Five minutes with… dog trainer Louise from McBuddies Pet Care Armagh

The month of April plays host to National Pet Awareness Month and to mark the occasion we spoke to Armagh-based dog trainer Louise McGuinness, from McBuddies Pet Care. An animal lover since childhood, Louise always knew her career would inevitably be centered around their care and welfare. Since 2020, she has dedicated herself to training our canine companions with a compassionate, positive reinforcement-based approach.

There’s a well known saying, “never work with animals or children”. Not one to be dissuaded, Louise’s response is to always be prepared – or in her case overprepared – for any eventuality.

Most people enjoy dog walking in their spare time, and despite it being a large part of her job, Louise is no different! She’s also very musically inclined and isn’t afraid to breakout a tune in chorus with her Mutley Crew.

Why did you choose being a dog trainer as a career/business?

I have always been drawn to working with animals and wanted to be a veterinarian when I was a child. I moved back home in 2016 and decided I wanted a career change. So while I worked full time, I studied after work to get my dog training diploma. I opened the business in March 2020, 2 weeks before COVID lockdown.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

When I was studying to be a dog trainer, we worked with the dogs in the mid-Antrim animal sanctuary. We helped give these dogs basic commands and worked with any behaviour issues they may have to help them find their forever home. It was lovely seeing the updates on the dogs and their new owners.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

I love being outside in nature, and I love seeing the dogs enjoying themselves, being given the freedom to behave like dogs, and thriving.

What has been the biggest challenge in your job?

Our industry isn’t well regulated, and unfortunately, there are instances of businesses not acting in the best interest of the animals. It’s really hard not to burn out worrying about the bad things going on that we cannot control.

What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?

Be overprepared. You never know what the day will bring when working with animals, and it’s always good to be armed and ready for anything. Also, build up a trusted network of people in your industry. Owning your own business can be very hard, never mind lone working. Imposter syndrome is real, and sometimes you need a good sounding board to help find solutions to problems that you feel stuck on.

If you could choose anything else to do, what would it be?

To open an animal sanctuary. In an ideal world, I would have the time and resources to help every animal in need.

What do you think your best quality is?

Honesty and patience. Our animals cannot talk to us. It’s up to me to advocate for the animals and let the owners know of any issues right away, even if it’s from a mistake I have made. Working with animals can also be demanding and exhausting. Being able to regulate your emotions and not take them out on the animals is a must. Animals getting the brunt of a human’s outburst is unfair and unnecessary. My clients also place a lot of trust in me giving me access to their homes when they are not there. It is up to me to make sure that the properties are fully secure when I have left.

Name three things that you like doing outside of work.. –

Travelling, spending time with my own dogs and partner, and trying new food.

Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have.

I am very musically inclined and have been playing lots of different instruments since I was a child. The dogs love to join in my singing in the car.

What is your most prized possession?

My own two dogs. If there is ever a way to make them live forever, I will invest in it.

What is your favourite food?

I enjoy the Mediterranean diet, but I especially love Italian food.

What is your favourite book?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Each time I read it, I am left with a different message.

What are you currently watching?

Old reruns of Sex and the City. You have to love a bit of escapism television.

If you were to watch a band/singer live, who would it be?

I had always dreamed of seeing Guns N’ Roses live, and I got to do so with my sister last July in London. I had Céline Dion booked for this year as well, but unfortunately, as she is unwell, the tour was cancelled, but I would love to see her live.

Dead or alive, who would you most want to meet and why?

I would really love to meet Victoria Stilwell. I have always admired her, even before I opened the business, and she started off just like me as a dog walker who then studied to be a dog trainer. She now has numerous degrees to her name, is the author of many books, and is the star of many TV shows. She is a household name and is a great representation of the positive reinforcement dog training community.

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