People aren't born dog trainers with a mystical gift! Its a fascinating journey of learning and discovery with our four-legged best friends...
At Wonder Paws, we are passionate advocates of force-free, postive reinforcement training. We focus on helping people create happier, healthier relationships with their dogs, from puppies to adult dogs and seniors. Our team of dedicated dog training coaches have a combined wealth of knowledge and education and our primary focus is on educating new owners, training puppies, and training and rehabilitating shelter rescues and adult dogs. We also love helping people have FUN with their dogs!
We happily undertake 'pro-bono' work with volunteer Rescue organisations in Dublin & Wicklow, helping foster dogs through socialisation and training to improve their chances of being permanently adopted.
Cathy Matthews, CEO & Dog Training Coach
Always an animal lover, Cathy Matthews got her first dog, an Irish Red & White Setter called Roly in 2003 and she muddled through the challenging early first few years as a dog owner. Although well intentioned, she was uneducated about dog behavior and training and at 5yrs Roly developed fear aggression in the car when travelling. Every journey became a misery for Roly and all the family and she was at a loss how to turn things around.
So in 2009 following a vet recommending euthanasia, Cathy contacted her local SPCA for advice. She started dog training classes with Roly and began a wonderful journey of discovery. Among other things, training classes taught her how to manage and turn around the fear behaviors Roly was exhibiting and opened up a wonderful communication between the two of them wile boosting his confidence.
She was so happy with the positive methods she was learning; she became a volunteer at the shelter during the week and at weekends volunteered with the dog training team. Over the next 3.5yrs Cathy studied and gained over 1000 hours experience training puppies, adult dogs and ex-shelter dogs alongside a dedicated team of trainers.
Cathy continues her study with world-renowed trainer, teacher and author Jean Donaldson at The Academy for Dog Trainers in San Francisco, widely known as the 'Harvard' of Dog Training. Because of her Shelter Dog experience she loves welcoming rescue dogs and their new owners into classes and seeing how training can boost their confidence and help build a loving bond between rescues and their new owners. She is passionate about helping owners develop healthy, happy relationships with their dogs and, most importantly, educating new puppy owners.
In June 2013, Cathy opened Wonder Paws Pet Dog Training at Festina Lente in Bray. Its a wonderful location to have a fun 100% positive dog and puppy training experience in the South County Dublin/north Wicklow area. All profits from Wonder Paws courses in Bray go to the Festina Lente Foundation. In August 2014 Wonder Paws expanded its services to include 5-week training courses for rehomed puppies at Dogs Trust in Dublin. All profits from these courses go to Dogs Trust Ireland.
In addition to full-time CEO duties at Wonder Paws & The Grooming Shed, Cathy teaches classes on a weekly basis at our Bray location and at Dogs Trust in addition to private 1:2:1 training. Cathy is also a trainer at Irish Dogs for Disabled's Shelton Abbey Prison, Buddy Dog Programme.
With over 4000 hrs coaching, she regularly attend seminars and webinars given by the world’s leading R+ trainers and behaviourists including Jean Donaldson, Karen Pryor, Ken Ramirez, Susan Freidman, Chirag Patel etc and IMDT illumni in UK. Cathy is a certified Canine First Responder and a member of the Pet Professional Guild of Force-Free Trainers. Cathy lives with her family and three dogs, 12yr old Roly & 6 yr old Saffy (Irish Red & White Setters) and her beloved rescue Foxhound Juno.
Magali Vergnet, Dog Training Coach
Magali grew up in a Paris suburb in a home of animal lovers, where a cat, a guinea pig, several exotic fish, phasmatodeas and injured birds were part of the family. At the age of 10 after she read ‘The call of the Forest’ by Jack London, she couldn’t wait to have a dog of her own. Her sensible parents knew that couldn't happen, just yet. However, she did have her granny's dog, Pearl, a soft female spaniel cross, during the long summer holidays spent in the South of France.
At the age of 13, after reading "Animal my teachers" by Michel Klein, she began to dream of becoming a vet in a zoo. Few years later that was the end of that when she realised that dealing with blood was part and parcel of being a veterinary surgeon. She then began to realise that more than anything, her real interest lay in animal behaviour. This was over 25 year ago and at that point there was no such college course to be found in France.
So Magali studied biochemistry and worked in that Industry for several years, moving to Dublin with her job in 2002. She started at first volunteering for animal charities; the Dublin SPCA and Leinster Animal Rescue. There she immersed herself in the world of dogs and started to learn and practice dog training. In 2011 she rescued Milly, a 2 year old Cockalier.
In 2012 she joined The Academy of Dog Trainers owned and taught by Jean Donaldson, one of the world's most respected positive reinforcement dog trainers and behaviour counsellors.
