Connected without the leash - Dom Hodgson

Here's a questions for you

(I know I won't be able to hear your answer but just play along anyway)

What keeps you and your dog together?

The leash?

The treats?

The ball?

All of the above?

Yep all of the above can help you keep your much more focused on you and not that bird, squirrel, dog or empty pizza box that he wants to explore.

 A park (or wherever) can present many distractions for dogs and I’m sure I’m not the only one to have seen a dog owner struggling to keep their dogs away from certain things be they people, other dogs or certain areas they shouldn’t be in where it seems that everything is more interesting to the dog than its owner. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I learned with my puppy that I should keep him guessing as to what reward he may get. So if practising a recall he never knows what reward he may get when he returns. It could be e.g. a pat on the head, a piece of chicken or a game of tuggy.

I found this to be really good advice and is something that I practise and preach now too. On one of his courses that I attended I remember John Rogerson asking his famous question  ‘Name ten things your dog has to look forward to when he wakes up in the morning?’ this stuck with me as at the time my dogs probably didn’t have that much to look forward to. Or certainly not much that involves me.

I try to keep this in mind all the time and it is this thought along with some service dog and scent work exercises I have learned from David Davies that have led me to do the type of stuff I currently do with my dog and also with the dogs that we walk on a daily basis, but more on that in another blog.




My cocker Sid and I love a trip to the park and we love it so much because we are at a point where I can use any or all of the items I carry with me as well as any obstacles or landmarks that I come across on my walk as a point of interaction (or connection) with my Sid. Why do we do this? Many of you will already know the answer and it’s simply to make him more interested in me and because it’s fun.

I want my dog to want to be with me above all else so I try and use anything and everything I can to do that. So for us a tree is not just something to wee on but something to ‘go round’ as well, a park bench becomes an agility obstacle, my wallet and keys become ‘find it’ items and Sid’s lead makes a great tuggy toy, Poo bags (empty ones!) are great for retrieving and we can also practise any silly heelwork and other tricks we have been working on at home.

If I can offer my dog all this interaction why would he possibly want to spend time away from me bothering someone else or another dog?

These exercises do take a little bit of time to master but all are relatively easy activities that most pet dog owners can manage and all give your dog a ‘job’ to do when you are out and about with him.

Even though he is from working lines I don’t really have the inclination to do field work with my cocker but it’s still important for me to give him some kind of job to do, as it is for any working dog. I have used a clicker to help me get Sid used to picking up different items and started of luring him round a cone with his toy, most of the tricks have been lured because I am lazy and like to do things quickly but in a short time we have progressed to the point where I feel Sid would find and retrieve just about anything I want or jump over any obstacle it is safe for him to do so.

All of this is done for fun and to help keep him interested and connected with me. This means we have a great time together and we almost never have to endure a so called boring walk to the park! 

 How do you stay connected to your dog?




 To learn more about how you can stay better connected to your dog then download a FREE chapter of my best selling dog training book 'How to Be Your Dog's Superhero' and you will also get my free and famous Shaggy Dog Story daily emails too just click below

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Dom has run Pack Leader Dog Adventures, a very popular dog walking/adventure business based in Sunderland since November 2011. He loves working in the great outdoors and loves it even more if there are dogs involved! The Pack Leader Dog Adventures store is the latest extension to the business. Always keen to try new products to help with the adventure business Dom thought he was in an ideal position to sell and promote the things his dogs love the most. Dom can be contacted at and positively welcomes feedback.

If you work with dogs and would like to submit a blog or have a product you would like us to sample and retail then please get in touch

Dom Hodgson
Dom Hodgson



Jenny H
Jenny H

January 03, 2015

Unfortunately now here in Australia, there is a ‘leash law’ and few of the off=leash areas have anything of much interest in them and are few and far between. (A car’s drive away for many.)
So we need to think g things that can be done ‘on-lead’.
On think that I find useful and practical under these circumstances is to teach the dog a variety of tricks which it enjoys, and then stop and cue these every now and then.
This can be especially useful with the sorts of breeds that many people seem to ‘love to hate’ or fear. It makes these people more relaxed and accepting ;-)
(Life is SO different with a Cocker Spaniel compared to a German Shepherd! People respond to me completely differently depending on the dog I have with me!)

Angela Ramsay
Angela Ramsay

November 18, 2014

Great tips, Dom and I completely agree. I had two German Shepherds neither of which had any interest in a plain old walk. They had to have things to do the whole time we were out. It actually made our walks great fun and their much loved “tasks” were the perfect distraction when required!

Aimee Stone
Aimee Stone

November 10, 2014

My parents in Law have just got a new puppy I will give them these tips to keep Blake amused on his walks. I always used to play races and chasing games with my dogs growing up but that was when I could keep up with them!


November 10, 2014

My gran used to have a collie, a lovely breed of dog – these tips would have been handy when he was alive! Always causing mischief in the park and across the fields! :)

Heather Maskill
Heather Maskill

November 06, 2014

I wish more dog owners were responsible like you are Dom. My eldest son was knocked down by an uncontrollable dog and 8 year later is still scared of dogs. We are trying to introduce him to “gentle” dogs but at 12 years old, he stands close by me when walking though the park. I’m hoping as he gets older he will improve but its a slow process.

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