Melissa Bruce, Canine Behaviourist & Business Owner
“It would be easy to draw the conclusion I live in a world created by myself surrounded by what I find to be the most loving, logical, and consistent creatures alive. The Dog. The tough part of the job is understanding, untangling, and changing the behaviour of their often confusing, antagonistic, emotional, and unreliable counterparts. The Human.
My passion for dogs goes all the way back before my own first dog, a cheeky bouncy Border Collie stray that found me when I was 9. Throughout my life dogs have always had a defining influence. All the way through from the sad times to the fun, they’ve been there. For me, having evolved my passion early on into a full time career means their involvement in my life is as important as mine in theirs.
I successfully trialed first at the age of 13, competing in obedience, agility and sheepdog competitions throughout QLD gaining dozens of awards and much experience with my first two dogs, Jessie, and Blotch.
Some kids mow lawns, but I started my first dog training business at 14 (Melissa Bruce Dog Training) where I spent my afternoons helping dogs learn the simple things necessary to survive in the human world. I honestly can say I have never genuinely held interest in any other field like I have animal behaviour, and of course in particular, canine behaviour.
Growing up in a rural environment, I spent several years working with professional horse trainers training brumbies in FNQ. Working with these horses, (proven to think very similarly to dogs), gave me many insights into animal behaviour & psychology, learning many different, gentle techniques not traditionally associated with dogs, yet among the most effective ever seen in the canine behavioural industry.
My first job as a teenager was working in three different veterinary clinics in south east QLD. After commencing my studies veterinary nursing, I realized I still really only wanted to train and work with dogs, and veterinary nursing wasn’t going to be a career I intended on following.
I began training to join the Australian Air Force as a military dog trainer. However, life stopped me dead in my tracks after a drunk driver ran into me head on while I was riding home from work on my motorbike.
Subsequent injuries ruled me out of the Air Force. Many skin grafts / bone grafts / muscle grafts / plastic surgery and orthopaedic operations later, I was left with a serious disability in my right leg and informed I would never be able to train professionally, hold an active career, or ride again. Apparently I was to be confined to a walking stick…
Luckily for me, I was young and intent on proving everyone wrong so I decided to ignore pretty much every piece of doctors advice, and started Clever Paws early 2006, barely 6 months after my accident.
Working and studying in between what felt like a life long rehabilitation period in and out of hospital was by no means easy, but my work gave me a strong sense of purpose; all the dogs I imagined relying on my getting out of bed the next day to make sure they didn’t end up homeless or worse due to unwanted behavioural issues forced me to push past my limits and find a solution for the impossible.
The rest is history. I work an average 40-60 hours a week, present public speeches on canine behaviour, am a regular consultant to local and national media, and race Enduro in both state and interstate races all over the country. (If you’re a bike enthusiast like me, visit www.melissabruce.com.au)
I’m not just a trainer, or a business owner, I’m one very lucky girl living my dream which happens to also be my job!