Sam and his pack

Top Dog – The Pack Life

He’s 22 years old with a 100% success rate. While some may call him the ‘dog whisperer’ he sees it rather as maintaining a balanced state of mind between you and man’s best friend.

“I don’t consider what I do as having a gift for dogs, I consider it as being gifted at being calm. Dogs like calm energy, so they naturally gravitate towards following a leadership structure,” Sam Alderdice says.

Happy dogHaving grown up with dogs, Sam decided he didn’t like the idea of a traditional nine to five workday. Combining his love for the loyal canine and the knowledge he had gained from his overseas travels, he created his dream job.

“I started walking dogs in packs when I was younger, which led to people asking me for help, so I contacted a few people to get more skills, and more pack experience, but no one in New Zealand does what I do.”

Having travelled to third-world countries at a young age, Sam developed a strong understanding of the natural dog pack structure. By watching and studying natural pack dominance with off-leash canines, and through energy and body language, he found he was able to communicate with them.

Dogs think in the present. That is what I learn from them, to focus on the now and live in the now, not the future or the past

“There are trainers but I don’t train dogs, I teach their owners to understand them rather than making the dogs listen to them. I don’t have to say ‘come here’ to my dogs because they follow me naturally. Anyone can have that. I just have to teach them it.”

There is no paperwork or degree in what Sam does, rather knowledge and understanding have got him to where he is today and a belief that what he is doing is effective. “My way is a way and is what I consider the most natural way.”

Cesar Millan, a Mexican-American self-taught dog trainer and expert, has given Sam faith in his method of dog psychology. “I have never had any reassurance that I’m doing something right, but then I see him and he’s the best in the world.”

Sam and the pack

“I’m considered old school but dogs haven’t changed, we have evolved but dogs stay the same. They are still 99% wolf; a chihuahua can breed with a wolf and they are still genetically pack animals. If all humans were to disappear right now, dogs would go back to being pack animals.”

‘Every dog can be helped’ is a philosophy that Sam holds true. His daily routine is based around holding sessions to help his pack of six to 12 dogs, including his own Jet and Nashi, achieve a calm state of mind. “We go for a pack walk or a structured walk, which means that the dogs are physically beside or behind me because I’m their leader. I also push my dogs to do really obscure things in order to get them more relaxed and desensitised in every situation.”

Last year Sam voluntarily worked at Rangipo Prison with the inmates to rehabilitate and rehome retired greyhounds. “That was a big confidence booster. I just haven’t had that respect from people because they think, ‘Oh you’re just a kid, I’m not going to listen to you’. But every guy at that prison respected me because they said that the proof was in the pudding.”

I don’t consider what I do as having a gift for dogs, I consider it as being gifted at being calm

Sam also fosters, rehabilitates and rehomes dogs in his personal time. “If a dog has a bad history or has been abused I give them a new name because it gives them a fresh start and a whole new life. When a dog is born it is balanced; a human’s job is to keep it balanced. If you give trust and respect to a dog they will give you loyalty and will protect you with their life.”

The future is looking very optimistic for Sam. “My biggest goal is just to help dogs. Eventually I want to set up my own proper dog psychology centre with my pack of dogs, where people can bring their dogs and where I run classes and seminars.”

“Dogs think in the present. That is what I learn from them, to focus on the now and live in the now, not the future or the past.”

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