Dog Whisperer: Bruce McNabb trains dogs, and their owners

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Drill sergeant dog whisperer and Fishers’ business owner Bruce McNabb, with dog Spartacus and Savannah Neary, of Carmel, with some puppy class members. (Submitted photo)

Drill sergeant dog whisperer and Fishers’ business owner Bruce McNabb, with dog Spartacus and Savannah Neary, of Carmel, with some puppy class members. (Submitted photo)

By Suzan Davis

 

“He’s so cute; can I pet him?” A fellow dog walker beckons to Spartacus, who sees this as an invitation to launch eight feet forward, pulling his owner, Savannah Neary, of Carmel, off her feet. Once again, she returns home with grass-stained elbows.

Neary’s dad, Dennis, is knocked off balance when Spartacus bolts down a flight of stairs off the patio.

Neary’s mother tries another technique; when walking Spartacus, she crosses the street to avoid on-coming canines. Result: road rash.

The family concludes that more public practice is needed. As the six-month old, 70-pound German shepherd pounces on a Pomeranian in Petco, a customer urges the family, “First Friend – Google it. Call today. Ask for Bruce.”

Bruce McNabb, of Noblesville, is patriarch of his family-owned training, boarding, and breeding facility, First Friend K9, in Fishers. McNabb is one of those people Reader’s Digest might feature in their “Most Unforgettable Person I’ve Ever Met” column.

His demeanor is a mixture of disciplinarian, educator, drill-sergeant and dog whisperer. Like a tireless triathlete, he marches around for an hour, drenched in sweat, in a room loaded with 25 breeds of dogs and 25 breeds of owners.

McNabb’s motto is, “avoid avoidance.” Good advice.

For Spartacus, there is no avoiding other dogs. The current trend of apartments and condos allowing residents to own canines combined with the housing increase in Hamilton Co., has resulted in a denser pet-to-people population.

According to U.S. Census, State and County Quick Facts, between Westfield, Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville, 41-44 percent of the population has a dog.

Orientation, the first of the eight-week class schedule, lasts three hours without the dog. Owners realize the pet is not the only one under new management – it’s the entire family. Handlers exit with clear expectations and abundant information – like 25 toxic people foods, potentially lethal pet toys and chews, and a manual of the skills plus advice like never lose your temper and never give up.

“Watching the growth and transformation from the first night to graduation, and seeing the confidence in the owners as their dogs respond to them is very rewarding,” McNabb said. “I realize my regimented training style is not for everyone at first, but in order to train 25 people and 25 dogs, I must be focused, consistent and detail-oriented.”

Classmate mini-golden doodle, Penny, owned by Westfield’s Chuck and Nikki Pulfer, is among the 25 new students. McNabb trained Pulfer’s boyhood dog 15 years ago.

“I appreciate his straight-forward style,” said Nikki. “25 dogs obey with lots of distractions. Bruce’s knowledge is incredible. I love that he demonstrates new techniques with different dogs from the class.”

Classes have assistant trainers, closely monitoring the group. The transformation from chaos to calm happens quickly.

“I was intimidated at first with so many dogs, the responsibility and the work. After the first four weeks, that turned into self-confidence,” Neary said. “Without Bruce, I would continue to live in fear of walking my dog and having my parents’ house torn apart. Like the treat bag we wear in class says, “You’ll love a trained dog!” I can truly say, ‘I love my trained dog.’”

First Friend K9

12401 Reynolds Dr., Fishers.

Phone: 842-4199

Training: 12 classes offered per week, year round: puppy, novice, advanced, agility

Boarding, breeding and numerous pet services

Staff: 22

Owners: Bruce, wife Debbie, four sons

Puppy class fees: $125, Novice $150

Website: http://firstfriendk9.com/index.html

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