For more than five decades, a devoted band of volunteers has been quietly working away behind the scenes to give vital support to dog owners in the Harrogate district.
The Harrogate Road Safety Dog Training Club may be long-established, but the volunteers that run it are so committed to what they do that they haven’t always had the time to reach out for publicity.
But having celebrated their 50th anniversary last year, the charity is keen to raise fresh awareness of the support they offer, and reach out to new dog owners looking for some advice.
The club’s volunteer instructors have trained hundreds of dogs, if not thousands, over the years, and their dog alumni continues to grow daily!
The volunteers teach basic obedience, run puppy socialisation classes, and give tailored advice and guidance.
Val Rodgers has played an active role in the life of the charity for 50 years - as a committee member, an instructor and the Chair of the club.
She said: “It’s so rewarding- you might have a family that’s despairing because they’ve come in with a dog that they think is a bit difficult, and they think they can’t do anything with it - but actually we can work with them to turn things around.
“It’s about helping people to have the confidence to do it. We try to make people relax and not feel anxious. We just want to ensure that people do have somewhere they can go for help and advice. Our aims are to teach basic obedience and responsible dog ownership at a club with a friendly atmosphere.”
Course fees are used to pay for the hire of halls to teach in, and any surplus is given to animal charities.
Val said: “It’s really important to us to teach responsible dog ownership. Sometimes the concern is that if a puppy gets a bit older, the owner might not want their puppy anymore. It’s also a worry that dogs can be over-fed, and children might treat them more like a cuddly toy.
“But if you treat them right, they will be happy, a lot of it is just common sense.”
Many of the volunteers behind the club have been involved for so long that they can’t pinpoint exactly when they started.
Val said: “Our instructors are normally those who come to us to train their own dogs and get hooked, and are then trained up to instruct. This way we get to know them and how they work their own dogs.
“It is a huge commitment every Wednesday night, and a number of our instructors were with us for over 20 years.”
The classes are held at Knaresborough House and at the Twenden Scout hut on St Mary’s Walk in Harrogate.
To find out more about the club, visit their website: https://www.hrsdtc.org or call the Chair of the club, Val Rodgers, on 01423 560734.