'Dog whisperer' shows who's boss

'I'm the leader of the pack'

MAX TOWLE
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2013
Dog whisperer Nigel Clarke
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ

WHO'S THE BOSS? Timaru dog whisperer Nigel Clarke with Suzy the Jack Russell.

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Nigel Clarke did not like the term "the dog whisperer" at first, but he has come to embrace it.

Before setting up Nigel's Dog Whispering Services in Timaru eight years ago, his friends and workmates at the freezing works would often compare him to Cesar Millan, the US television personality known for his popular Dog Whisperer series.

"I had heard about the show and was like, 'Nah, nah, nah'. But then I watched it and realised, 'Yeah, that's me'."

As a child, Mr Clarke's parents did not allow him to own a dog. He now keeps 12 on his Timaru property.

Some are allowed to wander freely in his front paddock; others are kept on a tight leash.

He employs several methods with his dogs, including mimicking animals to influence their behaviour. If a dog growls, he growls back.

"It can be as simple as walking around with your chest puffed out, like you would at a pub if you got into an altercation. They've got to know that I'm the leader of the pack. In a way I'm challenging them for authority."

Mr Clarke has been bitten several times by particularly difficult dogs, but he does not blame the animals.

"It's not so much the dogs, it's the people handling them. I saw two kids walking with a fox terrier in town the other day and the dog stopped, and they fed it.

"That shocked me. If you're the dog, you're going to think, 'If I want a tidbit, I'm going to stop.' That's the wrong thing to do."

Mr Clarke focuses on training owners as much as the dogs themselves. More than anything, he stresses the importance of maintaining control over the animal.

"I've gone to places where the family dog was on a pedestal above the kids. Why would you put an animal above your own flesh and blood?"

He urges owners to be assertive with their dogs, but also to spend as much time as possible with them.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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