Having worked in various animal shelters in different countries as well as having a dog care company in the UK, dog trainer, Jon Garstang, arrived on Rhodes in 2016.
After some nosy new friends had done a few Google searches on the new arrival he started getting requests for advice and training dogs.
What struck Jon was the way dog care was so contradictory in Greece. On the one hand people had their designer breeds as they did in Western Europe. On the other hand he was shocked “by the commodification and cruely he had only previously seen in Africa and Asia” as he told us.
After offering his services to various charities and shelters and being told his help was not really needed Jon became frustrated and decided to change course. He ended up writing a booklet aimed at educating families and new dog owners about the importance of our relationship with our animals as well as teaching “soft skills” like empathy, self control, problem solving and negotiation.
By pure chance his book was read by a PR agency working for animal welfare organisations. The PFPO.gr got hold of the book and passed it on the the Greek ministry of education who, in turn, gave it the green light to be piloted in schools. That was in 2020 and despite the Covid restrictions the book has been approved to be taught all over Greece this year.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have written the material when I did because I clearly captured the zeitgeist. There is definitely a change happening regarding animal care attitudes in Greece. Teaching children, I think, is the key to really changing things at the root” Jon told us.
These events have opened the door for a change in the way Greek children approach their relationship with animals.
This school year Jon will be spending time in various parts of Greece training volunteers and doing workshops aimed at teaching basic behaviour skills and developing better ways to teach the book’s message in schools.