He may have handled animals on film locations around the world, but for renowned animal behaviourist Mark Vette, there is nothing more satisfying than working hands-on with dogs.
The author of Dog Zen and star of TV show Pound Pups to Dog Stars will be in Dunedin this weekend to present an intensive “train the trainer” session for keen dog owners.
The visit is part of a six-month “tour’ for Mr Vette, who has been leading the sessions for trainers and keen dog owners around New Zealand.
“The workshops are very hands on and very much based on my book Dog Zen, and my philosophy on how to train dogs,” Mr Vette told The Star.
The sessions are science-based, and include work on understanding the evolution of the dog, how they learn, their sensory capacities.
From working with pet owners to helping with problem behaviour, the concept outlined in Dog Zenis about doing the right thing at the right time with puppies, to save problems later.
“The formative period in a dog’s life – two to four months – is the critical period.
“It is when they learn 80% of their behaviours, and that is when you should focus.”
While hyperactivity was the most common problem among dogs, the most concerning issue was dog-on-dog aggression.
This was fear-based and often resulted when dogs had not learned to “meet and greet” other dogs properly as puppies, he said.
“It is really important for people to focus on this problem and sort it out, because otherwise their dog is going to be in trouble.
“Behaviour problems are treatable – you can teach old dogs new tricks.”
“We tend to regard our dogs as members of the family, that bond is very strong.
But, while they feel like babies and members of the family, we need to understand and look after them as dogs.”
Mr Vette’s “train the trainer” session will be held at the Dogs NZ building, in Forrester Park this Friday and Saturday.