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Victoria Stilwell - It's Me Or The Dog
Biography of dog trainer and actress Victoria Stilwell the host of TV programme It's Me Or The Dog
Actress Victoria Stilwell shot to fame in 2005 with the hit TV show It's Me Or The Dog on Channel 4. Before this she was a jobbing actress and a dog walker in between acting jobs. Acting work of Victoria Stilwell in her bio include acting as a nurse in ITV The Bill and an appearance as an extra in Bram Stoker's Dracula for the BBC. Victoria Stillwell has also performed voice-overs for advertisements and television commercials. Since her popularity in the series It's Me Or The Dog she has given many TV interviews such as on the Richard and Judy show and The Wright Stuff. Prior to this she appeared on many American TV and radio shows discussing dog training.
Victoria Stilwell has also appeared in West End of London theatre shows and this included Buddy, a musical about the life of Buddy Holly. She met her husband Van Zeiler who played the leading role.
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Dog Training Victoria Stilwell
To supplement her actress wages and for something to do between acting jobs Victoria Stilwell started a dog walking company. She got the idea and help from her sister who is a veterinary nurse. Within a month of setting up her dog walking company Victoria Stilwell was walking about 20 dogs a day. During one dog walk on Wimbledon Common in London she met dog trainer Ken Cochrane and she learnt about his dominant style of dog training which included working with leash and collar jerks and gaining an understanding of each unique dog. This led to Victoria Stillwell being certified by the Animal Behaviour and Training Associates and becoming a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.
Dog Behaviour Advice Victoria Stillwell
As her interest in dogs increased Victoria Stilwell became interested in dog behaviour advice and positive reinforcement that many dog behaviourists implemented during dog training. Victoria Stillwell trained and studied with them and in 1999 she moved to Manhattan with her husband, Van Zeiler, where she co founded the company Dog Trainers of New York. She would work with families to teach them to train and look after their dogs. Though in high demand Victoria Stilwell made time to train and rehabilitate rescue dogs. To this day she still trains rescue dogs in her own home until they are re-homed to a new family.
This work developed into dog behaviour advice and seminars by Victoria Stillwell and in 2002 the business expanded to New Jersey.
Books Written By Victoria Stilwell
Victoria Stilwell has written many magazine and newspaper articles and several books about dog training and dog diets. These include:
It's Me or the Dog: How to Have the Perfect Pet
It's Me or the Dog: Fat Dog Slim: How to Have a Healthy, Happy Pet
Clicking on the book links above will give you more information about the books written by Victoria Stilwell with the opportunity to buy each book at discounted prices with free delivery available.
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It's Me Or The Dog
Victoria Stilwell suggested to TV producers that a television programme like Supernanny would be a success if dogs were the subject rather than children. They liked the idea and It's Me Or The Dog hit British screens in 2005 and there has since been over four series featuring problem dogs and their owners. Celebrities have even appeared for help with their problem dogs and this has included model Jodie Marsh and TV celeb Bruce Forsyth and his daughter Debbie Matthews and radio presenter David 'Diddy' Hamilton. Each new series of It's Me Or The Dog starts with an episode with a well known celebrity.
Victoria Stilwell drives a red sportcar when she meets the dogs and their owners. She wears her trademark red lip stick and black outfit clothing and black knee length boots.
The first episode of series four of It's Me Or The Dog featured the daughter of Bruce Forsyth, Debbie Mathews and her partner Richard. They were the victims of a dog napping on the 2 May 2006 in North London when their Yorkshire terriers, brothers Gizmo and Widget, were snatched from their parked car. The dog nappers smashed the car window, grabbed the Yorkies and made off in a van. Bruce Forsyth used his show business connections to get exposure on the news and programmes like GMTV to appeal to the kidnappers to return the dogs. This proved successful and the terriers were returned to Debbie Mathews and Richard.
