They call him the Prince of Paws, Master of the Canine Mind, Dog Whisperer or the Dogfather. Now Martin Rütter is back on stage with his new live show, where he gives guidance of how to achieve the perfect dog-human relationship.
Most of us know the scenario. While taking a walk in nature or jogging along, all of a sudden a barking dog approaches, prepared to jump at our throat. While we switch into panic mode, the owner is either out of sight or conciliatorily hollers: “No worries, he just wants to play.” Or we visit some friends and their furry pet greets us at the front door with a growl, before joining us on the family sofa without invitation. Dog owners tend to feel unconditional love for their four legged friends and they are prepared to sacrifice relationships with other humans, who do not share their feelings, without batting an eye.
“Dogs are very loyal and reliable partners”
To the rescue comes Martin Rütter, the dog expert hero who has devoted his entire life to researching and scrutinising canine behaviour. He even lived with a wolf pack at one point to drill down on the issue. The animal psychologist developed D.O.G.S. (Dog Orientated Guiding System), a non-violent coaching method for dogs and their owners. Today over 150 trained D.O.G.S. coaches work at more than 80 Centres for Humans with Dogs in the German speaking region.
Rütter’s books and dvds are literally flying off the shelves as soon as they are released. People know him from his VOX TV series Der Hundeprofi, which also aired in a highly entertaining VIP version, where Rütter tries his best to get celebrities and their dogs back on track. It never takes long to discover that the dog is not the problem.
The icing on the cake is Rütter live on stage. In his shows he explains things like the phenomenon of anthropomorphisation in a most hilarious way. He clarifies why treating a dog like a human being usually does not go down too well and why such behaviour invokes canine confusion.
But why do people develop such a strong bond with their dogs? I ask the pro. “Dogs are very loyal and reliable partners. No other animal bonds with a human like a dog. The dog accepts a person as a full-value congener and sometimes even prefers him to members of his own species. The dog actively searches the emotional vicinity of the human being, “Rütter says.
That may explain the common saying ‘if you need a friend, get a dog’, I think. Surprisingly Rütter himself does not come from a dog-loving home. “I never was allowed to have a dog as a child, because my parents still think of an animal as obsolete, when it can’t be put on the BBQ as food,” he laughs. “But I always walked the neighbour’s dogs and I used to stroke my auntie Thea’s dogs ad nauseam. Back in the 80s she was running a kind of dog shelter and she had the extraordinary talent to drive even the kindest dogs crazy within weeks, so no one could enter her house any more. That really sparked my interest and I wanted to figure out why so many people around me experience problems with their dogs,” Rütter remembers.
Back to school
Watching him educating the owners of a ruthless Rottweiler, a daunting Doberman or a schizophrenic Schnauzer is highly entertaining and surprisingly ‒ given the full cooperation of the owners ‒ all dogs turn as cool as a cucumber in no time. One of his favourites is the dachshund. The Wiener on short legs is a German pet icon and prime example for mismanaged expectations.
“Due to his appearance the dachshund is often underestimated. People think he is cute and small and perfectly suitable as an accessory. That is complete nonsense. The dachshund is a robust and very independent dog. If you order him to sit on a Monday morning, he looks at you and thinks: ‘yeah, ask me nicely again on Wednesday and I may consider.’ My point is that it is quite a challenge to train a dachshund.”
How to master such a challenge is part of his new (and third) show nachSITZen [detention], where it is “all about keeping the ball rolling when it comes to dog training. A little refresher course does no harm, that is why we called it detention,” he smiles. “But of course I will present completely new content. On stage we will find ourselves in a school scenario. The alleged highly able will also get their fair share; if a dog pees against a tree three times in a row without accident, the owner already thinks he has Einstein on paws on his lead. We will further dive into the world of pedigree dogs; tackle the topic of nutrition and much more.”
Until December 2015 the dogfather will be touring the nation to explore what really happens in Germany’s living rooms and who is the boss of the house. Rütter often refers to cultural differences to clarify a point, so a Spaniard for instance would walk his dog proudly with a straight back and his head up, making him a prime example of how to gain a dog’s respect.
I asked Rütter, how he would picture a British dog owner. He laughs and says: “I don’t know why but the first thing that springs to mind is Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean and how he tries to get a dog on course by using only his countenance and gestures, a beautiful image.” And as our interview draws to an end he drops a handy hint: “By the way, this would be the right approach, because dogs mainly communicate on a non-verbal level.”