Churchill Hall, London Rd, Aston Clinton HP22 5HL


Welcome to Hillside Puppy School

About Me

Experienced with animals

Vanessa O'Carroll

I was born into a family of animal lovers. We had a succession of different dogs, cats, small furry animals and ponies, all of who I tried to train with varying levels of success. I enjoyed teaching my friends to ride (and would have carried on working with horses and dogs had I been allowed!).After graduating, I worked in the property world, but my real interest lies with animals.  After starting a family and reducing my ‘working’ hours, I had the opportunity to re-introduce dogs into our home. A Hungarian Vizsla joined us, followed by a Goldendoodle, Bella. She proved to be such a success that we now have three generations of Doodle at home. Through my dog breeding I have forged links with Canine Partners for Independence who have twelve of our dogs working as Assistance Dogs with disabled partners. Seeing and hearing how these dogs are life changers for their partners emphasises the importance of giving puppies the very best start in life. I am passionate about the welfare of puppies and their socialisation; a puppy’s early weeks are key in determining their adult character and potential.

Welcoming environment


I work part-time as an Early Years Teacher and am also  a Forest School Leader, consequently I have a wealth of experience of working with young children. I am particularly keen to encourage good relationships between children and dogs. I have learnt that we all (puppies and dogs included!) learn quicker when the process is fun and without pressure, so it is my aim to keep the class atmosphere as relaxed and stress free as possible and to make sure that we all have fun as we learn. I am also a keen volunteer with Medical Detection Dogs, working with the bio detection and medical alert dogs. These dogs are all trained using reward based methods and their skills speak for themselves.



I am a qualified Puppy School Tutor, have a diploma in Understanding Canine Care and Behaviour, and hold a Canine First Aid certificate. I enjoy keeping up to date with my learning, and regularly attend training events and seminars, as well as doing theory based coursework. Having tried many styles of training over the years, I believe that making training fun and motivating both trainer and dog are the key to success. Our classes are based on positive, reward based training for puppies (both on and off lead) and we like to encourage participation from the whole family if they wish to take part. For those who cannot attend a group class, or would like some one to one advice, I am happy to offer sessions in the comfort of your own home.  

What to expect


Fun and Friendly atmosphere

Puppy School wants everyone to learn easily in a comfortable, encouraging atmosphere. Please don't worry that you or your puppy will not be good at all the exercises - everyone progresses at different rates and we are here to help and support you on your learning journey together. Don't worry if your puppy barks, or toilets in the hall, your puppy is just learning how to behave and your tutor is here to help you overcome any problems and turn them into learning experiences. Please enjoy the experience. Training your puppy should be a family activity and you are encouraged to bring children of any age with you.  However, in the interests of safety, children do need adequate supervision during class so any children under six years old should have a second responsible adult with them.

What you will learn

During puppy training the following exercises will be explained and demonstrated to you by your tutor. Your tutor is there to help and support you.

To come when called




Walk on loose lead



How to greet humans politely

Getting used to being handled, examined, hugged and grabbed by owners and strangers.

Food manners.

Your puppy will be socialised with adults, children attending class, and other puppies.

Preparing your puppy

It is a good idea to accustom your puppy to car travel from as early as possible. Take him on short journeys to start with and make it pleasurable experience for him. Playing with your puppy and feeding him some of his meals in the car (whilst stationary) will give him good associations with car travel. Make sure that your puppy is secure and safe before travelling and arrive in plenty of time to allow him to recover and toilet before class starts. Make sure that your puppy is slightly hungry before class so he will be interested in working for food rewards.
If your puppy is full of energy and boisterous try to give him a run in a safe place before coming into class.

Disease Control

Your puppy needs to be vaccinated and cleared by your vet prior to attending class. Vets have different vaccination regimes and vary in their advice so it might be worth asking your vet what their practice is.  The most usual regime is two vaccinations given two weeks apart, with the puppy being cleared a week after the second injection (potentially 8 weeks, 10 weeks and clear at for class at 11 weeks). If the puppy is being given the new Leptospirosis vaccine, L4, it can be given two weeks later (4 weeks are needed between L4 doses) and should not stop your puppy coming to an indoor class- Some vets are waiting four weeks after the first vaccination before vaccinating with the second dose - this will mean that your puppy might not be cleared for puppy classes until they are at least 13 weeks old, making your socialisation window very narrow.

What to bring

Your puppy should come wearing a plain, buckle collar with a nylon or leather lead. No choke chains, slip leads, head collars, harnesses or flexi leads please.

Tiny, tasty titbits to use as rewards. If your dog has a very good appetite he might work for his usual kibble, but maybe pack some special treats too. Treats can be the size of a grain of rice for small puppies, you could try cooked ham, chicken, cheese, liver or sausage, but you need to be careful not to overfeed a puppy a new food. Try to avoid artificial additives, they can affect the behaviour of your puppy.

Toys that your puppy enjoys playing with.

A stuffed kong, if you have one, can be useful to help your puppy settle.

Water and a bowl

Poo bags for cleaning up accidents.

A blanket or your puppy’s bed.