Allowing our pals to be the best they can be


We all strive to be the best we can be and over the past several weeks, seven area dog owners provided their ‘best buddies’ the opportunity to do the same.

The eight, together with their dogs, joined Canine Behaviour and Performance Consultant Jane Madigan for a nine hour workshop that ran over three sessions during the last three weeks in May.

Born and raised in Britain, Madigan has accumulated over 30 years of expertise empowering horses and dogs to reach their full potential.

“I trained as a guide dog ability instructor in the United Kingdom before coming to Canada where I carried on with Canadian Guide Dogs,” explained Madigan as the workshop wrapped up on Thursday, May 31.

During the 15 years working with dogs, Madigan studied different aspects of training technologies including Holistic Training of Guide Dogs, Sensory Enhanced Learning, The Feldenkrais Method, Tellington Touch and Cross Training.

She says she left her career with Guide Dogs 18 months ago, to set up a program in which she could benefit even more dogs. The result is her Inspiredk9s business which she founded in 2010, “to share her knowledge, to encourage ability, sitmulate agility and motivate performance for every dog.”

What she offers the dogs and their owners is “confidence training” as apposed to “obedience training”. In addition to Inspiredk9s business, Madigan volunteers for Hopeful Hearts, a dog rescue organization in Ottawa, where she applies her techniques to help the most physically and psychologically damaged canines back to a state of self confidence and trust in their adoptive owner and their world at large.

The workshop in Morrisburg came about through Madigan’s acquaintance with Paul and Judy Charette. The Charettes are involved with the Canadian Guide Dog program. 

The Morrisburg workshop was the first she has run over three weeks, and she was pleased with the results.

“I think it went really well. I saw great improvements with the dogs and their owners over the three sessions. They have all improved 100 per cent. The handling between the dogs and the owner has improved. I can see the clients now standing back and allowing the dogs to think more. The three weeks gave the people time to absorb and reflect. It’s worked really well.”

Madigan explained that her objective is to enhance a dog’s performance, to make a dog the best he/she can be. “I work at building up the relationship between the dog and the handler by empowering the person with the understanding of what the dog is saying to them.”

Friend and colleague Jade Hill, who worked with Madigan at Guide Dog, explains that, “Jane is enabling the owners to allow the dogs to make decisions by supporting them and guiding them in the right direction.”

“I think all dogs have issues,” says Madigan, “and it’s how to deal with these issues, to understand where the dog is coming from. It is my job to decipher what is going on.”

“The normal perspective of the everyday dog owner is to have control over the dog,” says Hill.

Benefiting from Madigan’s Morrisburg workshop were: Phoebe, a Wheaten Terrier and her owner Janeen Wagemans; Zoya and Zippy, Black Labs and their owner Judy Charette; Tiffany, a Schnauzer, with her owner Sue Nichols; Finnigan a Golden Retriever/Poodle Mix with his owner Jackie MacRae; Abby, a Lab-Bordie Collie mix with her owner Tracey Veinotte; Lily a poodle mix with owner Ree Graham; Mia an Australian Shepherd/hound mix with her handler Jane Domanko who was puppy-sitting for her son Mike and his family.

One of the main issues brought to the workshops by the owners was their dog’s fear of loud noises, in particular thunder. Other issues included fears in general and their inability to control their excitement.

Madigan points out, she does not do “quick fixes”. She works with a dog and its owner to understand what a dog is experiencing and feeling and then assists the dog by bringing it to a state of calm. 

Any dog can have issues whether it be a highly trained working or search and rescue dog or simply a family pet.

“It was very enlightening,” said Tracey Veinotte whose dog Abby is afraid of thunder. “The workshop made me stop and think. I didn’t know what to do to help Abby through a thunder storm.”

Veinotte recalled a recent thunder storm and how she applied both the physical and emotional suggestions learned in the workshop. “She sat on the couch and it didn’t fizz her. She was focused on something else.”

“The workshop has changed my perspective,” said Janeen Wagemans who owns Phoebe a Wheaten Terrier. “Instead of training a dog, you are communicating with your dog. I am no longer being assertive with Phoebe, but more cooperative. Now when Phoebe and I go walking we walk together. I am not walking my dog.”

Ree Graham claimed her best friend Lily, “was just about perfect when we came. However, we are communicating more now. I used to day dream during our walks, but now I have noticed that she watches me all the time.

Jane Domanko, who was babysitting her son’s 5.5 month old Australian Shepherd cross, Mia, said “we’ve had family dogs before, but we’ve never learned how to train a dog properly. I am much more aware now of how to do it.”

“This has been way life changing,” said Jacki MacRae of the changes she was seeing in Finnigan, a high strung retriever poodle mix, who was calmly enjoying the companionship of the other dogs and people. “When Finnigan was with just me and my husband, he was calm.  But he would go from zero to 100 when visitors arrived. This is surreal for Finnigan to be calm.” 

“My philosophy is empowerment,” said Madigan. It’s about giving empowerment to the owner to work with their dog. It’s about allowing the dog to be the best he/she can be. The dog is going to be much happier for it.”

Madigan is now considering a second workshop in the Morrisburg area. She says that while she likes to work with no more than eight dogs, she would welcome additional people to come and observe.

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