Animal magic

SCREEN STARS: Animal trainer Mark Vette and his nor-west team will feature on a global television series next year.
SCREEN STARS: Animal trainer Mark Vette and his nor-west team will feature on a global television series next year.

Does your pooch have problems or could your canine be a screen star?

Residents from the nor-west can find out from Mark Vette, the renowned animal trainer, psychologist and behaviorist - the man who taught the driving dogs.

Mark runs an animal behaviour clinic from his Waimauku home on Old North Rd, along with a premier animal training and talent agency.

His clinic trains pets out of aggressive behaviours, phobias and other issues and teaches them how to socialise safely with humans and other animals.

He has been 35 years in the business and trained as a zoologist on animal behaviour with a master's degree on sheep dog genetics and behaviours.

He also lived and studied in the United States, including training as an animal consultant at Battleguard Indiana - a wolf park.

In New Zealand, he is one of the only professionally qualified Animal Behaviour Consultants and his expertise has been used for local government and animal organisations. Mark advises dog owners about bringing up their new pets.

"The critical thing to understand at the start is you should get a dog around 7 to 8 weeks."

The pup comes from a kin-related pack and can suffer separation anxiety or distress as it leaves and adjusts to a new family.

Separation distress can manifest in destructive, soiling, vocal or escape behaviours.

The formative period, when forming a relationship with the new human family, is from 2 to 4 months.

"Because they have a social order and so do we, during that critical period you should cross foster dog to humans. That's when they will look to the more dominant one who controls the resources or the goods. In the pack, you establish control by resources not by bullying."

Vaccination starts around six weeks and vets usually suggest isolating pups because of diseases.

"There's a careful compromise between this vaccination time and the need to socialise dogs with other dogs and people. They need to get used to their family's way of life like being in the car, going on holiday," Mark says.

"If the pup doesn't socialise or generalise they're going to be very attached to just the family. They need to be socialised with lots of different kinds of people."

Dogs need to learn not to bite people - bite inhibition.

Mark teaches a simple technique to pinch a few seconds between the lower jaw and say "no."

Dogs need to learn about chewing. Teething is around 3 to 4 months and owners need to give them chew toys not made of materials from their household. A rubber kong can be left with them during the day if inside the house - it gives them something to do.

Put pups in a crate - crate train - so they get used to liking it as their den - make it a positive place. When hyperactive, put them in there for time out.

"My rules in the house are no games as it's a calm place. Settle them down with a short lead - light chain of 30 to 40cm - which can be clipped to a wall or use the crate. It's nice to have a crate in the lounge - I tend to sleep them in it during the night as it's really good way to house-train them and in the morning they go outside to the toilet."

Difficult behavioural problems like being aggressive, jumping up, snapping at faces and running away can involve a three-week programme or boot camp to modify their behaviour.

Mark has been sourcing and training animals for film and television work for more than 27 years and is a television commentator on current animal subjects.

He welcomes nor-west residents to send in a photo of their pet who could be auditioned as potential screen stars.

Call 027 PET HELP, 411 9099 or email


Watch out next year for the global television series which stars Mark Vette and his team.

Called Purina's Pound Pups to Dog Stars, it will air on TV1 and is expected to be a high rating programme.

Norwest News