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Meet Kirsten: The Brains Behind Our Bark

Hi! My name is Kirsten Koh and I’m very pleased to meet you here on my blog! Here, I will write about my learnings, my thoughts and my opinions about my favourite topic - Dogs and all things dog training/dog behaviour related! In this post, I’d like to get to know everyone more and for everyone to get to know more about the brains behind Pretty Happy Dogs’ Bark, so to speak! So hullo, I’m Kirsten and I am a 40-something exercise physiologist/Ironman triathlete/dog educator who hail from sunny Singapore and now living in not-as-sunny but beautiful Dundee, Scotland. After spending 12 years in sports and exercise science, I decided to revamp my professional life by reigniting a lifelong passion to work with animals. As a child, I had many pet rabbits, cats, hamsters, budgies, fish and terrapins, but I never had dogs even when I wanted one badly. I seemed to gravitate toward animals everywhere I sent. My father lost me once in Singapore when I was about 6. He must have been ordering take away dinner from a local restaurant when I slipped off. After searching for a couple of hours, my parents found me curled up with a litter of stray kittens in a drain. When my parents asked me what I was doing, I told them I was trying to keep them warm. My serendipitous exposure to dog training was in Perth, Western Australia while I was pursuing my PhD in Sports Psychology. I came to know a beautiful, young and highly strung but super intelligent Husky/Australian Shepherd cross, Kit. As the Universe would have it, Kit was left in my care due to unforeseen circumstances. Maybe it was the Universe’s way of showing me that I was meant to train dogs - the Kit that left my home was totally different to the one that first arrived two weeks before. Socially aware and steady, Kit looked like a model strutting down the street by my side. She looked quite the thing - well-groomed and carrying an air of confidence! And I took her everywhere! The park, the beach, the seafood restaurants in Fremantle and cafes in Cottesloe! From being a dog that barked incessantly, lunged out the door and pulled me down the street like a steam train, to having the calm and full sense of ‘groundedness’ when she walked out of the same door two weeks later, Kit exuded a canine confidence that stemmed from finally realising her place in this world. It was a confidence I could still see in my mind whenever I think of her! Huskies and Australian Shepherds are notoriously destructive and reactive, if not exercised and trained properly. They are highly intelligent and have been bred to be constantly on the move. Under my wings, Kit flourished. Kit also made friends at the park and very soon, other owners would remark on the progress she had made and everyone was so pleased to see her happy and settled - physically and emotionally. My heart beamed when I heard lovely comments about Kit! The mark that Kit left in my heart was deep and eternal; no one could ever forget the love and trust that an animal unconditionally endows on us undeserving earthlings. Beside Kit, I also made good friends with a Springer Spaniel - Border Collie cross, Gus, who belonged to my housemates in Perth. Gus showed me that I am a canine magnet and dogs love to be around me - doing things with me, or not doing anything with me - just hanging out. Over the course of the years, It would seemed that I have a knack of ‘stealing’ other people’s dogs because one by one, all my friends’ dogs grew more attached to me than they were to their owners. Since Kit and Gus, I went on to study animal behaviour off my own back and successfully enrolled in a prestigious Masters programme to study Clinical Animal Behaviour. I have never looked back since, even though I still keep one foot in the field of Sport and Exercise Science because I believe in the value of maintaining and promoting healthy active lifestyles with dogs. As a trainer, I believe positive reinforcement is the best form of teaching dogs ANY and EVERY skill/behaviour. Positive reinforcement, when designed effectively and humanely, can help dogs to develop such a sense of confidence and positivity that they simply want to learn more and do more with their owners as their guides. My approach is as gentle as it is fun. My unique methods are novel and effective. My own dogs, Rowan and Willow are my models - highly confident, bomb-proofed and a pair of joy-giving mutts at every party, they are the epitome of Pretty Happy Dogs. I started my first dog training class in August 2020 and I have had hundreds of students who have graduated from my puppy classes since. Many are still in touch with me and I am always delighted to see their posts on social media because their own Pretty Happy Dogs look incredibly robust - physically and emotionally! Seeing dogs being their fullest and truest selves is why I set up Pretty Happy Dogs. I believe that the way we train our dogs affects us, humans, as much as it affects our dogs. Some methods inflict pain/discomfort, while other methods curb their emotional capabilities. Dogs have so much more to them than ‘Sit, Heel, Stay’. Pretty Happy Dogs aim to become the training method of choice by leading experts around the world, and the everyday owner alike, to help our dogs develop bright and colourful personalities that match ours - our outlooks in life, our active and engaging lifestyles and our full and complete relationships that we have with one another. I want all my friends and clients to want to enjoy life and experience the world fully and deeply with their trusted canine companion because LIFE IS BETTER WITH DOGS! With their colourful personalities, we could delve into our own sensory world to see the world as they see it, and in doing so understand our dogs (and dare I say, ourselves!) better. I want everyone to see Pretty Happy Dogs not just as a training method but as a wholesome lifestyle approach. In a nutshell, our leashes could either feel like shackles or a the hand of a small, naive and innocent three-year old needing our guidance. Developing love, kindness, compassion and gentleness in our dog training leads to better emotional health for everybody. I am a firm believer that there is a lot more to learn about how we train dogs. As the world continues to improve dog training methods to include greater awareness of emotional elements in both humans and canine, Pretty Happy Dogs aims to become the No. 1 Go-To Guru in helping owners bring out the best in themselves and their amazing furry family member. When I am not training dogs or working with owners to address their dogs’ behavioural issues, I could be seen running in The Sidlaws with my best sidekicks, Rowan and Willow. Or I might be cycling overnight from Carlisle to Edinburgh for something fun to do with my wife, Orla. If you are on Strava, follow me @aikkicoach to get some inspiration on where to take your dogs trail running or paddle boarding! If you see me hanging out with my friends (and Rowan and Willow, of course!) in a dog-friendly pub in town, please do come and say hello! Love, Blessings and Woofs, Kirsten @prettyhappydogs Instagram, Facebook, TikTok @aikkicoach Strava === TRAINING FROM THE INSIDE OUT ===

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