DOGS live in a very different world to humans, explains self-styled Zen dog whisperer Ken Stronach – they live in the moment.
Their sense of smell is acute beyond our understanding, and they are always picking up on information and energies we are oblivious to.
âAnimals connect through energy and communicate through energy,â Ken says. âMy work is about helping people understand how amazing their dogs are.â
If this all sounds a little woo, Ken, 48, who runs G5 Evolution Martial Arts in Gipsy Lane, Swindon, is about as far from woo as you can imagine. He is an imposing man with a family background in the military and a down-to-earth, no-nonsense manner. He offers help to people struggling to manage their dogs, and his website and indeed two before-and-after videos on Youtube offer rapturous enthusiasm for his skills when it comes to bringing calm to households riven by dogs that bark or pull or otherwise cause problems for their owners. Ken says he can relax, calm and refocus dogs â so both owners and animals can enjoy happier lives. He guarantees he can help.
âI had my first dog at six,â he says. âA Labrador called Sergeant. My father was in the military and he trained and worked with dogs. The house was always full of police dog handlers, and army dogs doing agility in the garden. I was taught how to train him by my father.â
Ken has also been a martial arts practitioner for more than 40 years, skilled at Karate, Aikido and using the Japanese sword. He has travelled widely to train, and says that through martial arts and Zen studies, discovered how energy communication could be used in his work with dogs.
âA lot of my customers are really nice people, but are a bit misguided when it comes to getting a dog and not knowing how to treat it,â he says. âBecause of my martial arts training I understand the concept of aura and energy â and with your dog you must connect through energy and communicate through energy.â
Ken says many dogs are overloaded with sensory stimulation and react with anxious or aggressive behaviour and believes they need to be able to trust their owners to be in control. He does not describe himself as a dog trainer, but instead, seeks to ârebalanceâ the dog and to help owners how to keep them in a happy frame of mind. This also includes helping people take on an appropriate type of dog for their lifestyle, and ensuring owners give their dog lots of play and stimulation, so they are happy. He does not advocate training with edible treats.
âYou have to understand the way dogs think. The flaw in so much dog training is the way we expect the dog to understand us, and we treat it with biscuits and pats on the head. Dogs deserve better than that.â
He said he wanted a dog to feel pride in its owner: âDog ownership is about trust and respect, never violence or aggression or frustration. Generally speaking, I will help you change your dog in a day. The wonderful thing about dogs is that they live in the now, in the moment. What keeps that consistency is that the owner has to be consistent.â
He said that being the dogâs pack leader included giving the dog lots of jobs to do, being interactive with them and giving them opportunities to please you.
âMy dogs want to please me. I am a good leader and never let them down, and I give them a very fulfilling life.â
Ken has a bull mastiff called Big Mervyn, who was bred to be a fighting dog. Ken rescued Mervyn when the dog was a year old. Ken also has a Newfoundland called Mr Bear, who is training to be a search and rescue dog. Ken takes him swimming every week and ensures both dogs have plenty of exercise.
Ken travels all over the country to visit dog owners in their home and says he gets messages and cards from owners whose lives with their dogs have been changed by his intervention. As well as running the martial arts studio and working with dogs, Ken is also involved with charity and community work and was awarded a Pride of Swindon Award in 2016. You can find out more about his work at zendogwhispering.co.uk.