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Whitchurch trainer helps dogs to become happier and healthier

Helping dogs to become happier and healthier is the aim of clinical animal behaviourist and trainer Rachel Rodgers.

Clinical animal behaviourist and trainer Rachel Rodgers
Clinical animal behaviourist and trainer Rachel Rodgers

The 32-year-old, who lives on the outskirts of Whitchurch, mostly works with animals that have established behaviour problems. This could be dogs that are fearful of humans, those that get stressed or worried around other dogs, or pets suffering from separation anxiety when they are left alone at home while their owners are out.

Rachel works closely with vets and their owners to get to the root of the issue and, where necessary, modify their behaviour using reward-based training.

All behaviour cases need a vet referral as she says there may be something going on medically which is causing the dogs to act the way they are.

Rachel, who has a master’s degree in applied animal behaviour and training, will look for clues in their body language and in the way they act and interact with their owner.

For example, stopping on walks could indicate a dog may be struggling with undiagnosed pain.

“Up to 80 per cent of behaviour cases have pain involved. If there is underlying pain, no amount of behaviour training will help. The pain needs to be treated,” explains Rachel.

Rachel’s aim is to ensure the bond between owner and dog remains strong

She first began working with dogs 10 years ago after returning to the UK from the Caribbean where she worked as a dolphin trainer. Rachel set up her business, Nose To Trail, in March 2020 after leaving Dogs Trust where she had been head coach of Dog School Shropshire & Cheshire as well as the Midlands area manager for three years.

Prior to that, Rachel had been a lecturer in canine behaviour and training and a rehoming centre manager for the RSPCA in Blackpool.

Nose To Trail’s name comes from the fact that when Rachel takes on clinical behaviour cases, she takes in to account everything about the animal from their nose to their tail.

Instead of using the word Tail in the company name, she opted for Trail as she specialises in using scent work such as pet trailing and man trailing to help the dogs she is working with.

Encouraging dogs to use their nose can boost their wellbeing, says Rachel, who has two small dogs – seven-year-old Rico, a rescue from Portugal, and nine-year-old Maisy, a Jack Russell cross pug.

“Dogs use their nose so much. They see the world through their nose, rather than their eyes. Sniffing releases dopamine and this can reduce their blood pressure and help them to feel calm and reduce anxiety,” she explains.

Rachel with her dogs Rico and Maisy

Rachel, who is a full member of the APBC (Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors) and APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), also runs in-person and online training classes, for dogs, puppies and owners, ranging from one-to-one private appointments to group sessions. They can cover basic life skills such as recall, not jumping up and loose lead walking. She also runs sessions dedicated to nose work and training for older dogs as well as an introduction to Dog Parkour.

The latter combines elements of human parkour and dog agility to create an accessible activity for dogs and humans alike.

When she’s not running classes online, Rachel is travelling around the country to work with dogs and has even worked abroad.

In September 2021, Rachel won Dog Trainer of the Year for the second year running with the Prestige Awards. This followed her being awarded Animal Trainer of the Year at the inaugural Animal Star Awards, a national competition, in 2018.

And more recently, her business received a boost from retail entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis.

Rachel set up her business, Nose To Trail, in March 2020

Nose To Trail was named as one of six weekly winners of his Small Business Sunday initiative on Twitter. Rachel tweeted Theo about Nose to Trail and won a retweet by Theo to his near half a million Twitter followers and as a result, the business gained more followers as well as bookings for her Teenage Tearaways online dog training course.

“Getting to meet Theo and receive my certificate was wonderful,” says Rachel. “It is great to have support from Theo because it’s been tough trying to raise the Nose to Trail profile and Theo has recognised my hard work and helped spread the word about what I do to his following.”

With all her work, Rachel’s aim is to ensure the bond between owner and dog remains strong. She says seeing positive changes in a dog’s behaviour and that they are happier and more relaxed is very rewarding.

“It’s seeing the difference I can make on a dog’s life and making sure the dog stays in the home rather than ending up at rescue centre. I help owners understand their dog a bit better so both the dog and owner can have a happy life together,” Rachel tells Weekend.

For more information about Rachel’s behaviour work and training, see nosetotrail.co.uk

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