Celebrity dog whisperer Graeme Hall was once asked to train Denise Van Outen’s naughty canine, Tilly
Image: Channel 4)
Graeme Hall has trained more than 5,000 dogs (and one fox) of all breeds and sizes but he reveals celebrity pooches are often the trickiest to deal with.
The expert behaviourist tells how Denise Van Outen fed her badly behaved pooch with a silver teaspoon, Leigh-Anne Pinnock’s poor pet felt abandoned after she won The X Factor and Michael Owen gave his Staffordshire bull terrier anxiety.
And now, Graeme lifts the lid on some of the secrets to helping famous faces with their misbehaving mutts.
Gogglebox couple Denise, 47, and her ex Eddie Boxhall, 46, asked the 56-year-old for help with their runaway French bulldog Tilly.
Graeme, who stars in the new series of Channel 5’s Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly, says: “Denise was delightful, but her dog, which was 14 months old at the time, was super mischievous and was in real danger of escaping from her garden and ending up under some passing cars on a busy main road.
“Tilly was also the first dog I’ve ever seen fed with a silver spoon by her owners. She’d become like a spoiled child who always got what she wanted. Denise and Eddie were a bit clueless, but once they re-established who was in charge, things rapidly started to improve.”
Little Mix star Leigh-Anne, 30, contacted Graeme in 2015, when she found her hectic pop schedule was leaving her pug Harvey pining.
He adds: “Despite her best intentions, understandably puppy training took a hit. It was a unique set of circumstances of, ‘young girl gets puppy, wins X Factor and then goes to America and leaves the dog with her mum’, which doesn’t happen to most people.
“The little dog started barking at the window and making a nuisance of himself. I spent time showing her how to stop him using the window sill for his protests from her. The right tone of voice is important when communicating with dogs. Who’d have thought I’d ever be a voice coach to a pop star?”
Former Liverpool striker Michael, 42, got in touch with Graeme in 2019 after his five-year-old Staffie Ronnie attacked another dog so savagely it needed stitches in its neck.
The TV pundit feared his beloved pet would have to be put down. Graeme says: “Staffies have been bred for fighting in the past, so I was concerned the dog had an aggression problem but in fact it was Michael who was anxious and Ronnie had a socialization issue. He wasn’t used to mixing with other dogs and when he did he got territorial and saw them as threats.
“On the face of things, the attack was unprovoked. Michael was a very responsible owner who was clearly mortified by what had happened.
“I invited a few volunteers along with their well-behaved dogs and we soon discovered Ronnie was nervous around them because he didn’t really know how to socialize. Michael also looked nervous. It didn’t help. Dogs read our faces and body language. If we look anxious, it rubs off.
“Once we had Michael looking at the part and introducing his dog to others in a slow and careful way, they both looked more relaxed.
“Sadly, Ronnie passed away in October this year but I’m delighted Michael now has two new dogs, Kaiser, a Staffie, and Zola, an Italian greyhound. Lucky dogs, I say.”
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Graeme who lives in Rugby, Warks, has been married to accountant Elinor since 2017. They are proud parents to a black Labrador boxer cross called Lilydog.
The TV star spent 21 years working for Weetabix but after getting Rottweilers Axel and Gordon he decided to learn about dog training.
Graeme attended puppy instruction courses and was
head hunted by the head trainer who saw his natural ability.
Graeme adds: “Everything snowballed from there.” Graeme always sticks to the same training mantra… Any Dog, Any Age, Any Problem. But dogs do not always obey him. Graeme says: “One time this German shepherd without a muzzle was barking like crazy and he just went for my left hand and sank his teeth right through my palm.
“The owner pulled him off instinctively, which then ripped the flesh in my hand, and I ended up on the operating table.
“The bite missed the nerve that gives you feeling in your fingers by a millimetre, so I very nearly lost the movement in those fingers.”
- Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly is on Channel 5 on Tuesday at 8pm. A new series of the Talking Dogs with Graeme Hall podcast is out now.
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