About Edinburgh Dog Behaviour

River McDonald BSc (Hons) MSc CCAB

Dog Behaviour Consultant

As the founder and director of Edinburgh Dog Behaviour, my goal is to build a happy confident relationship between people and their pets. I believe in honesty, kindness and the highest level of service and therefore promote only the use of kind, reward-based methods based upon up-to-date research and best practice. My approach is firmly centred on you and what you hope to gain from working with me, whilst paying close attention to your pet’s history and individual needs, to build a behaviour plan that is achievable for you both.

I have a broad range of experience handling and working with dogs, from strays and street dogs in Asia to assistance dogs here in Scotland. With a background spanning education, enforcement and the charity sector I hope to bring a range of skills to your unique situation and collaborate to help you get the best from your dog. I am particularly interested in working with aggressive dogs and support separation anxiety dogs and rescues with complex behavioural needs, and I conduct behaviour consults both in-person and remotely via zoom.

As a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist with ASAB, a full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)  and registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist with the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC), insured dog owners can also claim on their insurance for my services. Please contact your provider to enquire about your individual circumstances.

River holds a BSc in Zoology from the University of Newcastle-upon Tyne and after many years working in behaviour and welfare for a range of species, was awarded the Douglas Houghton Memorial allowing her to gain a Master of Science in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare from the University of Edinburgh / Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.

River is a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), is a Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist with the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB)and a registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist with the Animal Behaviour and Training Council.

September 2020: Scentwork Solutions for Abnormal & Repetitive Behaviours, Fears & Phobias Morag Heirs PhD, MSc, MA(hons)(SocSci), PGCAP
June 2020: Psychopharmacology Webinar, Caroline Warnes BVSc MSc MRCVS CCAB
April-June 2020: Separation Anxiety Pro Trainer 10 week course, Julie Naismith

June 2020: Animal Behaviour Counselling from Principles to Practice (APBC Annual Conference)
  • Puppy Education: Recent Advances, Gwen Bailey
  • A Dog’s Rescue Journey- The Science of Shelter Behaviour, Tom Candy
  • I Love Him Like My Child: Human Attachment, Parenting & Empathy, what do they mean for practice? Dr Anne McBride
  • Animal Welfare: Beyond the Five Freedoms, Suzanne Rogers
  • Building Foundations of trust, Safety & Confidence: A Case Study of Drax’s Galactic Adventure, Natalie Light
  • Handling & Body Language: How can we improve an animal’s experience of the veterinary environment? Dr Hannah Donovan

  • August/ Sept 2019: ACTION Conference – Welfare Implications of Unethical Breeding and Psychological Trauma in Dogs:
  • Psychological Trauma in dogs and resulting behaviour issues, Dr Karen Overall
  • The effect of Trauma and Stress on the brain and endocrine system, Dr Simon Gadbois
  • The impact of poor breeding practices on health and fitness, Dr David Sargan
  • Tackling Puppy Farming & its legacy, Linda Goodman
  • Greyhounds: breeding & Welfare, Susan McKeon
  • Canine Mental Health & Wellbeing, Dr Franklin McMillan
  • The role of pain and disease in behaviour issues, Dr Rowena Packer
  • Pharmacological Interventions, Dr Karen Overall
  • Nutritional Deficits and Supportive Nutrition, Dr Lottie Davies
  • Training Interventions and rehabilitation, Amber Batson
  • Biting: Assessments, Implications, Decisions & Management, Julie Bedford
  • The role of play in rehabilitation, Dr Leticia Fanucchi
  • Olfactory Training & Stimulation as a potential tool for rehabilitation, Dr Simon Gadbois
  • Help the human help the dog: aspects of human-canine communication, Dr Marta Gacsi
  • Turning Canine Trauma Victims into Family dogs, Dr Pamela Reid
  • How to Address the Root Problem: A Model for Dog Welfare, Suzanne Rogers

  • May 2019: Keep Calm & Collaborate, APBC Annual Conference, Kettering
    March 2019: Loose Lead training Masterclass (Claire Staines, Lothlorien Dog Training), Linlithgow
    February 2019: The gut-brain connection seminar (Annie Breen/ Napier University), Edinburgh
    September 2018: Behaviour Essentials for the Veterinary Team (APBC), Kettering
    August 2018: The Roles of Pain and Nutrition in Behaviour, 1 day seminar (Dr Robert Falconer-Taylor)
    August 2018: The Science of Emotionality, 1 day seminar (Dr Robert Falconer-Taylor)
    August 2018: An Update on the Concept of Resource Guarding (PACT/ Muriel Brasseur), Tombreck
    February 2018: Dick Vet Behaviour & Nutrition Conference, Edinburgh