Sadly the normally well behaved dogs were badly affected by their dog napping ordeal. They had bad behaviour such as aggression to strangers and other dogs, were stressed and anxious and would bark at people passing the house windows. Richard and Debbie were having to keep their house in darkness because they had to close the blinds and curtains during the day to reduce the Yorkshire terriers barking. When visitors came to their house they would snap at their heels and even nip people. They were so stressed that they were thinking of emigrating to Spain.
The training started with Debbie punching a punch bag to get rid of her guilt and aggression to the dog napper. Each blind and curtain was opened to let in the light and to start training the Yorkie dogs. The training tip to stop dogs barking on command was to repeatedly ring the door bell which was their focus point and tell the dogs to be quiet with the command thank you. Then their silence was rewarded and reinforced with a dog treat to eat. Victoria Stillwell used a tasty chicken treat.
Other training tips on It's Me Or The Dog included using distraction techniques to stop the dogs barking at passing dogs. A bright coloured squeaky dog toy was used to keep the dog's attention after seeing the other dog, but before barking started. To stop the dogs barking whilst in the car Victoria Stilwell's dog training tip was to put the dogs into a collapsible pet carrier so they can ride in the car safely and feel protected and full of confidence in the enclosed space. To stop the dogs barking and snapping at visitors to the house Victoria Stilwell suggested giving a visitor a dog toy or dog treat to give to the dogs to gain their trust.
Victoria Stilwell gave viewers tips on how to prevent a dog getting stolen which included never leaving a dog tied up alone outside a shop and not adding a name to a collar or ID tag but getting a microchip inserted by a vet. If a person shows a lot of interest in a pedigree dog they could be staking out your dog before snatching it. Victoria Stilwell recommended telling people who act suspiciously that your dog is ill, old and neutered to put them off.
To prove how well each Yorkshire terrier was now behaving Bruce Forsyth performed a tap dance for them and said Didn't they do well!. Rather than move to Spain the family had a party to celebrate the dogs great behaviour and not having to move.
Chaos the punk 6 stone English Bull Terrier dog featured in the second episode of series 4 It's Me Or The Dog on Thursday 19 July 2007 at 8:30pm on Channel4. The owners of Chaos were punk rockers Phil and Ruby who lived in Nottingham with their daughter Molly. Chaos jumps on people, was overactive and humps all the time. The randy mutt would hump anyone who came to the house and was always humping Ruby's leg. His excessive humping was so bad that he would dig his claws into people's legs and leave them black and blue.
As soon as Victoria Stilwell and the crew of It's Me Or The Dog entered the family home Chaos started to hump her leg from over excitement. Victoria identified that his humping behaviour was not just sexual but from excitement and wanting to dominate.
Poor Molly was scared of the dog that would climb on her, pull on the leash and make life for the family unbearable. The family would go to bed at 7:30pm to watch TV to get away from the dog that dominated the ground floor and the lounge.
Victoria Stilwell identified that Chaos thrived off attention. So each time he did bad behaviour he would be sent to a stimulus free zone, or a sin bin. He would only be released after three seconds of silence. Behaviour training may not have stopped the dog's humping alone and the dominant behaviour needed medical help from vet. She suggested castration to reduce the level of testosterone from the dog's body. The castration operation works for about 60% of male dogs and the other percentage needs to have more exercise an behavioural training.
Victoria suggested a cycle bar be added to a bike that can safely attach the dog's leash without the dog getting under the wheels of the bicycle. When walking a dog that pulls Victoria Stilwell suggested not using a collar and lead but a body harness and a short leash. This will give the dog owner more control and stop the dog from jumping up at strangers and humping.
After the op and training Chaos stopped humping and jumping. He was much clamed and Molly described him as her best friend who would play nicely.
This episode of It's Me Or The Dog also featured Emma Warren an animal scientist who did some tests to show the animal intelligence of various breeds. She hid treats in front of an Afghan Hound, Black Labrador, Poodle and Welsh Terrier and timed how quickly they found the treats.
The next episode of Its Me Or The Dog with Victoria Stillwell was to feature an anti social Doberman dog that fights with other dogs, pulls the owners by the lead and pees wherever it wants. But this episode was not shown.
