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Interview with Winkie Spiers, PDTE Chair

Every year the PDTE hosts its AGM in a different country in Europe, and it’s always a wonderful occasion for both members and non-members alike. Dogcom in Germany hosted the AGM this year, and the weekend featured a fascinating line up of speakers and topics from all over the globe. Not to mention great food, entertainment and the chance for everyone to discuss their favourite topic – dogs! We caught up with PDTE Chair and winner of the Best Speaker award at the AGM this year, Winkie Spiers, to talk about her experiences at the event. Firstly, congratulations on your award and for being made an Honorary Lifetime Member of the PDTE! How did you find the AGM this year? It was an enormously enjoyable and interesting AGM and I was stunned and flattered to be made an Honorary Lifetime Member of PDTE. Being part of PDTE for over 10 years has helped me to have the confidence and knowledge to grow and develop as a dog trainer. What were the highlights of the weekend? There were so many highlights, including seeing so many people who have become great friends. Just being there was wonderful as the hotel and town of Bad Wimpfen are amazingly beautiful. All the talks were incredibly interesting but for me the talk of Professor Martin Fischer was a highlight. He talked about ‘Dogs in Motion’ - how dogs move, how they need to move and he showed fascinating video of how dogs move using x-ray and explained his ground breaking knowledge of anatomy, physiology, movement, muscles etc. I have subsequently bought his book and he is doing a talk in the Netherlands next November. My space is already booked! The other huge highlight was our dinner on Saturday night in a wonderful restaurant in Bad Wimpfen. There were some great singers during dinner and after dinner our host Sonja sang for us. She had rehearsed a special song to sing to us - very moving and very accomplished! Was there anything discussed that was particularly interesting for you, or did you learn something new? The new things I learned were from Karen Webb’s talk on noise. She had a machine that measured decibels and had measured many things that are common in homes and showed how challenging these loud noises can be for dogs. It opened my eyes and ears to thinking more about sound. As I mentioned before I loved Professor Martin Fischer’s talk. What do you think the biggest challenges are for dog trainers at the moment? Probably the fact that there are so many different schools of thought and many are conflicting. There needs to be a change where trainers think about things from the dog’s point of view and think about the whole dog and what a dog actually needs in its day to day life. Trainers need to learn more about domestic dogs and their instincts, health, anatomy, physiology, diet, lifestyle and exercise and look at each dog as an individual. I think the biggest challenge is that there needs to be less training and more understanding! And what do you think is the biggest challenge for owners and their dogs? Conflicting advice from trainers, TV, vets, books, media etc. Owners need to look at why they want a dog and what they have to offer a dog and a huge challenge for dogs is that many owners don’t understand them and expect things they are not capable of or comfortable with. Why did you become involved with the PDTE? Turid Rugaas and Sheila Harper both spoke to me about the PDTE and I applied to become a member. Turid has always been a huge inspiration and I wanted to learn more from her. In addition I found the PDTE to be welcoming, friendly and open in terms of sharing knowledge. I’ve made some wonderful friends within the PDTE. What do you feel the PDTE offers to those in the dog training world? What makes it special? I feel that the PDTE offers an opportunity to be part of an ethical, principled and professional organisation. What makes it special are the friendships, the open and sharing nature of members and the fact that we are the only truly global professional organisation of its kind and Turid is our President. What it offered me was a platform and the support to have the confidence to grow as a trainer. What are your hopes for the future of the organisation? I sincerely hope that the PDTE will continue to grow, be current, ethical and that we will inspire more trainers to be the best they possibly can. To have more trainers worldwide that are actively working to make an educated and informed difference to the way that everyone (professionals and owners) live with, interact with, handle and train dogs. And finally, what’s the best thing about training and working with dogs and their owners? Helping both dogs and their humans feel safer, happier, more confident and understand each other better. I have been a dog trainer for long enough to have seen dogs from puppyhood through to old age, and then help owners when they lose their best friend and be there to help bring a new dog or puppy into their home and heart. I love my job and learn more about dogs and how amazing they are every day.


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