We’ve been hooked watching Purina Pound Pups to Dog Stars on TV ONE, and wanted to find out more about Mark Vette in our Fascinating Jobs series.
Mark Vette has worked with animals for more than 30 years, runs an animal behavioural clinic that has helped modify the behaviour of thousands of dogs, and is regularly called on by the media to provide expert insight into animal behaviour. He is an animal psychologist, has a Masters degree in animal behaviour, and is one of the only professionally qualified Animal Behavioural Consultants in New Zealand.
A moving new TV series, ‘‘Purina Pound Pups to Dog Stars’, airs on TV ONE, Mondays at 7.30pm. The show follows Mark as he turns abandoned rescue dogs into loving pets. If you’re having trouble with a pet, Mark’s answering your questions so you can give your pet another chance.
1. When you were a kid, what was going to be your ultimate job?
A Vet or Zoologist. Pilot crossed my mind too. I would love to be the next David Attenbourough!
2. What was one of the very first jobs you had when you left school?
I went to university straight after school, but before that worked on farms as a kid. After I finished university and completed further training by living with and studying wolves in the United States, I taught at Uni. I started my animal behavioural consultancy treating behaviour problems after that and have done ever since! So I’ve been a very long time in the industry, in other words!
3. What made you decide to study Animal Psychology? And where did you study?
I loved animal training and behaviour doco’s and I love to understand nature and biology.
Later I studied and worked with wolves, and that clinched the deal – they are fascinating creatures, and I learnt an enormous amount by working with them so intensively. Real life experience is much different to what you learn in a classroom!
4. When did you first start working with animals? What made you decide on specialising in this area?
I trained my first dog Scott when I was 6 yrs old and my grandfather taught me how to do it. He was a war dog trainer.
5. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Saving dogs lives. Making people happy and teaching people how animals communicate and how best to love them. Animals want to do the right thing, most of the time they just don’t understand what it is you want them to do! I like being able to be the connection between people and animals.
6. What is a typical day “in the office” for you?
Just about every day, I do some combination of the following: writing books on animal training, making videos, doing consultations with people who have a dog with a problem behaviour, working alongside my son Koan to treat problem dogs, team training the dogs, and taking a walk in forest with my dogs. I also spend a lot of time talking to rescue organisations, writing articles, doing radio and TV interviews, or I might be on film set with any creature imaginable helping to create a movie or advertisement!=
7. What is the hardest part of your job?
When a dog is too aggressive and I have to recommend they put it down. Luckily this doesn’t happen very often as normally we can treat them, but occasionally we need to assess the risk to public and it’s always a tough call.
8. If someone was interested in working with animals, where would be a good starting point for them to look into it?
Start with Biology and Zoology at school. Work part time on a farm, at kennels, at a vet clinic or go to a training club nearby. Then, if you’re still keen on it, check out Unitec or university courses. There are some internet based courses, too, but the main thing is to get experience with animals! Start to understand how they work, get a pet of your own if you don’t already have one, or volunteer at an animal rescue organisation.
9. Name some of your most proud moments in your job or biggest highlight so far?
I’ve had a lot of proud moments in the last couple of years – one of the best was when our TV show Purina Pound Pups to Dog Stars screened for the very first time. It’s a real passion project, and through it we turned many dogs’ lives around! I’m really grateful we were able to make that show, and was stoked we had the support of New Zealand’s biggest pet care and nutrition company (Purina).
Some other highlights were training SPCA rescues to drive a car – the video went Viral with nearly 100 million tweets and tens of millions of views on YouTube. The “Bugger” dog Hercules was my most famous dog – he did 150 commercials and 40 movies. I’ve also worked on the sets of Narnia, The Last Samurai, Lord of the Rings, The Piano, Once Were Warriors, Hercules and Xena.
10. If someone is deciding on getting a new family member (pet), what are some good things they should know about before committing to a pet?
All pets take commitment and time, as well as lots of love, attention and exercise. If you get a puppy, the 2 to 4 month period is the formative, most important period. Check out our website for advice on how to make sure you make the most of that formative period – www.markvette.com
If you’re thinking about getting a pet and you haven’t had one before, perhaps offer to pet sit for a few people so you get a feel for what it’s like to have a pet, do research on different breeds so you can work out what will suit your household, and make sure you can afford all the neutering, vaccinations and pet food you need.
Also, I recommend people consider adopting a rescue animal – they can make beautiful pets and you’re saving a life. Purina has put out a new app called Pet Places that lists animal rescue organisations in your area.
11. Who is someone who inspires you? Someone who maybe helps you keep you doing what you do? Or they are just simply someone you think rocks at life!!!
I love David Attenborough’s work, also David Bellamy, Steve Irwin was great, Thich Nhat Hahn is my Zen teacher and I think he rocks too. Nelson Mandala, Dalai Llama and Mother Theresa because they care about people and animals and lead their lives by example!
12. What’s important to you and what do you like to do outside of animals?
I love Rock n Roll and the Guitar and I have a black belt in Kung Fu so I love the discipline of martial Arts. I love meditation and mindfulness. Most of all I love to learn and care for people, animals and nature as they are all connected. Look after this earth, it looks after us. 🙂
The most important thing in life is to be kind… to people, animals and nature, and that includes yourself. The principles I live by are called Morita principles of constructive living – know your purpose, accept you feelings, do what needs to be done and do it mindfully.
Naikan practice is to live in gratitude. Ok, I’ve rambled enough…oh yeah and enjoy life!!!