Bienvenue à La Belle Vilaine
Self-catering, holiday cottages on the South Brittany/Loire Atlantique border in France.
Pet friendly, family-run gite accommodation - dogs welcome.
Residential Dog-training Courses with Elaine Clark IMDT - optional extra, fees apply.
We now also offer Residential Dog Training Courses with Elaine - Full Member of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainer and Pet Professional Guild
Certificat de Capacité No. 56-313 awarded by the Prefet du Morbihan
- basic lifeskills, clicker training, behaviour adjustment,
heelwork to music and agility.
Optional Residential Dog Training Courses
Click here to go to my dog training website, with free resources
I am a highly-qualified, professional dog trainer having recently been assessed by the board at the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers - I passed with flying colours! I became a full member of the Pet Professional Guild in 2013. I am also a qualified trainer for the SCC (French equivalent of the Kennel Club).
I began competing in agility in 2009 and in 2011 was selected onto the Pays de La Loire Regional Agility Team with my, then 9 year old Sprollie, Gracie. In 2011 my young Border Collie, Haïyla, began competing and soon won through to the equivalent of Grade 3-5. Gracie and Haïyla are home-trained. However, given the enforced, long days (up at 5 am and not home until after 9 pm, having cooled our heels for a 2-hour lunch break) I bowed out of French agility competition. See the Valor Project below, which has given me the chance to continue competing on more user-friendly terms.
Many, many of our previous guests at our holiday cottages have benefited from my training over the years and their thanks and enthusiastic feedback spurred me on to work towards my qualifications and goal of becoming a Professional Dog Trainer. Many of these families have since included the Training Course Option during return holidays with us. Thanks for your support guys ! I only use science-based FORCE-FREE techniques. I have experience of working with a deaf dog and a blind dog. I have included some testimonials at the foot of this page.
The options – for puppies or older dogs - are:
Basic lifeskills training with an introduction to clicker and shaping;
Behaviour adjustment training - I use BAT (having attended Grisha Stewart's 2-day seminar and follow-up webinars and used the method successfully with my own and other dogs) in conjunction with other force-free methods as appropriate to the specific case;
Agility; including the chance to compete over a real course with a real judge and earn a certificate and rosette. I am very proud to be the first venue in France for the Valor Virtual Agility League. The judge in the USA sends me the courses, having approved my venue, equipment and knowledge. I set up the course, you run with your dog, I film and submit the film for judging. There are levels from Training (toys/treats allowed) to Expert. For more info about why I now use Valor rather tha
Introduction to heelwork to music (tricks and advice on choreographory).
Introduction to scent work.
I believe that my greatest strengths lie in my:
vast teaching experience gained whilst teaching foreign languages (in both the UK and France) from 1996 to present. More recently I have begun running workshops in French primary schools, helping youngsters learn about dog body language;
the invaluable knowledge I have gained through dog training (beginning as a student myself with Gracie back in 2002) - learning from each dog and his/her family;
attending dog-training courses (both in person in the UK and France and on-line);
a tireless quest to feed my thirst for knowledge through reading and watching DVD's by emminent international trainers and, above all, my love for dogs. Each dog and family are individuals and I understand that a method that works for one would not be right or workable with another;
the ability to "think outside the box" and rapidly find a workable solution to help families resolve issues and strengthen their bond with their beloved 4-legged friends. I break down all the tiny components that families need to understand and address - we then work on each component in a logical order before putting them all together, step-by-step, to achieve a completed "jigsaw";
sense of humour, passion for my quest to help as many dogs and their families as possible and my compassion.
The Dog Training Course cost is £160 (in addition to gite rental) - this includes 6.25 hours of one-to-one training with me*, split into 5 sessions - which will be morning sessions (wherever possible), leaving you free to visit the region for the rest of the day. The fourth session will be an afternoon or evening session. Your course will include an individualised training plan (and access to some equipment for practice during your stay). *The price includes all handlers and dogs staying together in one gite.
*Obviously, no individual dog will work continuously over the whole session. The time will be split between the handler(s)'s dogs – the rest of the session will offer balance breaks for the dogs and be devoted to explanation of techniques, answering your questions and working towards your training plan(s). The aim of the course is to give the handler the tools necessary to enable continuation of training over a longer term. I am training the handler to train their dog. It goes without saying that in order for progress to be made, training should be continued both between sessions and after the course has finished. I am also happy to give advice regarding a species-specific natural diet (raw). We have fed raw to our dogs and cat since early 2012. If you already feed raw we can supply food during your stay.
Agility courses are for levels from foundation to intermediate and work upon various aspects - including handling and walking courses for the handler and for the dog: obstacle recognition, body awareness and balance, focus, drive and control (start line, 2-on-2-off contacts, rear cross awareness, independence on entering and driving through weaves ....) - at a level to suit both you and your dog.
