TWO young people who have experienced the ability of dogs to change lives have set up their own businesses offering training classes.

Jodie Forbes has been obsessed with dogs since she was tiny, but Jack Fenton had no interest in them until he saw the difference an assistance dog made in his sister’s life.

Together, they set up Make Your Mark, offering workshops, classes and one-to-one sessions in the belief that dogs of all breeds, abilities and ages can be trained.

Jack, 21, and Jodie, 22, have already notched up 15 years between them of working with dogs. Jodie’s dogs have won numerous first places at Crufts, compete at the highest levels in agility and have worked with Land Rover, Stella McCartney and MoreThan.

She was obsessed with dogs as a small child and finally got her own dog, Hazel, when she was nine. “I got my border terrier and almost immediately I heard people say they were not trainable. I was very stubborn and I thought ‘I can train’ them and I did,” she said.

She taught Hazel agility and dog dancing and went on to train Hazel’s pup Bramble, as well as her newest dog, Tulip.

“When I was 13 I had a traumatic experience which still affects me but the dogs have helped me through it and they help me every time I get emotional about it.”

Jack has experience of anxiety, depression and autism, and first thought it was “ludicrous” when his sister, who also has autism, was given an assistance dog. “The dog changed her life,” he said.

He volunteered at the organisation that provided his sister’s assistance dog and ended up changing his plan to go to university, deciding instead to study psychology with the Open University while setting up the dog training business.

He is one of the youngest members of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, an approved instructor with the Dog Training College and a qualified tracking instructor, with experience working with nervous and reactive dogs.

“Working with dogs has transformed my life, and turned me from an anxious, nervous and anti-social person into someone who truly wants to make their mark on the world and the people around it. I truly believe that dogs help people change people,” he said.

Make Your Mark teaches such skills as agility and tracking, where dogs learn to follow a human scent trail. It also teaches some of the skills of assistance dogs.Sessions take place at the Hamworthy Club, Canford Magna, and Mudeford Wood Community Centre in Christchurch.

Achievements are celebrated and recorded in photos and videos on Facebook. “We reward the dogs but we don’t ignore the humans as well,” said Jodie. “We want the owner to go away thinking ‘That was amazing’.

“We want dogs to have great, amazing lives and owners to have great, amazing lives as well.”