Daily Liberal

Vision to reality: Establishing a one-of-a-kind dog training business in the central west

Dog trainer Phil Campbell and Caesar, a German shorthair pointer. Picture supplied
Dog trainer Phil Campbell and Caesar, a German shorthair pointer. Picture supplied

This is branded content for Loose Leads Dog Training.

For Phil Campbell, one of the most heartbreaking things in life is to hear about a dog no-one wants or, in some cases, is euthanised because of their behaviour.

Phil has spent most of his life training and working with dogs and can often find himself the last resort for owners whose dogs are unmanageable, and sometimes aggressive.

He says being able to work with a dog and see the transformation is incredibly satisfying.

"Knowing that I've been able to give them a more fulfilling life, it's a good feeling," says the owner of local dog training business Loose Leads Dog Training, who learned very early on in his life that he had a special affinity with man's best friend.

"Dogs love to learn and to please their owners. It can take time, but then it's like a jigsaw puzzle and you see those pieces fall into place. I really enjoy that training process and getting the best out of a dog.

"It's disappointing if you hear dogs have been euthanised because of a behavioural issue. Owners can be at their wits end and don't know there's another option. Most behaviours can be improved with training."

Phil was 13 and growing up in Bourke when he got his first dog, a bitsa named Andy. The pair were inseparable, building a strong bond that sparked the passion for working with dogs that became a life-long career.

Later, working as a young jackaroo, Phil began training sheepdogs, starting with his own dog, Jack, a kelpie. Over the past 30 years, he's also trained and worked with security dogs, with the RSPCA helping to correct the behaviour of abandoned dogs to increase their chances of finding homes, and most recently in search and rescue and teaching dangerous dog awareness courses to council rangers.

Early in his career, his training mentors recognised the special talent he has in connecting with his canine students.

"I did get told very early on when I started working with other trainers that I had a natural ability, to understand a dog's body language and respond to that," says Phil. "I just know how to read them.

"I've always loved dogs and that special bond that comes when you've got a good dog and you're working together to achieve something."

After his many different roles, Phil launched his own business near Wellington two years ago, with his wife Tracy and daughter Courtney, who's following in her dad's dog-training footsteps.

The name of the business reflects Phil's style of training and his goal with the dogs he works with.

"A loose lead, it's what most people want to be able to achieve with their dog, to be able to go out for a nice walk with their dog without their arm being pulled out of its socket or being at risk of falling over," he said.

"Or with a dog that's not jumping on everyone and comes when they're called, not pulling on the lead to get to other dogs or chase cars - basic obedience. It's about you and your dog being able to have a happy, fulfilling life together, able to go out and do activities that perhaps they couldn't before."

Phil Campbell working with German shepherd Loki. Picture supplied.
Phil Campbell working with German shepherd Loki. Picture supplied.

Loose Leads Dog Training's unique approach involves dogs staying at its kennels and receiving between three and six training sessions daily.

"The dog comes to me for three or four weeks depending on what's going on and in that time I teach it what it needs to be taught," Phil said. "Then when it goes back to the owner I teach them how to maintain the training with their dog that I've been doing. Having that consistency is really important."

"I've had several people who've come to me as a last option - the dog was going to have to be given up or euthanised. But now the same dog is cruising around, living a great life, they're well managed and everyone's happy."

Phil has a large variety of training skills that allows him to use a blend of methods designed to suit each dog, depending on its personality and its main drives.

"Every dog is different so you need to have skills in a wide range of ways of training so you can adapt it to different dogs, to suit the dog that's sitting in front of you," said Phil.

One of Loose Leads Dog Training's biggest fans, former Dubbo resident Jess McGuire, said it was clear Phil cared for dogs deeply and that they loved and respected him in return.

Ms McGuire's blue heeler cross rescue dog Ned was fearful and anxious around other dogs and would sometimes growl at them, the result of his history in his previous situation.

"Ned is a lovely sweet dog but basically he was afraid of the world," said Ms McGuire. "He was a year old when I adopted him and he'd had a tough first year which is when you teach them to sit, and you socialise them and walk on a lead. Ned hadn't done any of those things.

Rescue dog Ned is now living his best life. Picture supplied
Rescue dog Ned is now living his best life. Picture supplied

"He was terrified of everything. It meant I couldn't take him for walks around the neighbourhood without him being in fear of other dogs. It was really stressful for him, and I just wanted him to be happy and have a good life."

After a vet recommended Phil to Ms McGuire, Ned spent three weeks in Loose Leads Dog Training's 'board and train' program followed by continuous ongoing training at home and then a Christmas holiday stay.

Ms McGuire said Ned came home "unrecognisable". "I'd never envisioned a world where I could put my dog on a lead and walk around the neighbourhood but now that happens several times a day," Ms McGuire said.

'We've even gone to the beach and if another dog has snuck up to us Ned's able to cope with it - he's even had a frolic with a couple of dogs. It really helped me to understand our dog better and know what he needs. It's been quite amazing."