Man's best friend is beloved around the world, but nowhere more so than in Switzerland. On a recent visit here for the Canine Alpine Challenge in Gstaad, organised by Tierhilfe Marokko, British dog whisperer Bruce Clanford took time out to tell us about his calling and what drives the special relationship people have with their furry friends.
You describe yourself as "the world's first dog Whisperer". What exactly is a dog whisperer?
A dog whisperer is someone who can communicate with dogs in a very quiet and humane way. I am also qualified in animal behaviour.
How did you become a dog whisperer? Are qualifications important or is it an innate ability, a connection you have with animals?
I have always loved animals. They have a certain innocence about them, which made me realise how important it is to educate, protect and care for them. But it was in 2000, when I trained my first dog, that I saw just how deep my connection was with animals. Anyone who shares a similar bond can "whisper to dogs" but if you want to turn this passion into a career, qualifications are essential. It is about more than having an affinity with dogs; you must also have an understanding of the science behind animal behaviour.
You're here in Switzerland for the opening of an animal charity, which will include a charity dog run. Can you tell us a bit about this?
The charity dog run is called the Canine Alpine Challenge. Human and four-legged participants race against the clock to reach the top of the Wasserngrat, where there is also a timed agility course as well as a tombola, auction and barbecue. It is the second such event held in aid of Tierhilfe Marokko, a charity which rescues abused or abandoned animals. More than 50 dogs and their owners took part, raising thousands of francs for the fund. In fact, 19 of the dogs who took part in this year's hike were former rescuees. The next walk will be in March 2014, with other events planned including the Gstaad Canine Fashion Show.
Animal charities sometimes get a bit of bad press, with people wondering whether there are more worthy causes. What do you say to that?
We need to recognise that we have a sense of responsibility towards those that are more vulnerable than ourselves, and this extends to animals, especially as their suffering is often down to neglect on our part. Most animal charities do a fantastic job and operate with very limited resources. If you are thinking of donating to an animal charity but are still...