Growing up in Larne, Robbie Clarke always had an affinity for all breeds of dogs and an uncanny ability to communicate with them.
He was also fascinated by canine behaviour and this curiosity followed Robbie throughout his life. Over the years he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge on the subject of from some of the world’s leading experts in the field, including renowned animal researcher Shaun Ellis x- more widely known as the Wolfman.
Mr Ellis has devoted years to the study of wolf behaviour, and even lived among a pack of the animals as part of a televised documentary series. Robbie spent some time with Mr Ellis at his home in England and learning a great deal about the pack structure of wolves – knowledge which he now applies to his dog behavioural training business, DogSense.
“Research has found that there is a 99 per cent similarity between the DNA of dogs and wolves, so many of the same behavioural rules apply to both species,” Robbie said.
“Domestic dogs look at the family they live with as their family pack. If the humans do not become pack leaders, then the dog will step up and assume the role, and with it the stress of having to provide safety and security to you and your family.
“This can lead to behaviour that humans find unacceptable, such as aggressiveness, running to the door when someone approaches, or excessive barking.”
This is where DogSense comes in. Robbie, a qualified dog trainer and behaviourist, strives to develop a training program that is specifically designed to benefit both dog and owner.
Having set up the business about three years ago when he lived in England, Robbie decided to move back to Larne in 2011 to be closer to family. It was then that he took part in LEDCOM’s Go For It programme, a decision which he feels has improved his fledgling business no end.
“The business was a modest success when I lived in England, but in truth I was just winging it without really knowing what I was doing,” he sad. “The Go For It Programme has really helped me get a handle on parts of the business that I had didn’t know much about, such as the PR and marketing side. The business plan I developed as part of the programme has been a tremendous help and I now have a much more rounded idea of where I want to take the business from here.”
With his knack for getting inside the head of man’s best friend, Robbie knows that every dog is different and requires a different training method. He specialises in training dogs who display aggressive behaviour and utilises the lessons he learned during his time spent with the Wolfman.
Robbie said: “Aggression is a natural reaction of all dogs as part of their pack mentality. When living in a pack, it is necessary for a dog to display aggression to maintain its position in the pack hierarchy, or to protect its food, its pups or itself.
“It is therefore necessary that you position yourself as the alpha and project the leadership that is sought from your pet. Aggressive behaviour in dogs must not be tolerated or allowed to escalate.”
Robbie does not condone or use methods that involve shouting, or punishment or any kind, and instead uses positive reinforcement and gentle correction.
But he emphasised that training the owners is just as important as training the dogs, and feels his business can offer a unique service to dog owners in Larne.
Robbie aims to help dog owners communicate with their pets by showing them how to spot the signals the animals are sending out and understand what they mean.
“Dogs don’t speak or understand English or any other language, so I teach people to communicate effectively with their dogs. I offer a consultation process that involves me visiting a client’s home, where I can observe the interaction between dog and owner and get a more complete picture. I will address any issues and advise you on how to make your dog look to you for leadership.
“A follow-up visit will be arranged where I will work with you and your dog on any further issues. For dogs that require a bit of extra attention, I am currently in the process of setting up kennels at the rear of my house, which I hope to have up and running soon,” Robbie concluded.
To contact Robbie, visit his website at www.dogsense.uk.com or call him on 07828 220547.