My name is Jeffrey and I live in Morinville, Alberta. Growing up we often had outdoor cats at the house. I would help family members on their farms and participated in 4H raising a heifer calf. I recall falling asleep on her during the showing day. My immediate family weren’t really animal people and it wasn’t something that was ever talked about in school despite being in a rural community. I watched family raise beef cattle, but the methods were very traditional and the way they were raised always bothered me. After doing more school, and working in animal industries, I learned a lot about better practices.
I’ve studied bats in Costa Rica and squirrels in Algonquin Park in Ontario. I also now have a horse and I’m training him using positive reinforcement rather than pressure and release, like traditional horse training. Animals are the core of my life now; if I’m not working with one, I’m typically reading or watching videos of them.
When I adopted my German Shepherd, Magnum, in university, it completely changed my life trajectory. Up until that point I had been planning on working with wildlife. Magnum had some very serious behavior issues including animal and people directed aggression, which wasn’t flagged at the time of adoption. I was instantly in love with him and I spent a lot of time learning how to manage and train him. Now, I have a MSc in canine behaviour and welfare. I’ve had the opportunity to work with dogs at nearly all levels, from kennel care of dogs at animal shelters, to doing behaviour assessments on adoptable dogs. I’ve also had the chance to work with service dogs, and currently I work with wellness/therapy dogs.
There are a couple of things that young people should learn about animals. One is animals have emotional states just like humans and treating them with respect and being kind to them is the most important thing. Another is that at the end of the day they are animals, so no matter how well you know them, there is always some risk they could injure you if you don’t listen to what they are telling you. I think learning to ask animals for their permission to interact with them, and learning their body language, is key to making interactions better between people and animals.