Google Nando Brown and you can forget about doing anything else for the rest of the day.
There are dog training videos, interviews, articles, photos, podcasts of his ITalkRadio Sunday pet show and three young naked men running into the sea (I won’t ruin the ending)…but no matter how well you think you know Nando, it isn’t until you are face to face with the dog trainer extraordinaire that you really understand him. A contagious energy radiates from him, and it is that which over the last ten years has driven him to the international phenomenon he is.
Nando is the perfect combination of chatty cheeky Cockney chappy (from his English father’s side), and passionate, olive skinned all-hombre (from his Spanish mother’s side). Having left the marines at 22, Nando’s shaven head, strong tattooed arms and no nonsense stance had me ready to ‘sit!’ at his first command, but I had nothing to worry about. Nando’s approach in everything he does is simple…be kind and make it fun.
So how did this diamond in the rough become one of the most respected dog trainers in the industry?
‘I was 22 when I left the marines,’ he says. ‘I went through a bit of a grey patch and I made the mistake of buying a dog. I chose a Cane Corso Italian Mastiff because it looked the part, but being a dog owner was not as easy as I thought, and that breed is not for the novice owner. I didn’t know what would make the dog happy, I didn’t understand him.’ Mastiffs are big dogs, and if you don’t know what you are doing it can go very wrong. As Nando found out the hard way.
‘He bit the vet on the neck and that was the turning point, even other dog trainers were scared of him. It was my wake up call to becoming a responsible owner, and that’s how I got into dog training. Since then dogs have been my life.’
And that is no exaggeration. ‘In The Dog House’ is his training centre in La Cala, near Marbella, and it offers everything you need for a happy mutt – puppy parties, dog sports, behavioural consultancy, a pet lodge and a training workshops for dog trainers. He has even developed his own premium dog food.
‘Dog food is full of shit,’ he exclaims. ‘Animals are no different to humans in as much as what they eat affects them. I wanted to offer something that was nutritious without costing the earth. I‘ve had cases of clients bringing me their dogs with behaviour problems that were simply caused by their diet.’
To say Nando is mad about all things dogs is an understatement, in the last ten years he has not been anywhere or done anything that has not revolved around his passion. He even met his partner Donna through the training centre and together they are committed to educating the world on the importance of not only training your dog, but choosing the right trainer.
‘Anyone can wake up one morning and call themselves a dog trainer,’ he explains. ‘It’s an unregulated industry and there are a lot of cowboys out there. We’re members of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers which makes us recognised in the field, but so much harm is still being done out there by people using the wrong techniques to train their dogs.’
So what’s the best method?
‘Well for a start, being around dogs all your life doesn’t make you an expert. I’ve used a bathroom all my life but that don’t make me a plumber!’ he laughs. ‘It’s all about teaching with respect instead of fear. Dogs need a job or they go self-employed and create their own entertainment. It’s like having someone work for you – you can train them, reward them and give them a sense of accomplishment to get what you need out of them, or you can point a gun at their head. You get the same result, but a dog trained through fear is more likely to be an unhappy one and turn on you. They are animals after all.’
So what’s the big secret?
‘I use clicker training in correlation with treats and rewards for discipline, always reinforcing the good behaviour. Eventually the dog relates the sound of the clicker with a reward and will do as they are told without the treat. It is very affective, I have even seen vets use it in zoos where a lion will come and push its bum up against the bars of the enclosure every day for its injection!’
So does Nando recommend that every new dog owner should find a dog trainer for their pooch?
‘Not at all, get it right before you get your dog! I prefer to speak to someone at the thinking stage of getting a pet, it’s easier to discuss what type of dog is right for them than to teach them how to undo their mistakes and learn to live with a dog that doesn’t fit their lifestyle.’ This leads us on to the subject closest to his heart, the biggest mistakes people make when choosing a puppy.
‘Firstly stay away from pet shops. Buying a puppy from a shop window means that in most cases you are condemning the mother to a lifetime of hell, trapped in a dark shed giving birth her whole life. Thousands of dogs die every year because of irresponsible breeders and puppy farms. The first 16 weeks of a puppy’s life shapes them, so what do you think you will get when for the first 12 weeks that dog has been in a glass cage?’ I’m feeling guilty now, thinking of all the times I have let my kids play with the animals in a pet shop. ‘Oh no, that’s a good thing!’ he exclaims. ‘Those dogs need interaction; touch, smell, affection, things to look at. But it’s always best to get your dog from a shelter or a certified breeder.’
Everyone falls for the smallest, quietest and cutest puppies in the pound, but apparently that’s not the best thing either.
‘Always go for the happy pup,’ Nando explains. ‘One who is enthusiastic to see you, has a wiggly bum and helicopter tail, bright eyes and lots of energy. They will be the easiest to get on with, eager to learn and lots of fun to have around. The quiet nervous ones will find it much harder to settle in.’
Nando tells me all this while jumping around with his Staffy and Doberman. It’s fascinating to watch two dogs, which get such a bad rap, run around happily with (albeit controlled) abandonment. He’s getting in as much playtime as possible as he is going to be very busy over the next 12 months. Seminars and training workshops are already lined up for Australia, Holland, America and New Zealand, but his latest project is his biggest yet, the cleverly named Incredimal.
Seven videos in already, you can follow Nando’s YouTube journey as he receives his Malinois puppy in August (it hasn’t been born yet but already has nearly 2,000 Facebook fans) and see every single step he takes in raising and training the pup to become the dog of dogs. It may even become the next star of Britain’s Got Talent!
I ask Nando if he could be any dog, which one would he be?
‘Definitely a pit bull,’ he replies. ‘Loveable, cheeky and a little rough around the edges.’ His on-line doggy disciples would certainly agree, having referred to him as everything from ‘charismatic’ and ‘incomparable’, to ‘well-respected’ and ‘inspirational’. But you don’t need complicated words to describe this man and his vocation, simply put Nando is the mutt’s nuts!
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