    July 2017: Human Behaviour Change for Animal Welfare, Counselling Skills Workshop, Manchester; May 2017: David Ryan, Dogs that bite and Fight, Dogs Trust West Calder; May 2017: Dick Vet Behaviour and Nutrition Conference; April 2017: APBC Annual Conference, Managing Over-arousal in Dogs; March 2017: APBC Webinar, Separation Problems, David Appleby; March 2017: Puppy Life Skills Seminar, Helen Zulch; Jan 2017: Doglaw for Professionals, Trevor Cooper; Dec 2016: Disasters of Upbringing Conference, Royal Society of Medicine; Nov 2016: Proprioception Seminar, Sam Turner; Sept 2016: Dog Communication, Maxwell Muir; Aug 2016: Clicker Training Workshop, Lynne Aitchison; Jan 2016: Medication in Behaviour Modification APBC Webinar (Sarah Heath); Oct 2015: Dogs that Bite & Fight Seminar (David Ryan); Oct 2015: Separation Anxiety Webinar (Malena DeMartini); Oct 2015: Canine First Aid (Rhodes to Safety); Sept 2015: APBC Practical Assessment; May 2015: Clinical Procedures (post graduate module); May 2015: Animal Health and Behaviour (post gratuate module); Nov 2014: Report writing for submission of cases to COPFS; May 2014: Implantation of microchips (idENTICHIP);

    Elona Smith

    Dog & Puppy Training Instructor

    We are over the moon to announce that Elona Smith has now officially joined our wee team, offering training 1-2-1s (online and in-person) and helping us run Edinburgh Puppy Club, which is set to launch in September!

    Elona's love of behaviour work was ignited 3 years ago when she adopted wonderful little Juno from Romania. Together the pair have come on quite the journey, transforming Juno from an uncertain and nervous rescue into a confident and happy canine companion!
    Elona has trained with some of the best in the industry and she is a registered member of PACT (Professional Association of Canine Trainers). She is also, rather excitingly, about to embark on an MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh!

    Elona's calm, friendly and positive approach will be a massive asset to anyone looking for help understanding and improving the relationship they have with their dog. If you'd like to book in with Elona let us know, you won't be disappointed she's brilliant!



    September 2020: Masters in Clinical Animal Behaviour – Edinburgh University
    September 2020: Julie Naismith’s SubThreshold Training Course in Separation Anxiety
    February 2020: Firework sensitivity course – Edinburgh Dog Behaviour
    October 2019: Prey Drive workshop – Wagamuffins training school
    May 2019: Introduction to Animal Behaviour – Edinburgh Dog Behaviour
    March 2019 – August 2020: PACT Canine Trainer Course
    January 2019: Animal Behaviour online course – Edinburgh University

    Christina Wells

    KPA-CTP, Edinburgh Puppy Club, Puppy Expert

    Growing up in The Gambia, Christina always found herself surrounded by a variety of animals - domesticated and wild - and from a very early age, she was fascinated with animal training and how to communicate with other species effectively.

    When she finally welcomed her first very own dog into her and her partner’s family in 2013, she made many naive and common puppy raising mistakes and, following a number of unfortunate incidents with other dogs, her little dog Indie became reactive towards other dogs and would bark whenever he saw, smelled or heard another dog. Through trying to help him, Christina found herself attending different dog training classes, and then also dog training seminars by well-known professionals including Victoria Stilwell, Chirag Patel and Sarah Fisher among others. Indie made great progress and after graduating from uni with a BA(hons) in airline management, Christina made a snap decision to follow her passion and study dog training, in particular, the clicker training method, through the Karen Pryor Academy. In 2015 she graduated as a Karen Pryor Academy as Certified Training Partner, with Certified Canine Graduate Indie by her side.

    Christina has since raised another 3 puppies, including selecting, raising and training her Working Cocker Spaniel George as a diabetic alert dog for herself. She has helped countless puppy owners, running puppy training classes as well as one-to-one puppy sessions focusing on all things puppy raising and training. She has a particular interest in the critical developmental stages of young puppies, and how to support them in becoming the most confident, well-rounded versions of themselves, and we are proud to have her onboard providing online training and behaviour advice to our Edinburgh Puppy Club Members!



    Minas Stefanou

    Dog & Puppy Training Instructor


    After studying and obtaining a PhD in experimental chemical physics, Minas discovered that his real passion is dog training. A few weeks after handing in his thesis he got his first dog, a Border Collie puppy. Wanting to be able to communicate with his dog and do what is best for her, in addition to having plenty of free time, he fell down the rabbit hole of online courses, shadowing dog trainers and handlers, and reading scientific literature on how dogs think and how they can be trained. His unique talent for communicating gently and kindly with both dogs and people became quickly apparent and meant he was snapped up as a trainee here at Edinburgh Dog Behaviour!

    Because we believe passionately in external assessment to ensure the highest level of knowledge and practical skills, Minas is currently studying to become an accredited trainer through PACT (Professional Association of Canine Trainers), a 1-year industry standard course focusing on equipping trainers with the practical, ethical and scientific skills that make up outstanding dog trainers.

    Minas is particularly interested in canine nutrition, puppy training and teaching mind games to active dogs. As an advocate for raw feeding, he is also working on developing a line of raw training treats - the launch of which we are eagerly awaiting!

    Tania Pires

    Admin Assistant

    Tania joined Edinburgh Dog Behaviour in May 2019 to provide administrative support for our growing business. She provides a point of contact for all new enquiries, helps manage bookings and payments and liaises with veterinary surgeries to ensure health and welfare of dogs and owners remains at the heart of what we do.

    Originally from Portugal but settled in our beautiful city, Tania is a Virtual Assistant with over 10 years of management and IT experience in a range of industries. In her spare time she loves to travel, and has a gorgeous and friendly Westie who loves to pose for photos.