Meera Puppins: award-winning dog trainer from Lancashire
Meera Jethwa traded a glamorous corporate life for a canine Mary Poppins life and it was a resounding success
Don’t worry if you’re at Longton’s Golden Ball on a Sunday afternoon and see ten perfectly polite puppies enjoying individual roast dinners, watched over by a lady dressed as Mary Poppins. You haven’t had a stronger drink than you think, it’s just Meera Puppins and her proteges, socializing while enjoying a very pleasant and civilized Sunday lunch at their local hostelry.
Meera, based in Penwortham, manages Meera Puppins; a positive puppy socialization and training company that recently nominated her for Best Dog Trainer in the Dog Friendly Awards and was a finalist in the Trailblazer Awards.
This is all the more remarkable considering that just three years ago, Meera was a highly successful jet set Spanish translator for an investment bank in London. She had never owned a dog until she was 31, when she and her partner at the time adopted a rescue dog.
“She had a lot of problems. It was a steep learning curve, but I didn’t mind a bit,” says Meera, who was forced to leave her dog when she separated from her partner.
‘Something had changed in me. I wanted to train puppies using caring, positive and gentle techniques. I don’t believe in adversarial training and I don’t believe in the reasoning that a puppy should just “get used to” something they don’t like. If a child was terrified of spiders, we wouldn’t put them in a room with spiders and tell them to get used to them,” says Meera.
She gave up her role in the business to become a puppy trainer, working at a veterinarian and undergoing an intense period of study in puppy development, socialization training and canine first aid. She also found herself another rescue lurcher. And then the lockdown happened. So Meera and her lurcher left London and took the train to Preston.
“My parents were shocked. I was there on their doorstep with an anxious holidaymaker and a suitcase. Naturally they were worried that I had given up on a great career, but they are wonderful parents and they helped me. We all, including puppies, need the trust and security of our loved ones if we are to succeed,” says Meera, who now felt the time was right to start Meera Puppins.
“I’m a big fan of Mary Poppins: she comes when you need her, full of calm common sense and solves problems like magic. That’s what I wanted to do and that’s why I called the company Meera Puppins. When training or socializing puppies, I wear an Edwardian nanny outfit and carry a mat bag, just like Mary Poppins,” she adds Meera
She thinks the earlier puppies can be socialized, the better. But the lockdown meant she wasn’t able to meet the puppies personally, so she used the time to launch her now hugely successful website.
“It has lots of useful and free information, such as the best puppy walks and I’ve gone through them all, taking notes as I go. There are also lists of puppy-friendly businesses and lots of general advice on how to train a perfectly polite puppy,” says Meera, who also uses the website to answer questions, such as how to keep a puppy from drink in the toilet. Answer: check that he is not thirsty and lower the seat!
Meera faces much more serious issues than that, including puppies that suffer from separation anxiety, are destructive, bark constantly, need sleep training, or are afraid of other dogs and people. There is also a monthly web subscription course – Puppy Club – which provides access to training tips and more personalized advice.
When the lockdown was lifted, Meera was also able to travel in order to meet individual puppies.
“I call it my Problem to Perfect program,” she says. “Sometimes owners think they’ve failed if they have a problem puppy, but of course that’s not the case. Training a puppy can be exhausting and owners need to be kind to themselves as well as the puppy. There is no miracle solution and that is why I am not judging anyone.
Meera has heaps of thankful owner cards – sometimes also signed with a paw print – and her Social Sundays, giving the pups a chance to socialize constructively, have become a local phenomenon.
The puppies – and owners – meet at the Golden Ball, greet each other politely and then fall into a crocodile, walking in pairs to Longton Nature Reserve. Then it’s back to the Ballon d’Or for Sunday lunch.
“I go to the front to lead, I raise my Meera Puppins umbrella and let’s go!” They get used to traffic, each other and wildlife and they are encouraged to be calm and polite. We have breaks to rest and practice our manners and then the reward is a Sunday roast for the puppies and humans and we all have a great time,” says Meera.
Only ten puppies can enter and there is a waiting list – people apply as soon as they decide they want a puppy…a bit like signing up at Eton.
Meera also organizes courses for teenage dogs: Tearaway Teenagers.
“Like some human teenagers, some want to push boundaries, forget about all their mannerisms and they can be a handful. It’s just nature’s way and will eventually settle down. Waiting can be stressful though, and that’s where my Tearaway Teenager course comes in,” says Meera who, encouraged by her many fans, writes The Meera Puppins Guide to Puppies.
As Mary Poppins says, “In every job there is an element of pleasure. And that’s exactly what Meera Puppins brings to the puppy world.
Eight dog-friendly pubs to try
The Golden Ball
Longton’s newly refurbished Golden Ball has twice won the Dog Friendliest Pub award. Dogs are permitted in all areas – it is a condition of employment that staff must be dog friendly. There’s a great dog dinner menu, day beds, an area to wash and brush after a walk, and water and treats on hand. On the third Sunday of each month, dogs and owners are invited to join in a seven-mile circular walk.
The Rose and the Crown, Ulnes Walton
Dogs can stock up on treats before going for a walk in the park with their owner.
The Spread Eagle, Sawley
Dogs can enjoy a three-course dog menu and choose to drink either Bottom Sniffer Dog Beer or Pawsecco.
The fox in Upholland
Stella’s Bar — an area named after the owner’s dog — is a dog-friendly area, with beautiful dog-themed decor, treats, and water.
The Healey, Rochdale
Where dogs can enjoy a doggy pint of lager, after a walk around the glorious Healey Dell.
Holmes Mill, Clitheroe
Dogs are welcome in the Beer Hall and the Mill Yard.
The Sun Inn, Crook, Kendal
Treats and drinks are available and there is also the option of having your dog’s photo displayed in the Pooch Gallery.
Queen’s Head, Hawkshead
Where dogs love to fall asleep in front of the fire after a day of exploring.