About Smartstart Dog Training
Hey! I'm Rebecca Walters, founder of Smartstart Dog Training. I want to welcome you to my site and take some time to explain to you a bit about the dogs that have shaped my knowledge and experience so far. Anyone who works with animals will tell you that you do not learn about animals in a book or a classroom. You learn about animals by working alongside them. I have been fortunate enough to have spent my adult life surrounded by dogs and I wouldn't have it any other way. So, before I get my metaphoric soapbox out, pour a cuppa and put your feet up! This is how Smartstart began....
Gizmo the Shih Tzu
My family are not "doggy" people and as a child I hankered after a dog of my own. Eventually, after years of nagging my Mother relented and bought me Gizmo the Shih Tzu. He was my best friend. I walked him for miles, so much so that I lost loads of weight, got fit and my PE teacher from school phoned homed asking if I was anorexic! He was my shadow and I adored him. He taught me about dedication and responsibility, we had such fun together.
Being a Londoner I jumped at the chance to undertake my work experience at Battersea Dogs Home. I can honestly say that the time I spent there opened my eyes, broke my heart and exposed me to "the other side" of the dog world.
Errol the Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Errol was two years old. He had been a stray, and he had been in the kennels for a while. He was dog aggressive and anxious around men. He had little in the way of basic training and was a strong, muscled ball of energy. No one wanted him. Although Battersea Dogs Home do all they can to address issues with the dogs they have, they were, and still are, overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of unwanted dogs. Errol's issues were deemed too ingrained to be able to rehome him and Errol was put to sleep. He walked out of his kennel for the last time, wagging his tail and he was dead a few minutes later. No fuss, no drama, the end.
Errol had been failed on a number of levels. He was bred without thought for his long term well being, raised with no effort to socialise him and so his mental stability as an adult was compromised. Errol was then sold to an inappropriate and likely ill prepared owner. Finally Errol was dumped when it all got a bit difficult and they could no longer cope with a "problem dog".
Running the Dog Warden Service
By the age of 16, I had seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I set up a Pet Care company, and for 5 years cared for dogs while their owners worked; I walked them and trained them. It was then that I was contracted to run the London Borough of Waltham Forest's Dog Warden Service.
I spent my days chasing after stray dogs, trapping and neutering cats and kittens, I rescued a heron from a skip, helped the fire brigade get a horse out of a canal, seized and rehomed 7 iguanas, carried out the licence inspections on all boarding and quarantine kennels in the borough and inspected the pet shops including one that held a dangerous wild animals licence for a cayman crocodile that they housed in a huge glass tank in the roof of the building!! I headed up the early microchipping campaigns, dog fouling projects and of course handled the strays that were never claimed. In those days microchips were not compulsory, and strays had 7 days in which to be claimed. After those 7 days were up the dogs had to be found an alternative placement. That could be at a breed specific rescue, with voluntary fosterers, privately rehomed or they went to Battersea Dogs Home for further assessment and rehoming. I successfully rehomed over 45 dogs via my network of friends and colleagues. There is one in particular that I want to tell you about....
Alfie the Border Collie
Alfie was 7 months old and found himself in an East London kennel having been signed over to the Dog Warden Service by his owners who could not cope with him. He was in the kennels and day 7 was approaching. I had tried every avenue, all doors were closed except Battersea and I knew he would not cope there, never mind pass the assessment for rehoming. He had such life in those amber eyes, such vigour and intention. It was a no brainer. I took him home.
I worked with him for a period of a few months, re balancing his view on the world. I knew I could not keep him forever. That would deny the next "Alfie" a chance at life and there would always be another "Alfie". I wanted a quiet, but mentally stimulating home for him, with someone who would bond with him, accept him for what he could offer (which was a whole heap of aggro!) and love him anyway. Enter Harvey. A 30 something single male who was an experienced dog owner. He was looking for a "best mate" to accompany him to work, a dog he could train and love and spoil. Bingo! I think at this point I will save you all mushy stuff, but needless to say the rehoming went well. A little too well actually. Harvey and I were married 3 years later! I got the man, and the dog back!
My Ethos for Dog Breeding & Training
Married life took us to Oswestry, Shropshire, where we now live. We have raised our children here and my dog breeding and training journey has continued. Reflecting and linking the "standout" events of my early career I have concluded that the only way to tackle the continuous flow of unwanted dogs is to break the cycle. The Errols and the Alfies of this world, to name only two, deserved more. They deserved to be wanted, they deserved to be educated, they deserved to start their lives properly.
Breeding & Training Puppies & Dogs
I have been breeding puppies and raising them using tried and tested socialisation techniques for over 15 years now. My puppies are bred from parents who have undergone selective health and temperament testing. My litters are then raised with love and science to ensure they are prepared for the world. They are then homed to well prepared owners, who have appropriate homes and lifestyles for a dog. They leave for their new homes having the "back up" of my promise that they will never have an uncertain future like Errol and Alfie did. That is why I have created my Pupstarts Online Puppy Courses so new owners can teach themselves to give their puppies a solid foundation, no matter where in the country they live. If new puppy owners live local to Oswestry they can benefit from my Puppy Training Classes.
I have formed Smartstart Dog Training to complete the loop. I want to help breeders breed and raise better puppies so I created the Smartstart Online Breeder Course. I want to help owners with their puppy training to continue that essential good work through the formative months and then encourage owners to use scentwork to naturally stimulate and fulfil their dogs mentally to ensure their longer term health and well being. I have long come to understand that you will not stop irresponsible dog breeding practises and a lot of what goes on is ignorance rather than intentional cruelty. I feel that the time has come to shape and educate the industry for the good of the dogs within it. I want to raise the bar.
My ethos around dogs and dog training is a fairly simple one. You get out, what you put in. Maximum effort in the early days and weeks results in endless gain for the years that follow. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as we do.
There are many dogs that have walked across my heart, but I want to thank Gizmo, Errol and Alfie. You were all such great mentors. You will change the lives of many dogs as a result of just simply being you.