Stephen Tindall’s mum and dad laughed when he told them he was off to join the circus.
He was 20 at the time, so it wasn’t quite the childhood drama it might have been.
But telling your parents you‘re leaving home to work with tigers is always going to get a reaction.
Stephen, 48, of Raymoth Lane, Worksop, decided it was the life for him after seeing the tigers at Austin Brothers Circus when it visited the town in 1985.
He said: “I asked how you got to work with them and they asked me to join them.”
“I went home and started packing and told my mum and dad what I was doing and they thought it was a joke.”
Stephen had no fear of wild animals and went on to work at Blackpool Tower Circus with leopards, wolves, hyenas and black bears.
His natural affinity with animals means he has no fear of them.
He is now using that skill to run his own dog training classes.
And he says that it’s not that much different to training big cats.
“I’ve always used reward-based training, I’ve never hit an animal.”
“We used to have animal rights protestors at the circus but I used to say anyone could have come and watched me working with the animals and seen that it wasn’t cruel.”
“We would try to train them to do something they would do in the wild.”
“You would see the faces of the children on the front row light up with excitement.”
After animals stopped being used at the circus, Stephen spent time at a wildlife park in Essex where he worked with silver-backed gorillas being bred to go back into the wild.
His dog training classes are held at Shireoaks village hall on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings.
He said it’s as much about teaching the owners as the pets.
“It’s 75 per cent owner and 25 per cent dog.”
“Its just about making them aware of things like how to use a lead so that the dog doesn’t pull on it, and about being calm.”
“If you are calm then your dog will be calm.”
Stephen said the mistake most dog owners made was to treat their dogs like humans.
“It might seem allright to let a cute little puppy jump up on the sofa to sit with you, but when it’s a fully grown dog it’s a different matter.”
He said socialisation, getting dogs used to other dogs and people, was very important.
“Anyone can get a dog to sit but you need to be able to get a dog to walk calmly past other dogs.”
As well as doing his classes, Stephen also does house visits for people having a problem with their pet.
“I can usally work out what’s wrong within five minutes of being in the room with them,” he said.
“Every dog is different and I never get bored of it. It’s rewarding to know I’ve made a difference.”
For more information go to www.stevesdogtraining.co.uk.