How did Ladies Working Dog Group come about?
When I was asked to write this guest blog I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do it. I find it really difficult like most people to write about myself. I think there’s something quite upsetting about using the word ‘I’ a lot of times. I think it’s because we are taught not to brag or come across as being very egotistical. So you have to excuse how I talk about myself so much, but it’s really hard to write a guest post about your story without referring to yourself in the first person.
I’m also always very unsure where to start the conversation about myself. I’m 42 years old now and there have been lots that have happened to me and my past has had an influence on what I’m doing right now with the Ladies Working Dog Group.
I grew up on a smallholding where animals were part of our lives. We had horses, we had dogs and I always had an affinity with being with animals and found solace and comfort with them. As I grew older and began working and having a family, I spent less time with animals and more time with a desk.
In 2010 I was unexpectedly diagnosed with having a brain tumor and that basically took me from behind the desk to lying in a bed. It was an incredibly frightening time for me because I’ve always lived the life where I was quite independent and set my own path and suddenly I wasn’t able to do that. I was very reliant on other people and I developed epilepsy which meant that I was very scared about what could happen day to day.
As I learnt to cope with my epilepsy I was told that my brain tumour was growing back, so I went from somebody trying to deal with an illness that has been removed, to an illness that was coming back. I found myself really lost in who I was, and lost all my confidence.
By 2015 I found it really hard to leave the house. I could go out with other people but it took a lot of energy for me to act positive, and happy, and all those things people expected of me. So I started not to go out in order to not have to put that amount of energy into being me.
Understandably my family was really worried about my mental health, so my dad decided it would be a really good idea for me to go with him out on an estate and take part in a shooting day. I was given one of his best-trained dogs and set off as a beater, and absolutely fell in love with the whole experience. Instead of being caught up in my own negative worries, I was enthralled with watching the dog work. I had a whole day outdoors with lots of exercises and no access to technology. The day allowed me to escape my challenges and just enjoy being me.
I knew straight away this was something I would want to come back and do again, and I had loads of questions about where I could get clothing, how I could cook pheasant breast, but lots of my questions were ones that my dad couldn’t answer. He hadn’t needed to look at his sport from a woman’s perspective and therefore wasn’t really sure how to advise me on the things I wanted to know, like ‘how do you wee behind a tree in the middle of winter without exposing yourself!’
So I started an online Facebook group to bring together other ladies who may have the answers to my many questions.
The group grew quite quickly and today is home to over 4200 like-minded positive happy women. And alongside the Facebook group, grew a website with a membership, with support, with live events, with live training, with virtual events, and with loads of other things that we really didn’t plan from the start.
What started as a question and answer Facebook group has grown into an award-winning business that collaborates with many different organisations, dog trainers, and other types of rural business, to support women who need to access a wide range of products and services. We have been featured in many magazines including the Gundog Journal, The Field, Sporting Gun, Countrymans Weekly and In The Country. I now also write regularly for the Gundog Journal which I find an absolute honour.
Our online community is now global, supporting women in Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia, Botswana, and across many of the countries of Europe. The amount of countries we have ladies in blows my mind.
I am incredibly humbled to be the Founder of an organisation that provides help and advice to women across the world. Had someone said to me in school ‘when you grow up you will be a business owner of an award winning organisation to help women train working dogs’ I would have probably laughed, it was so far away from anything that I ever saw myself doing. But I am absolutely passionate about working dogs, so the fact that I now have a business helping others to support their passion is an incredibly amazing experience.
Every single month we provide members with a masterclass course for them to work through and train the dog. This is provided by an experienced featured expert which allows us to have a variety of different training ways to show to the group. We don’t train one way, we train the dog in front of us, so that means you can access a lot of different training tips and ideas and lots of different courses to ensure that you build your knowledge and become a better handler. We also have live group coaching that allows our community members to ask an expert and experienced handlers how they can overcome a challenge of their own. Our most popular event is a fortnightly Dog and Duck virtual Happy Hour where we basically bring a drink to the computer and sit down and chat to each other about how we can solve problems that we are facing whilst training our dogs.
We have recently attended the Game Fair and met loads about community face-to-face. Meeting these women was one of those moments I will never forget. The conversations we had, the laughter that created smiles on people’s faces, it just made me more aware of the importance of the work we do in providing people with a community with which they feel they belong.
The pandemic isolated lots of people from their friends. During this time we were able to provide opportunities for women to get together virtually and not feel a sense of loneliness. I truly believe that during the pandemic friendships were made online that will last a lifetime. The strength of the Ladies Working Dog Group is not in me, it is in the whole community. It is the people who give their time, their wisdom, and knowledge, freely and with love to those who are struggling. I would have no Ladies Working Dog Group if it wasn’t for the actual ladies who make it up.
Going forward, the Ladies Working Dog Group intends on providing more experiences that bring community members together and we will continue to run alongside these virtual events to ensure that wherever you are in the world you can find people who are passionate about the same things you are.
When I’m asked to provide a guest post it’s really hard for me to be able to explain how unique and amazing a community the Ladies Working Dog Group is. I suggest to all interested ladies reading this to head over to Facebook and join our open group, which is a completely free group where you can check out for yourself what the community is like and see what you and what you can bring to the community.
We basically have two major rules; these are:
1. Never be scared to ask a question because you don’t know what you don’t know. If you don’t ask you’ll never going to learn so we encourage women to ask questions even if they think they’re the most maddest of questions
2. No keyboard warriors. We want women in the group that will help, ladies who are happy to provide support to others. Even if you are brand new to working dogs you can still provide support to others and in return they will provide it in bucket loads to you. We have no room for those that belittle or answer questions with abuse. We are very lucky to have a community where our ladies feel safe and supported.
I think the Ladies Working Dog Group is testament to what can happen when women join together for the betterment of the group. It shows how we can change so much even when we think as individuals we can change so little.
If you have a working dog, or you just have a passion for working dogs and would like to be part of a community that supports you and support others to get the best training possible, please come along find us and come say at www.thelwdg.com or on Facebook or Instagram.