Episode three of It's Me Or The Dog with Victoria Stilwell was first broadcast on 26 July 2007 at 8:30pm on channel 4 and featured Zoe Atkinson and her partner Paul and their Greyhound puppies Rio and Rocksey. They fought and bit each other and also bit their owners. Neither puppy were toilet trained and would toilet around the house, particularly the kitchen. When Victoria came to visit to watch their behaviour she thought that the puppies treated Zoe as a rag tug toy, especially when out for a walk, and it was the worst peeing and pooing behaviour she had seen.
Victoria Stilwell set about teaching the Greyhound puppies to respond when off the leash. She taught the owners to blow a whistle and give each puppy a food reward so that they would become conditioned to the whistle.
To start to toilet train the puppies Victoria Stillwell got the owners to clean every trace of scent of the urine and faeces from the kitchen and all surfaces. Then she devised a toilet training regime for the owners to take the puppies into the garden to toilet eight times a day and asked them to restrict water to drink after 7pm and no food after 5pm.
To cure the puppies of the play fighting getting too rough Victoria said that this could be identified as getting out of hand if the growling reached a high pitch or if one or both of the dogs bodies became tense. Victoria Stilwell advised making a distraction noise and then walk out of the room.
Episode four of Victoria Stillwell and It's Me Or The Dog was broadcast on Channel4 on Thursday 2 August 2007. It featured a devil dog that its owner wanted to treat as a cat. Karen Fletcher, a care worker from Birmingham, loves cats and after her cat died at the age of 22 years she wanted a companion but not another cat so bought a black and white Chihuahua dog that she named Niles. Unfortunately it snaps and bites to such an extend that Karen Fletcher has to get her mum to help when she wants to take Niles for a walk. They have to use a blanket to cover the Chihuahua dog so that they can get the leash onto Niles. Even when brushed Niles would snap and bite.
Victoria Stillwell identified this dog's behaviour as being caused by fear, stress, trauma and being scared of the actions of Karen. She knew that Niles loved her owner because when she left the home Niles would whimper and sit at the door waiting for her even though Victoria had tasty meat treats. When Karen came back into the house Niles showered her with affection.
So Victoria Stillwell recommended the temporary use of a slip lead to easily put on Niles and take him for a walk. Then she could give him lots of praise and put on a flexi lead. By increasing the dog's exercise its aggression should reduce and then disappear.
The dog would also pee in the house and Victoria Stillwell recommended taking him for two walks a day and toileted out in the garden six times a day. By structuring the meal times for the dog rather than leaving food out all day she would show the dog who was boss and he would become less dominant. So Victoria Stillwell recommended just leaving food down for 30 minutes and then removing the dog bowl.
Episode five of Victoria Stilwell and It's Me Or The Dog was broadcast on Channel4 on Thursday 9 August 2007 at 8pm. It featured a Doberman puppy called Harvey that belonged to Jane and Bill. The Doberman hated other dogs and would bark and snarl at them. The owners other dog called Lady was a small terrier and was bullied by the Doberman.
When the male owner left the house the Doberman puppy would whimper and pine for him and pee on the kitchen floor for the female owner to clean up. Victoria Stilwell identified this as separation anxiety.
The dog would also pull the female owner when out for a walk but not strain on the lead for the male owner. So during It's Me or the Dog Victoria Stilwell asked Bill to take Harvey for a walk and Harvey slipped the lead and went straight to other dogs snarling. Bill managed to recall him and Victoria Stillwell was impressed with this obedience and identified that the Doberman puppy needed to be treated like a dog by the male owner with less inappropriate affection and be trained more by the female owner.
So Harvey was desensitised to other dogs by taking out a newspaper advert for a meeting with other dogs. Though Harvey had his heckles raised and was snarling he soon got used to walking on the lead with another dog, though he was muzzled for safety. He continued this desensitisation with other dogs, dog walkers and dog trainers.