In 2013 she joined Cathy in her fantastic adventure that is Wonder Paws in addition to building Wonder Walkies, her busy specialist dog-walking business.
Today, Magali leads the Private Training and Day Training services at Wonder Paws as well as specialising in rehabilitating reactive and fearful dogs under our Reactive Rover training programme. She also fosters and trains rescue dogs before sending them to their new home. Magali is a certified canine first responder.
Olivia Flanagan, Dog Training Coach
Born into a household with an old, gentle-giant, Golden Retriever called Goldie, Olivia fell in love with dogs from a very young age. At the age of 3 Olivia and her parents acquired a black Labrador puppy called Prince. It was Prince who really developed Olivia’s love of animals over the 16 years they shared together. When Prince died the family were reluctant to ever get another dog but the void in the house needed to be filled. That’s when the family brought Amber home, a springer spaniel with more energy than you can imagine.
In 2010 she began volunteering in the DSPCA as a shelter dog walker and had decided to leave her degree in mathematics to pursue her dream to work with animals and become a Veterinary Nurse. During her gap year in college she filled her time with volunteer work in the Shelter, doing courses in Canine first aid and Canine nutrition. It was Amber who inspired Olivia to look into new modern training methods and gain knowledge. Olivia spent countless hours researching different training methods, trying to decipher what was good and what was bad.
She then joined a dog training internship programme at the shelter and submerged herself in the study material and any extra material she was advised to read. Over the next year and half she developed her knowledge and skills and became an assistant trainer, leading groups at public classes. Cathy was one of her first mentors at the Shelter and continues to guide Olivia through her dog training studies at Wonder Paws. She is enjoying gaining more hand-on experience with puppies and adult dogs and the opportunities to develop her skills and further her studies with a supportive team around her.
Olivia leads basic obedience courses plus our Improvers Agility classes, Level 2 Clicker Courses, Tricks Training and Scentwork Courses.
Olivia is studying with the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers and achieved full membership accreditation in April 2015.
Olivia is set to achieve a BSc (Hons) in Veterinary Nursing from University College Dublin in 2016 and is a certified Canine First Responder.
Claudia Fitzsimons, Dog Training Coach
Claudia’s love for dogs began at an early age, and when she was finally allowed to bring a puppy into the family at the age of 17 she was determined to do things right. Claudia decided very early on that her dog would be trained in a force-free manner and that they would have a lot of fun doing it.
Before acquiring Cody, her English Cocker Spaniel in 2009, Claudia did a lot of research into training dogs and began training Cody from day one. It wasn’t long before training became a huge passion and hobby of Claudia’s.
It was in 2011, after leaving a college course that she did not like, that everything began to fall into place. Claudia decided to pursue a degree in Veterinary Nursing and while waiting for that to begin, came across an opportunity to become a volunteer dog training intern with the DSPCA.
Over the next 2 years Claudia gained invaluable practical experience with shelter dogs, puppies and adult dogs of all shapes and sizes. Claudia’s confidence, knowledge and experience grew, she became a trainer, and began to lead public classes.
Claudia continues to enthusiastically learn and expand her scientific knowledge of canine behaviour and training through Jean Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers – world renowned as the ‘Harvard’ of dog training.
Claudia achieved her BSc. In Veterinary Nursing from University College Dublin in June 2015 and is a full-time Veterinary Nurse at Blackrock Veterinary Hospital. She is a certified Canine First Responder and a member of the Pet Professional Guild of Force-free Trainers.
As well as leading Puppy & Adult Dog Training courses, Claudia also leads our Puppy Foundation Agility classes, Clicker Training, Childrens Workshops and Scentwork courses.
Claudia is enthusiastic about making training fun and loves to see the bond between an owner and dog develop. She is very excited to be able to share her passion with others as a part of the fantastic Wonder Paws team.
Orlagh McCarthy, Dog Training Coach
A lifetime fascination with dogs meant Orlagh was always interested in training and grew up with the 'dominance theory' of canine/human relationships and though she trained her early dogs with some of these methods they did not feel right. Then 10 years ago she attended an R+ training class with one of her dogs that she was struggling with and something just clicked - a method of training dogs that mirrored the Montessori method of Education. She was hooked!
Orlagh believes completely in 'the story of ONE' - that every dog is a sentient being, an individual with their own emotions and preferences: that we are training that individual in front of us, in that particular moment, and that every client (canine and human) comes to us with their own history which cannot be ignored and must be incorporated into the training curriculum.
Flexability is the key and there is nothing like being part of the process that helps an owner and their dog begin to understand each other and move their relationship onto another level.
