Belgian Shepherd Socio joins Stephen Tindall to take on the world at the IGP FMBB World Championships

“REIGNING” cats and dogs have proved the passion of Stephen Tindall’s life.

The former circus and zoo employee, who used to work with tigers, is off to Greece after a dog he trained to world class level qualified for Team GB in an international event.

Stephen Tindall and Socio the Belgian Shepherd have been selected for the IGP FMBB World Championships, where they will be competing against 150 other dogs of the same breed and their handlers from all over the world.

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The 56-year-old, who runs Steve’s Dog Training in Todwick, has helped more than 2,000 dog owners to train and improve their pets’ behaviour over the years.

He started to train Socio, a Spanish dog whose name translates as “partner”— early last year with a view to applying for next year’s world championships and said he had been impressed by the dog’s “work ethic”.

And after Socio aced all his examinations, Stephen decided to put him in the running for the 2022 global IGP (Internationale Gebrauchshund Pruefung) FMBB (Fédération Mondiale Bergers Belges) event.

“It was a big accomplishment,” said Stephen. “Socio is just an amazing dog and loves to please — he gives his all each time he performs.

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“IGP is a gruelling dog sport where there are three phases — tracking, obedience and protection — and it shows true trust, teamwork and dedication to be able to compete at the highest level.”

Stephen has been training dogs professionally for the last ten years.

Previously, when he was in his twenties, he joined a circus where he trained big cats and travelled all over the world including Europe, America, Russia, and China.

He also did a six-month stint in a zoo in Kent working with tigers.

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But since switching his attention to canines more than a decade ago, Worksop-born Steve is now looking ahead to the five-day championship event in Karpenisi.

“I got Socio when he was 15 months old, just before the first lockdown, and I started from scratch with him, doing a tiny bit of training,” he said.

“I properly committed to it last May, doing the trials that you have to do to see if the dog is suitable for the sport and sociable around people.

“Because he was very young, I wanted to take my time with him because dogs often don’t come into their prime until they are older but Socio was really quickly picking things up and had such a good work ethic.

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“The plan was to get in the qualifiers for next year but when he did so well in his training I thought we had nothing to lose — why not try and go for it?”

Happily Socio was victorious, finishing second in the qualifiers and narrowly missing out on winning overall.

Now Stephen is hosting a fundraising evening to help with costs involved in getting to the major event.

“It’s all a hobby,” he said, “so there’s no funding for the three-day drive or the five-day event.

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“You can fly the dogs out there but then you would have to hire a van and they would go into an unfamiliar crate.

“We want Socio to feel comfortable and safe in my van that he’s used to and that way he’ll not get stressed, but will also know that means he’s going to be training and working, too.”

Stephen’s fundraising night will take place on Saturday, March 12, at Greenbean Bistro, on Sheffield Road, Todwick.  

Hosted by Emmerdale actor Dean Andrews, who also appeared in Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes and Last Tango in Halifax, the night will feature entertainment including Celine Dion tribute act January Butler as well as an auction and raffle.

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“I really hope people come along to support us at what I’m sure will be a fantastic event and will help get Socio and I to the world championships in Greece, representing Team GB,” added Stephen.

Tickets are £25, which includes a curry buffet, and the event starts at 7pm.

To book, call 07771 706640.

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