a sad dog and suffering from stress due to an incident in his past and that he was using the aggression as a way asserting his authority.
She taught me to watch his body language closely and as soon as he begins to react to another dog to distract him and reward him. She also suggested a daily supplement of sardines to boost his serotonin levels. It’s early days yet but there has been a definite improvement in his demeanour. he’s a much happier dog, the guarded look has gone out of his eyes and he wags his tail all the time – just like a Springer is supposed to. he’s still a bit of a devil when we encounter other dogs but the distraction therapy is having an effect and we’re due to move onto the next level which is introducing other dogs to him in a controlled situation.
Article from the Yorkshire Post..