All is not well in the doghouses of Windsor. Whether the problem is tiara gnawing, royal-carriage-wheel nipping or throne scratching we may never know, but at least one of Queen Elizabeth’s tailless canines has required the services of—how to put this?—a psychologist. Of course, the basis of such relationships is doctor-dog confidentiality; “Please,” says Britain’s leading animal behavior expert, Dr. Roger Mugford, “ask me about the Queen’s dogs. I just love to say, ‘No comment.’ ”
Although mum’s the word about the secret patient among the Queen’s six corgis (Diamond, Kelpie, Mist, Phoenix, Sable and Spark) or Her Majesty’s three dorgis (Chipper, Harris and Piper), which are corgi-dachshund crosses, Mugford will talk about the corgi genus in general. “They love to chase after joggers or go for a stamping guardsman,” he says. “They are a very tough breed. With an overindulgent owner, they tend to dominate and get out of control.” May the Queen take heed.
Mugford, 42, handles 2,000 dogs per annum in his clinic in Surrey, south of London, and his practice is not limited to royal rug wreckers. His plebeian patients have included a West Highland white terrier with a nail-biting problem, a chronically shy giant mastiff, and one Pepsi, a 3-year-old collie cross whose owner, Julia North-Lewis, says he was “biting people, snarling and barking when the phone rang.” Mugford’s diagnosis: “It was a classic jealousy pattern. The dog had become too attached to Julia.” After a two-hour, $112 session, during which Mugford suggested an ear-piercing whistle and socializing at a dog club, pet and owner left the clinic with Pepsi regenerated, enjoying a new leash on life. “She was running our lives,” says North-Lewis, “and now we can run hers.”
Rival dog trainers, such as the late Barbara Woodhouse, are Mugford’s pet peeves. He pronounces Wood-house’s books, videos and TV shows “bull” and would happily muzzle an entire pack of what he would term Yankee faux paw shrinks. “In America, anybody can set themselves up as a psychologist,” Mugford sniffs. “It is a very unsavory business, and dogs get hurt.”
Mugford’s own educational pedigree is spotless: a zoology/psychology degree from Hull University, followed by a Ph.D. in animal behavior and aggression. He is also, if he must say so himself, the world’s leading expert on a certain gland. “Basically I can tell you what type of rhino or cat you have by smelling its urine,” he explains. Very handy.
The genial Mugford, whose hair is more disheveled than many of his patients’, lives with his wife, Vivienne, and their four children (Ruth, 8, Emily, 7, and twins Harry and James, 19 weeks) in a small home 10 minutes from his clinic, the Company of Animals. When not tending to distressed denizens of the dog world, he breeds exotic Indian birds. He also skis, lectures and helps design toys for zoo animals. He even sets up his practice in a park and holds free-for-all, 15-minute therapy sessions called wacky dog days. Whatever his approach—he often recommends restraints (collars) and aversion therapy (high whistles)—Mugford’s reeducation often succeeds where owners and vets have failed. And it flies in the face of doglore. “It is quite wrong,” says the genie of better bowser behavior, “to think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”