A dog’s life for Ellie – but she loves it!

What’s it like to train dogs to enable people to live more independently? Trainer Ellie Keen reveals all.

From having pet cats as a child to being a supervisor in a pet shop, to even working at a mustang rescue centre in Florida, USA, Ellie Keen, originally from Brighton, is very much an animal person. She has always had an affinity with creatures of all shapes and sizes.

Now 27 years old, Ellie studied animal behaviour and training at university, cementing her thirst for learning about and working with animals, and now works as a trainer with Support Dogs.

The Sheffield-based national charity provides and trains dogs to help autistic children, as well as adults with epilepsy or other physical disabilities, to lead safer, more independent lives.

Ellie, who has been working at the organisation for two years now, plays an instrumental role in honing the skills of dogs to transform the lives of clients.

About her history with animals, Ellie said: “Since I was young, I have been helping out at my local yard – it was more horses until I got to university, when I made the switch to animals in general. My degree was dogbased, there was a lot of theory around training dogs.”

Following university, Ellie returned to working in the pet shop, but as this was during the pandemic’s lockdown, she found it difficult maintaining a retail job.

So, she applied for a job with Support Dogs and, after being accepted, moved over 230 miles north to Sheffield to take up the position.

Ellie, describing what her job entails, commented: “I train the older dogs that have either come from the puppy team or have been donated to us, until they go to their client. That involves either deciding which programme they are going to go to, tailor-training them for that programme, looking at potential clients for them, and making sure they would be suitable for that client or tailor-training them to suit that person’s life.

“I also work closely with volunteer foster carers who give the dogs homes for evenings and weekends and come into the centre during the day for training.”

Ellie, who is usually responsible for the care and training for three dogs at a time, thrives in her role and highly enjoys it.

“I absolutely love it. It really suits me. It’s really focused on the dogs, building a bond with them and tailoring the training based on their personalities.” she explained.

For Ellie, the best thing about her job is the companionship with the dogs, getting to know each of their personalities, growing a bond with them, and training them in ways that best suit them.

Although it is hard to see them leave, when Ellie sees a dog with their client, she appreciates that it makes it all worthwhile.

To find out more about the invaluable work of Support Dogs, please visit:

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