Rachel Rodgers with Merlin.

It’s a dog’s life for behaviourist

Animal behaviourist Rachel Rodgers can trace her interest in the subject back to when she was young.

The 52-year-old mum-of-two is now running her own dog behaviour business from Gosberton Clough, teaching Border Collie owners how to resolve their pets’ problems.
Her initial interest in animal behaviour was piqued by a TV programme about a stickleback fish kept on a windowsill.
“They couldn’t work out why, every day, the stickleback would suddenly go crazy. Male sticklebacks have a red patch on their chest and they worked out in the end that it was the exact time a post van drove by and the stickleback was seeing the red van and getting wound up because it thought it was another male,” said Rachel.
“Ever since then I’ve always been looking for more information on animal behaviour so my degree course was amazing – it was everything I wanted and more.”
Five years ago, Rachel and Ian (58) sold their five-bedroom home to make the move to a rural bungalow with land.
Rachel’s children Jess and Oliver, now 24 and 20 respectively, totally disliked the idea because of the remoteness but have since warmed to the new way of life.
There are now large fields for the 40 Herdwick and Valais blacknose sheep to roam, an orchard, and wild hedgerows and undergrowth which attract owls, badgers, foxes and deer.
Also running around are the family’s three Border Collies – Gael (8), Esther (5) and Esther’s three-year-old daughter Flo.
And it’s from the front room of her home on the six-acre plot that she does much of her behavioural work as The Collie Consultant.
She has customers from across the world thanks to video calling.
“It works just as well as being there in person,” she said. “When we get to the training plan, I always give them a demonstration with my own dogs first and once I’ve done that a couple of times, they have a go. I can watch and say ‘that bit’s great’ or ‘do that like this.’”
Although the Channel 5 programme Dogs Behaving Very Badly, with trainer Graeme Hall, is very popular, Rachel is not a fan.
She feels the flooding technique often used – whereby the dog is further exposed to the stimulus that is causing the problem behaviour – is not the best approach for a long-term fix.
“Graeme is very charismatic and makes good TV, but I prefer The Dog Academy which works on proven scientific principles,” she said.
“People go there with their dogs and stay for a few days. The experts ask the owners lots of questions and work out what the emotion is behind the dog’s behaviour and give them exercises that will help change that dog’s emotions.”
The couple also have about 40 sheep – all with names. They’re never sold for meat because of Rachel’s loving attachment through rearing them. But she does admit to enjoying eating lamb.
She learnt the lambing process from a farmer friend in Surfleet and is proud to have never lost one in delivery. This year there were 11.
“We’ve always managed to get them out and save them,” she said. “That’s probably because I don’t sleep for the whole of lambing! I’m watching them or watching the camera the whole time.”
The Herdwick breed originates from the Lake District and the Rodgers’ flock of 30 is beautifully maintained, even having its own Instagram page with 17,000 followers. This has led many artists, including Cumbria’s David Pooley, to use their sheep photos to sell pictures and greeting cards.
Rachel also founded the popular Twitter account @LincsSkies which showcases great images from across the county.
For two years she produced a calendar which raised £10,000 for the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance.
It was her previous experience as a marketing manager, coupled with skills as a primary school teacher, supermarket supervisor and quality control worker, which all came together to give her the platform to launch her Border Collie behaviourist business.
She has always loved the breed and to work with them and to keep them out of rescue has been her dream.
Just one element of the good life the Rodgers have created for themselves.

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