“You can always teach an old dog new tricks!”
I’m sure everyone in Clevedon is very aware of Lucy Shipway and the many dog services she offers: 1-2-1 dog training, dog walking, advice on simple techniques to help improve dog behaviour and create a stronger bond, socialisation sessions, group walks, transport, even a bespoke wedding package to make sure your pooch doesn’t miss out on your special day!
Lucy is a passionate animal lover and has lived with dogs since she was a toddler. She has two young children and she hopes that they will experience the same joy from their dogs, as she did growing up. Like most dog owners, Lucy believes that dogs offer tremendous companionship and contribute to a healthy outdoor lifestyle. Lucy knew that she wanted to work with animals and started out at Cannington College training to be a vet, but being a very hands-on person decided that the long training was not for her. She began training her own dogs for a bit of fun and soon came to realise that this was what she wanted to do.
Lucy comes across as a very warm, exuberant character with a great sense of humour and an overpowering sense of positivity. ‘Poo Patrol’, in case by some slim chance, you aren’t aware of it, is a regular community event to help clear up our local fields and pathways from anti-social dog fouling thereby making Clevedon a cleaner and safer place for children to play and enjoy. It was because of her children that Lucy started the ‘Poo Patrol’; she would get fed up of returning from a walk and finding the wheels of the pushchair and the children’s shoes coated in poo! It was a great nuisance and of course, if it goes in a child’s eyes there is always the risk of Toxocariasis and blindness.
Lucy and her trusty volunteers focus on twelve different locations around Clevedon which they tackle on rotation, and their work certainly seems to be having an impact; in all but one of the locations, there has been a decrease in the number of bags. The first time they did Strode, they collected one hundred and one; the last time they did it, there were just twenty-eight. I’m sure that Clevedon United Junior Football Club who play on Strode were very appreciative.
I asked Lucy about the quote from John Grogan: “There’s no such thing as a bad dog, just a bad owner” – it was John who wrote the bestselling autobiographical book “Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog.” Lucy was adamant that regardless of age or life experiences, any dog can be trained, although she admitted that some are harder than others. She said that her own dog Peppa, a German Shepherd cross from a local rescue centre, adopted at twelve months, would only need to be shown how to do something twice whereas Bandit a Caucasian Mountain Dog cross, adopted at around four months old and previously living on the streets in Romania was the hardest dog she has ever trained. Lucy described Bandit as her livestock guardian, a type of pastoral dog bred for the purpose of protecting livestock from predators. Livestock guardian dogs stay with the group of animals they protect as a full-time member of the flock or herd. Bandit was not motivated by food or toys, his sole motivation was to have a lie down so she had to change all of her training for him. Bandit will never be trained like Peppa because he doesn’t need to be but he has become a nice, well-rounded pet dog who does everything she asks, albeit very slowly! Since her success with Bandit, Lucy has been able to support others with livestock guardian dogs because there are a lot coming over from Romania, and they really are a completely different breed whose lack of motivation can be very wearisome.
I wondered if Lucy had she ever been bitten and was surprised at her answer! Lucy actually pays people to let their dogs bite her! This relates to her work with the police who need their dogs to be able to take a bite correctly, notably to take a full mouth bite so that they don’t injure themselves.
We talked about basic training principles and Lucy explained that it would very much dependent on the individual dog but that her techniques are always positive and force free; she doesn’t do any compulsion training. The techniques she uses with her dogs are the techniques she uses with her children; ones that I used throughout my teaching career. These involve setting boundaries through positive choices thereby giving behavioural autonomy.
Rescue dog or a dog from a breeder? I was interested to know Lucy’s view on this. Lucy thought there was a home for every single one of the huge number of rescue dogs but felt that if you had very young children you may be better with a dog from a breeder; a dog that you could mould from puppy stage. She explained that the problem with rescue dogs is that you know so little about their background, you’re starting in a deficit position and you’re having to backtrack before you can go forward. Lucy said that if she was asked about this question by a client, she would go through their whole lifestyle, find out what they had done in the past, what they did now, what they were hoping to do in the future, how their life worked and then she would advise them accordingly
I asked Lucy about whether she was involved in any capacity with therapy dogs such as Bonnie, the beautiful golden Labrador that goes into Clevedon School. She talked about the two lovely dogs who regularly go into Mary Elton Primary School. She described Coco, the chocolate Labrador who started there more recently, as one of the best dogs she had ever come across. As Coco belongs to one of Lucy’s friends, she actually uses her in some of her demonstrations’; she’s a natural! Lucy told the delightful story of training a dog to remove her owners’ shoes and socks as she had mobility issues and was unable to do so.
We also talked about the medical detection dogs and although Lucy has no personal experience of these, she attends many conferences and speaks to people who are involved in this area. She explained that in principle it is quite a basic training process which involves finding the scent you are looking for, imprinting the dogs on that scent and then no matter where they are, they will find it; the key is finding the specific scent, which is a challenge. Lucy herself is very interested in the forensic side of training but does not understandably want to work on a dead body; isolating the decomposition scent would allow her to do this.
Lucy works with a retired police dog handler and trainer, who had formerly worked for the Avon and Somerset Tri-Force scheme and together they offer a foundation scent course. It came about because Lucy was looking for some sort of bonding, sporty type activity that she could do with Peppa, that didn’t involve him being in a high energy, highly charged environment such as ‘agility’ training. Doing the scent training helped calm Peppa down and focus him; it was his special time with Lucy. The scent training involves doing exactly as the police do, but whereas the police are training for items such as drugs, cash, firearms, they train with tennis balls then add a scent such as cloves.
In 2017, Clevedon Town Council’s Civic Service recognised Lucy with a Civic Award for the work she does with her ‘Poo Patrol’ – it was very well deserved; it’s not the most enjoyable way of spending a Saturday morning. Lucy was such fun to interview and I enjoyed writing this little snapshot of what she does. Thanks Lucy
Find out more about Lucy Shipway’s Dog Services here: