Above - Robert Duddy and his dog training business have been shortlisted for the top award.
A County Derry dog training business, which prides itself on its ethical training methods, has been nominated for a nationwide award.
Established in 2014 by Robert Duddy, Drumagore Dog Training and Behaviour, has continued to go from strength-to-strength over the last eight years.
The business, located between Ballykelly and Greysteel, has now been shortlisted in the Dog Trainer/ Obedience Class of the Year category of the NI Pet Awards.
Robert, who has more than 30 years of experience in the industry, will go head-to-head with six other trainers from Antrim, Derry and Tyrone, all vying for the prestigous title on June 4.
Robert, who spent 20 years at a local club before going on to train assistance dogs, said he is 'delighted' that his business has been nominated for the top award.
Explaining that he has been 'training for a lifetime', Robert said: “I always had an interest in dogs and training dogs. Many, many years ago I bought myself a dog and then I joined a club and I took a massive interest in it from there and I think the bug really hit me and I haven't left it since.”
Drumagore prides itself on their high standards and the safe, ethical training of its customers' beloved pets, as the Waterside man explains.
“I use ethical standards to train dogs,” said Robert.
“In this part of the world there is a rise in the number of aversive trainers, some using prong collars, which are as horrible as they sound. In all my years I had never seen a prong collar until about three years ago and I was shocked by it.
“We use ethical, science based methods to train a dog such as treat training, it's all about the dog and establishing a nice relationship with the dog. Dog training has come such a long way in the last 20 years.”
Offering group classes and one-to-ones, as well as addressing behavioural issues, Robert says he has been 'very busy' since opening.
“I still get a buzz when people say 'you were recommended to me',” he continued.
“A lot of vets will recommend dogs to come here for behavioural work. Some other dog trainers will send dogs here as well so we've gone from strength to strength, so much so that we are taking on another couple of new trainers.
“It's lovely to have so much local support. I'm buzzing with the local support, I really am. I always say to my wife, 'you know you're doing something right when the locals start coming to you'.”
Looking ahead to next month's awards ceremony, which takes place in Belfast, Robert is now hoping
locals will support him by voting for him.
“It would be great to win. Dog Trainers are very competitive, we always compete to win,” he said.
“I really would be buzzing to win the award and I would be asking people to vote for us. If we won it, I'd be over the moon as it would be such a big boost for ethical, science based training.
“Dog training in general is an unregulated business. Anyone can pop up and become a dog trainer after doing a six week course," he added.
"I have been doing it for a lifetime and I'm a member of the Pet Professional Guild, I'm a Master Dog Trainer and I can't, or don't want to, step outside the Code of Conduct.
"It would mean a great deal to Drumagore Dog Training, but it would also be great to showcase what the North West can offer."
To vote for Robert, visit https://www.northernirelandpetawards.com/vote and vote for Drumagore under the Dog Trainer / Obedience Class of the Year (Antrim/L'Derry/Tyrone) category.
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