With nearly 41,000 followers on her Facebook page and fresh off an appearance on ABC Radio Wednesday morning, Yass local Jade Fountain is grateful for the opportunities her line of work has provided her.
Her business, Animal Behaviour Matters, adopts one core principle which can be adopted across all different species.
“It is almost a one size fits all. The key to it, is positive reinforcement and using it really effectively, and using science. There’s an art to training and there’s a science.”
“My background is in applied behaviour analysis and using positive reinforcement really well, whether you’re using it with a fish or an elephant. We can’t use punishment based training with exotic animals that might hurt us and it means it’s absolutely possible to achieve incredible things with dogs, cats and chickens, and we don’t need to have a breakdown in relationship and we don’t need to be forcing animals to do things.”
“It’s really pretty cool and when you learn to work with a cheetah you know you can achieve a lot with a domestic cat,” she said.
It’s been 14 years since she started Animal Behaviour Matters, but business had really started to pick up just prior to the pandemic.
“I got invited to Sweden to give some seminars and workshops on animal behaviour and spoke at a few conferences.”
“I think a lot of people over the last five years realised the help that they can reach out for. It’s not just dog training, people with cat behaviour problems can reach out too, and that’s really spread to different types of animals,” she said.
Running an animal behaviour business throughout a pandemic might seem like a challenge. Still, Jade has managed okay, despite the obvious limitations of online consultations with animals.
“Obviously it’s been a challenging time for a lot of different types of businesses.”
“Switching over to Zoom and being able to run a lot of consultations on Zoom during Covid which is absolutely possible because we are working a lot with the human half of the animal-human equation.”
“A lot of the time we can gather the information and we can use technology such as videoing when we need to see training sessions and things like that. Not everything is as good as it was when you’re face to face and in person but you can do quite a bit via Zoom and a lot of teaching and webinars,” she said.
Jade often finds herself working against the “sea of misinformation” within her industry and says understanding your pet’s motivations is the most important thing.
“I coach them to train their animals and we work through and problem solve together. It’s a really nice opportunity to develop family relationships with their pets and there’s such a sea of misinformation on the internet.”
“You’ve got to know what your animal loves and that’s probably the key to it. Knowing the type of animal in front of you and what really motivates them, and that’s the key to it,” she said.
Jade’s interest in animal behaviour stems from her father, a dog trainer, but her particular style of training is heavily influenced by the work she did in zoos when she was younger.
“My dad was a dog trainer so I saw a little bit of that growing up. He was sort of the first to bring over positive reinforcement and get really interested in training with dogs when I was a kid. It’s really grown from there.”
“I started to do some early work when I was a bit younger in the zoos and I saw crossover between how we could help dogs, through the knowledge that we train zoo animals and vice versa,” she said.
Jade also wanted to mention that she’s seen an increase in working with people with pet sheep, goats, pigs and other farm animals, where she can help them teach them recalls and how to load into trailers or crates voluntarily. This has become increasingly important in preparation for evacuations and weather emergencies since 2020.
For those interested in witnessing Jade at work or wanting to find out more about animal behaviour for their pet, she will be running a webinar on September 19, which can be found easily via her Facebook Page “Animal Behaviour Matters”.