I meet many interesting and inspired people both inside and outside of work and this article is about a man that has become a dear friend. I was introduced to him through my German Shepherd Dog (GSD), Angel. Angel is two and a half years old (teenage years in dog language) and like any teenager, she was pushing the boundaries! Having undergone a variety of different dog training and behaviourists (including ex-police dog handlers), all with varying levels of success, I was told Ken Robson was the man for the job and so I set off with ‘teenage’ Angel to meet Ken, his wife Jo and their pack which currently consists of 4 GSDs.
All I knew about Ken was that he rescued and adopted GSDs (he failed at fostering as he couldn’t let them go) and had great results especially with those that had ‘fear aggression’. ‘Fear aggressive’ behaviour in dogs occurs when a dog has not been raised and trained humanely and the result is often this disastrous behaviour. It is often made even worse by owners and trainers who employ punishment-based techniques on the fear aggressive dog.
Another common root cause of fear aggression is a lack of appropriate socialisation during the dog’s development. If a dog has not received adequate socialisation, they will find it hard to cope with new things that they encounter in their environments such as other dogs, animals or people.
Typically when a dog feels threatened by something, they have a ‘fight or flight’ response: The first and safest option for the dog is to run away from the threat – the flight response! If the dog is unable to put sufficient distance between himself and the threat, the only other options left are to either submit in the hope the threat goes away or fight – the ‘fight response!’. And it was the latter option where Ken was renowned for his results.
Since Angel and I first met Ken, we have not looked back and, as I said earlier, we are now good friends but how did he come to be this caring and patient individual who appeared to dedicate so much of his time to saving GSDs with traumatised histories and on the verge of being destroyed? And it’s what I have learnt about Ken’s journey through life that has inspired this article.
Ken spent 22 years in the Royal Air force and was a Tornado F3 Fighter Pilot. He flew 22 combat missions in the Gulf, 17 in Bosnia and 13 in the Falklands. During his 22 years, he spent 2 years as an instructor at the RAF Tactical Weapons Unit and if that’s not enough he worked with US Special Forces in Saudi Arabia co-ordinating survival training, in relation to the recovery of downed aircrew.
I guess some of the qualities and skills required to fulfil this type of career are precision, determination, positive mindset, self-belief ‘in that you’re going to survive this’ and inner calm – basically being above the line: Ownership, Accountability and Responsibility.
So how does a man of this ilk use his time on leaving the RAF? Well, he became a much sought after motivational speaker to both adults and children and in July 2000 he also opened his own full-time Aikido martial arts school in Nottingham – the Shudokan Black Belt Academy which has since grown to be one of the largest, most successful pure Aikido schools in the world. He and his wife, Jo, still run it today (although they have reduced their hours so they can dedicate more time to GSD rescue). The Academy teaches both children and adults from all backgrounds, not only in life-saving techniques but the essential importance of the mind body connection, utilising the qualities and skills of a fighter pilot: Precision; Determination; Positive Mind-Set; Self-Belief in that ‘you’re going to survive this’; and Inner Calm – all being ‘above the line’ and all skills and qualities that also apply to his role in GSD rescue (and which we can apply on our careers and personal lives.
From War to Peace.