I have helped many dogs overcome issues, for example fussy-eating, fear, fear-based aggression, aggression between dogs within the family group and bike/car-chasing. Here are some extracts from our Visitors' Book regarding the training option :
" After a few sessions the improvements of Sorrel's awareness, attentiveness, behaviour and capabilities were remarkable".(Sorrel will be returning for a training course next year); STOP PRESS: Update by email received a week after Sorrel returned home ...... Jane had historically had issues with her beautiful Hungarian Vizslar, Sorrel, running off to visit other dogs that were running agility nearby at the same time as her. So that was our number 1 aim during the week. I have just received this lovely update from Jane ....
"I must tell you yesterday was our first lesson back at my agility club and our instructor decided to have two dogs running at the same time. Sorrel did fine and hardly noticed that another dog was running nearby. I was so pleased so thank you very very much for your help. We had a really lovely time last week and can't wait to come again."
How awesome is that!!!?????
Sorrel booked for another 2 (yes 2!) training holidays for 2014. Before arriving Jane, her Mum, called me for help as Sorrel had begun to refuse to eat and she was very concerned. I did a phone consultation and am very happy to report that Sorrel was back to eating the very same day and an update a week later was that she hadn't missed a meal. She is returning for another week's training in 2015.
"Of course, the full advantage the gites have over most, if not all, others are that they come with Elaine’s canine knowledge. We had booked in advance the dog training option. Max, our rather delightful (rescue) border collie has a tendency to snap at unfamiliar men & is unsure of children, due to nervousness, so we had BAT sessions to tackle this (on-going now we are at home of course). We also covered his resource guarding of his ball, impulse control ‘ready steady no/go’ (impresses everyone with this!) and a whole selection of books, toys, mind toys and harness/leads to try out! The very friendly vet visit before our departure (arranged by Elaine) made things very easy for us all. I don’t think you would find this level of knowledge on any old Gite holiday and Max enjoyed his stay easily as much as we did."(Note from Elaine ..... as is often the case, Max proved himself to be able to accept the presence of strangers as long as they displayed the correct body language and gave him the space he needs. He was extremely friendly with me and was happy for Paul to interact with him from day one. His family had already done a great job in managing potentially scary situations for Max and did exactly the right thing in seeking out advice from a professional. My own dog, Haïyla, used to be scared of children and could react fearfully when she came upon strangers during walkies .... she now loves to play structured, supervised games with children of all ages - even staying calm when they do sudden, unexpected movements and either calmly walks past strangers or approaches them with a goofy, supple body and waggy tail.)
"Above all it has been a real learning-curve for Barney and me - we have learned so much from Elaine's lessons - all based on good sense and a real understanding of dogs."
"Thanks to Elaine for helping Boston with his separation anxiety. She showed us how to "read" him more effectively qnd the techniques she showed us have already had an impact"
"Thanks to Elaine for helping to calm Alfie's barking and other issues. She got further than any other trainer has done and we will try to continue her good work." (This update via e-mail just a week after Alfie's return home : "Alfie doing well with training - neigbours have said how calm he is and has stopped pulling. Bringing his toys back as well what a treat!!)
"We achieved all our aims and Evie was well-looked-after by Elaine .... spotting all the little things we never noticed about her."
".... and what a difference 1 week has achieved with our 2 dogs. We arrived (from Scotland) with a hyper-active, over-confident (as regards his interactions with other off-lead dogs) male and a "shrinking violet" female, who jumped at the slightest thing (especially terrified of cows). Elaine's training has worked wonders. Everything we'd tried up to now had had little, or no effect and we were all but resigned to there being no way of finding that "happy medium" with the 2 of them." (Several updates received since via email ..... even including photos of them walking in the Highlands amongst free-roaming Highland cattle and anecdotes such as .... " ..... there were several other dogs present in the park, so I was initially reluctant to let our canine exocet off the lead, bearing in mind his past record of visiting every other dog in sight. However, I soon realised that Shadow was much more interested in what was going on immediately around him so I took a deep breath and set him free. He did us proud - yes, he did go towards the other dogs but then seemed to give the canine equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders and came back to us, most times without even having to be called. Alaska was similarly unfazed by what was going on and even joined in playing along with some of the other dogs. Double result. Many, many thanks for all your help in giving us 2 so well-adjusted dogs in such a short space of time. Be afraid, be very afraid.- we'll be back. Planning has started already!!!)
..... There are many, many other such comments visible in our Visitors' Book in our information room .....
In late 2010 I was called by an English couple living locally, who were at the end of their tether with their warring Jack Russels and were on the verge of rehoming one of them. After discussing the routine at home and observing them and their dogs, I put together a plan of action. I visited them on two more occasions over the next month. There was no more talk of rehoming - the two little dogs were co-existing happily! I have kept in contact with them and am happy to say they are still happy!
Use of the Flyball run is free to all guests.
A bientôt en France !
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La Belle Vilaine
Self-catering, holiday cottages on the South Brittany/Loire Atlantique border in France.
Pet Friendly family run gite accommodation where dogs are welcome.