Up until recently, Gwen was the head of behaviour at The
and achieved so much during the 14 years she was there - but The Blue Cross wasn't
the start of Gwen's doggie story.
As a child, Gwen's family always had pets, and she
describes herself as being a 'real animal child'. She especially loved dogs, and
spent all her spare time working in a boarding and breeding kennels. She started
there when she was 12, and stayed until she was 16. Looking back, Gwen realises
that the kennels were not very well run and were really quite dubious, but, at
the time, she loved it.
At the kennels, Gwen learnt a great deal about dogs and their behaviour.
Many times, she was left in charge, and had to introduce new dogs to the existing
pack. She began to find she could anticipate where problems
were going to occur and what dogs would get on with others.
With the fearlessness & confidence of youth, Gwen would
handle the scariest of dogs without incident, and, by the time she left school,
she was hooked.
Knowing she wanted to work with animals, Gwen went
to Reading University to study zoology, but, after university, she wasn't sure
what to do next.
In her indecision, she went into publishing, and worked on scientific publications
for Oxford University Press. She stayed there for three years, but knew this wasn't
where she wanted to be.
Then The Blue Cross
opened its new centre and head offices at Burford, Oxfordshire. Taking a substantial
salary cut, Gwen went to work for them as an information officer.
She found herself giving advice to new owners about looking
after their rescue dog or cat, because, at the time, animals were rehomed
without much in the way of support. Gwen could see there was a need to remedy
that, and so started writing information leaflets.
New owners had far more questions about dog behaviour and
training than anything else - and so she started to research the subject,
with the aim of making the dog leaflet more comprehensive. To learn more about
dogs and their behaviour, she spent time with behaviourist John Rogerson.
All her work, research, and hands-on experience turned into the best-selling
book The Perfect Puppy.
With all this knowledge and skill, Gwen started to help dogs with behaviour
problems, and, within two years, The Blue Cross realised that its information
officer was doing far more than just giving information.
Recognising Gwen's potential, the charity appointed her as a full-time
behaviourist - the first within a rescue organisation.
With Gwen providing behavioural advice and making sure that
the dogs and puppies were well socialised, The Blue Cross quickly found that dogs
who had been rehomed were less likely to be returned.
As the only behaviourist at the charity, Gwen found she was flying up and down
the country to Blue Cross centres to deal with tall the behaviour cases, and so
she was given an assistant.
Then Gwen had the idea of training someone in each centre to deal
with the more minor problems, freeing her up to deal with the more serious cases.
This was highly successful and this model has since been copied at other rescue
Gwen now had a large team to manage, and was formally appointed as head of
There followed many years of work at The Blue Cross where Gwen constantly pushed
for, and achieved, better ideas and practices, trained many staff to deal with
problems within their own centres, gave talks and lectures all over the world,
saw behaviour cases, and generally became internationally known and respected.
Her achievements at The Blue Cross had been revolutionary - but Gwen finally
decided it was time to move on to a fresh challenge.