Also in this episode of It's Me or the Dog Emma Warren continued her dog intelligence test. She put a blanket over the head of each dog to test how quickly it escaped. The poodle just sat there for over three minutes making it the daftest dog! The black lab was out of the blanket within 7 seconds, followed by the Afghan Hound and then the Terrier.
Episode six of Victoria Stilwell and It's Me Or The Dog was broadcast on Channel 4 on Thursday 9 August 2007. This was part two of a double episode at 8:30pm and was the last episode in the current series of It's me or the Dog. It featured an aggressive American Bulldog called Jed that was jealous of its male owner Neil and would not let him get close to the female owner Kelly. The American Bulldog was bought as a guard dog and company for Kelly for when Neil, a sailor in the Royal Navy at Portsmouth, was away at sea. However Jed became aggressive to anyone coming to the house, including parents and friends.
Jed was really aggressive when Victoria Stilwell and the camera crew of It's me or the Dog arrived at the family house. Victoria had two men dress in a protective bite suit and when one of the men touched Kelly's arm the American Bull Dog attacked and bit the man.
Victoria took Jed for a walk to see how he reacts to other dogs and far from being aggressive he ran away from the other dogs in the park.
Victoria Stilwell recommended taking Jed to the vet in Portsmouth for a health check up and a thyroid test because of his aggression to people. The vet diagnosed a low thyroid level and prescribed medication for this which may also help reduce the aggression and anxiety levels.
Victoria Stilwell also suggested jealousy training such as ignoring the dog as it jumps up for attention and only give the dog attention on your own terms. So if the dog jumps on you when you are sat on the sofa or chair then you have to stand up and not look at it, talk to it or pet it.
She then suggested meeting visitors outside the home first, going for a walk and then coming back into the house with visitors. That way the dog will see guests as friends and not a threat. The guest or visitor should also give the dog a food treat or toy.
A baby gate or safety gate that is see through can be used to keep the dog in an adjoining room so that it can see what is going on but not be near to visitors.
Victoria Stillwell gave the advice that once a dog has been aggressive it should never be left alone with children, no matter how well it responds to training and drugs. Her tips on dealing with an aggressive dog is not to scream, shout, yell or run away but to turn sideways, fold arms and not look at the dog. When it stops being aggressive or no longer shows an interest in you then you should quietly walk away.
Jed became more relaxed and less aggressive though he still had to have a muzzle worn. Mum and dad and friends were able to visit without worry of being attacked or bitten.
Dog intelligence expert Emma Warren continued her series of dog IQ tests with a maze food treat.
The narrator of It's Me Or The Dog is Sean Chapman from Germany. He is a UK actor who has appeared in many films and TV programmes like Silent Witness BBC1 (Detective Chief Inspector Ian Norton), New Tricks BBC 1 (Spitz Junior), The Royal ITV (Carl), Midsomer Murders ITV (Jimmy Kirby), Murphy's Law BBC1 (Ethan Issacs), Peak Practice ITV (James Strickland), Mirrorball (Mark), Seven Days To Live (Paul), Hero of the Hour (Franky), Emmerdale Farm (Marilyn Monroe), Ellington (Ben Ellington), French and Saunders (Cousin Cockshaw and appropriately K-9 and Company (Peter Tracey). Sean Chapman also narrates The Baby Mind Reader with Derek Ogilvie.
The theme tune music of It's Me Or The Dog is by Earphone and the graphics by Mainframe.
Victoria Stilwell It's Me Or The Dog is not yet available on DVD to buy or rent but is often repeated on the Sky Satellite television channels.
Victoria Stillwell now lives In Atlanta, USA with her husband Van Zeiler and their daughter. Victoria runs a dog training school in between filming of It‘s Me Or The Dog. Each episode takes about five weeks to film.
The parents of Victoria Stilwell would not let her have her own puppy or dog but her grandmother bred beagles and this is where she first learnt to look after and train dogs. She first worked as a dog walker to pay her way to drama school.
Victoria Stilwell was born in 1969 and her birthday is on the 20 July.
Victoria Stilwell presenter of It's Me Or The Dog runs her own web site and her website homepage url is www.victoriastilwell.com
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