Orlagh is a group and private trainer at Wonder Paws and leads basic obedience classes, Clicker-training and puppy classes
She is full-time Assistance Dog Trainer using 100% Clicker-training with Irish Dogs for the Disabled in Cork
Dip Montessori Education with 17 yrs teaching experience
Qualified /Certified companion animal groomer (UK and Ire)
Orlagh hosts master classes in Grooming at The Grooming Shed at Wonder Paws
Qualified /Certified Dog trainer, currently studying to gain higher qualification and regularly attend seminars with the world's most respected R+ trainers.
Housekeeper to 7 dogs: 3 Labradoodles, 3 Bichons and 1 Golden Retriever
Aoife Smeaton, Dog Training Coach
After several years of bargaining and unfulfilled Santa letters, 8 year old Aoife was woken up in June 1999 by her first puppy and her first love, Oscar, a Cavalier x Cocker Spaniel. Aoife had the dream to become a Zoologist since the age of 6, after falling in love with David Attenborough documentaries and magical world of nature. She received her BSc in Zoology from UCD in 2014, during which, she began to delve into the world of animal behaviour. As soon as she could drive, she began volunteering at her local shelter. It was there that she joined the dog internship program, where she progressed to assistant trainer. After a joyful 14 years with Oscar, the Smeaton family was joined by the Duracell dog Lexi. A black and white jrt x Springer x ??, who thrives on training and learning. Many weekends home from college were spent exchanging behaviours for mutual benefit, working up a repertoire of goofy tricks.
After graduating, Aoife started a 3 month internship at Wolf Park, Indiana, in the USA, where she worked with captive, socialised, wolves, foxes, coyotes, and a herd of Bison. The 3 months turned into 8 months, where she was given responsibility for the training, enrichment, and socialisation of a 6 month old red fox, who was confiscated from her owner and about to be euthanized by animal control. Scarlett’s training was very successful and she settled into Park life very well, where she has become an adored ambassador animal. Four months later the Park acquired another Red fox (who is actually black in colour) from animal control, who was quickly, and aptly named Joker. He became a great companion for little diva, Scarlett.
Alongside hanging out with wolves, learning how to butcher a deer, attempting to target train a bison, and teaching a fox to run on a hamster wheel, Aoife was lucky enough to attend seminars, lectures, and pick the brains of many animal behaviour experts, including Beth Duman, Pat Goodman, Monty Sloan, Dr Karen Davis, Suzanne Clothier and Ryan Talbot.
Aoife will be returning to Wolf Park in April to help hand-raising and socialising the next litter of wolf puppies.
Sharon Flanagan, Assistant Coach
In 2012 Sharon started volunteering at a animal rescue shelter and her love of working with dogs grew. In 2013 she began agility training in Wonder Paws with her dog Amber and in 2014 she joined the Wonder Paws team as an intern.
She continues to learn more about dogs and dog training through study and gaining invaluable practical experience at Wonder Paws. This includes assisting and doing demo’s in class, her favourite is puppy agility which she leads every Sunday. She also enjoys designing Agility Courses for Beginners and Improvers Agility classes.
Sharon is currently studying BSc (Hons) in DNA & Forensic analysis in ITT Dublin and is a CFR-Advanced with St. John Ambulance.
Christine Byrne, Assistant Coach & Groomer
Christine has always kept animals - horses, hens, ducks and dogs and in 2013 she completed a Fetac Level 5 course in Animal Care at BIFE where she learned about behaviour and care of animals and grooming dogs.
She started interning with Wonder Paws in Sept 2013 and loves training because she has seen so many different kinds of breeds and loves helping to educate owners about dog care, training and welfare. As well as assisting in classes, she also gains valuable practical experience and improves her grooming skills with work experience at The Grooming Shed at Wonder Paws.
Pamela O'Brien, Assistant Coach
Pam has always loved animals and had both dogs and cats growing up. After she got her dog Toby in 2012 and knew he’d be a big dog she wanted to do some training with him. Met Cathy and a few other trainers at the first training school I went to with Toby and my interest in positive R+ training was ignited.
Pam is a Zookeeper in Dublin Zoo since 2008. She started her internship at Wonder Paws in January 2014 and just loves it. She has a good understanding of training already from the Zoo and really enjoys improving her knowledge base. She loves meeting new people and dogs and really enjoy the Dogs Trust classes she coaches at, especially getting to work with the shelter puppies.
Victoria Hayes, Intern
From a very young age Victoria knew she wanted to work with animals and has always aspired to be a vet. She started volunteering at the DSPCA in 2012 were it was cemented in her mind that working with animals was the career for me. She is currently studying Animal Care at DFEI and I hope to progress to Veterinary Nursing next year.
Until recently she had two dogs Benson and Poppy but she has just adopted a shy rescue Lab X and is training her at Wonder Paws to build up her confidence. She joined the team as an intern in September 2014.