Even though his family already had chickens and budgies, young Ryan’s deep fascination for animals left him wanting more. Starting with tadpoles, which he would catch, care for until they were frogs, and then release back into the wild, Ryan never hesitated in bringing animals of all shapes and sizes home to his unsuspecting parents.

“I was always getting pets without my parents’ permission, but in hindsight, they were pretty good about it,” explains Ryan. “We had parrots, rabbits, rats, and fish, but it wasn't until I was in my early teens that I 'snuck' home a dog that needed rehoming. Her name was Lulu, a Chihuahua mix who subsequently turned into the family dog.”

Initially a career as a vet seemed destined to be Ryan’s calling, and a few work placements in high school saw him working with small, large and exotic animal vets. According to Ryan: “A highlight was getting behind the scenes access at Western Plains Zoo working with the vet team there. I did get accepted into veterinary medicine as a mature-age student. However, I didn't end up following that particular dream.”

Instead, Ryan started out in hospitality as a “glassy” before scoring a job during a university break mustering cattle on horseback. For anyone else, his inability to ride might have been a barrier to entry, but Ryan applied himself and soon become a natural in the saddle.

“I learned to ride quickly and subsequently applied for a horse-riding guide job on a tropical island and never looked back,” he remembers. “Since then, I've held positions as a horse-riding instructor and trainer, detection-dog handler, and I am currently an RSPCA South Australia Inspector. I couldn't possibly fathom another line of work now.”

Ryan encounters animals of all varieties in his role, but as his nickname would suggest it’s dogs that hold a special place in his heart. Accordingly, he’s eager to spread the word on how to ensure man’s best friend is confident and well behaved.

“Socialisation greatly helps in raising a confident dog,” he explains. “This can be achieved through exposing your dog to situations where they can be familiarised with different people, other dogs, and new experiences.

“Ideally, this is best done when the dog is young. Training and basic structure in your dog’s life can shape desirable behaviours. Many people still base their dog training on the principle method of dominance, which has been proven incorrect. We want our dogs to be confident and balanced so positive reinforcement of desired behaviours works much more efficiently than punishing the negative behaviours that can often lead to further behavioural issues.”

With so many animals in shelters around Australia, Ryan is a strong advocate of the adopt, don’t shop approach. As he explains: “By choosing the adoption option, not only are you giving a new home to an animal in need, but your support will help the RSPCA care for many more animals. Every year the RSPCA provides shelter to thousands of animals that need a good home, and all RSPCA animals have undergone health and behaviour assessments to make sure they are suitable for adoption as companion pets. Dogs and cats are also desexed, microchipped and vaccinated to help give them the best possible fresh start.”

Ryan’s love of animals made him a perfect partner to help launch our new Pet Supplies category, kicking off a nationwide competition to find the face of Amazon Pets. Owners of dogs, cats, horses, goats, pigs, fish and amphibians, small furry critters, reptiles, birds, and more are invited to post pictures of their beloved pets to Instagram with #AmazonPetsAu and on the Amazon.com.au Facebook page. The competition is open from now until 23:59 AEDT on Friday, 19 October 2018. For full Ts & Cs, click here.