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Many thanks to Adam Dunn for writing about his experience of gaining the Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour, and about the impact his studies had on his confidence and his dog behaviour business.

I had always had a dream of working for myself with dogs and in August 2018 I took the plunge and left full time employment to set up my own business as a Canine Practitioner at Dogsmindsmatter. With no industry standards I could have set up on my own and relied on my own personal experiences, but I wanted to offer something different to my clients. One of the key factors in deciding to commit to this course is my strong personal belief that understanding reduces fear and encourages higher levels of ethical and moral care. There are many businesses within my area that advertise themselves as canine experts, however, very few have any form of qualification and rely solely on experience whether good or bad. I wanted to be different and encourage my clients to learn rather than being taught, and I felt that the advanced diploma would give me the confidence to do this.

I have no qualifications of note and had very little confidence in my scholarly skills until I joined the ISCP family. I looked at the advanced diploma course with a mixture of excitement and some trepidation, especially looking at certain modules that I thought would be beyond my ability. However, my biggest challenge wasn’t the course modules it was the other demands that course work at this level demands, such as referencing and accurate grammar. There were times when I really did think that the course was too much, and I actually recall wanting to give up at one stage. The support I received from my Tutor and other group members was truly inspirational and I would not have completed this course without them. I found it very difficult to ask for help, but please do ask, if I hadn’t have asked I would not be in the position I am today and may even be back in my old mundane job. I found the course content and standard of literature to be excellent and I was able to put the theory into practice with my work in a local rescue and my private clients. Module three covering Neuroscience was a very challenging module for me and I wasn’t really sure if I had learnt anything. However, I was delighted with myself when some months later I was able to discuss with one of my private clients who was a doctor, which areas of the brain are activated in response to a threatening stimulus. This was a break through moment for me and gave me a great deal of confidence to continue with my studies.

I found all of the modules on this course to be extremely relevant to my business and the in-depth knowledge I have gained has helped me build a strong reputation within the local dog community as a knowledgeable and compassionate Practitioner. Yes, there is a financial commitment to this course and you may ask yourself, will this course really be worth the investment? For me it’s a resounding yes. I wanted to market myself as a Canine Practitioner and I make a strong differential between my business and that of a Canine Trainer. I get many referrals from private clients who have previously employed trainers who have tried to resolve behavioral issues for them and failed. I’m often surprised at the apparent lack of basic behavioral diagnostics knowledge that the majority of my local trainers have displayed when dealing with some of the most common behavioral issues. Following the completion of the module on Theory of Mind I found the confidence to challenge a local dog training school who used aversive methods to train their dogs. Prior to embarking on this course my challenge would be an emotional one with little scientific evidence to back my emotions up. However, with the knowledge gained I was able to engage with them and offer a balanced and well researched case for reviewing their training methods. This course gave the confidence to challenge businesses employing aversive and unethical training methods in a constructive manner and heighten awareness of such practices within the community. The knowledge gained through my advanced diploma studies has helped me build a strong reputation within the local dog community of a knowledgeable and compassionate practitioner.

Since gaining my Advanced Diploma my own self confidence and my business have continued to grow. I have continued my local rescue work and I also provide voluntary behavioral support for several national rescue organizations. I have appeared on a local radio station discussing sentience, delivered seminars to local business groups discussing theory of mind and intelligence, and have even been invited to Sweden to help Human Psychology students who wish to work with animals. Canine Behaviour and Psychology is a discussion group that I started on Facebook and a forum where members share information and experiences and I write regular posts for local dog community forums. The knowledge, support, self-belief and confidence this course gave me has been instrumental in building a successful business and reputation within the local dog community.