Have you ever had a job when you felt out of your depth?
I think in all of the various jobs I have held there has always been a moment where I thought 'I'm not ready for this' or 'Maybe I should have listened more at that induction meeting' or perhaps 'Bloody hell, I don't know what I'm doing, HELP!'
Well its not just jobs where this occurs, it can happen in your own business too.
We need to go back 3.5 years now to when I first started my Dog Adventure business in Sunderland
I launched my business because I wanted to offer dog owners more than just a ‘walk around the block’ for their dogs. I knew from my own experience of owning dogs that a dog that has the appropriate amount of exercise is less likely to have behavioural problems. But I really didn’t know a lot more than that.
On our dog adventures we used to go out for a daily hike and after 5 or 6 miles we would stop for a rest and the dogs could have some off leash time. Dogs being the playful creatures that they are they would start playing together. I really didn’t see any harm in this at the time. They were clearly having a great time and more playing meant more exercise and tired dogs right? Right!
Well no not exactly. It quite quickly became clear to me that although the dogs were having an awesome time together, I was losing control of them. They just didn’t listen to me. By not taking part in fun stuff with the dogs I had made myself a bit of an irrelevance to them.
I had become the dad who takes his kids to the Wacky Warehouse to play and wrestle together but did absolutely nothing with them myself. I do think it’s great for kids to do that as treat but I maybe wouldn’t want that to be the main activity they did in their lives and certainly not every day.
So I knew things had to change. I read a lot of books and articles and on the advice of a friend I attended a John Rogerson 7 day dog behaviour course.
This changed everything for me both with my own dogs and the dogs we worked with in the business.
It was there I first met Dave Davies who was doing a scent work demonstration with Hamish his terrier. Seeing Dave and Hamish work together was inspirational. The way his dogs look to him for fun was a game changer for me.
It was then I thought yes that is how I want my dogs to look at me. I’m pleased to say for the mst part they do now. Together Dave and I now run dog training courses, seminars and talks to help other pet dog owners to have fun and build a better bond with their own dogs.
My own business is still very much a work in progress. We try new things. We learn from our mistakes and hopefully we get a little better every day. The aim now of our Dog Training and Adventure business is to send the dog’s home tired, safe and a little better trained than they were when we picked them up.
We go to different locations every day where we play lots of scent, retrieve, find it and tuggy games. We also do some training but the main thing is all of the entertainment and stimulation comes from me and my son Alex who has now joined the business. We exercise as a pack (yes I said Pack) and the dogs play but they play with us the humans.
This has benefits for the dog’s owners as they know they can take their dogs anywhere and as long as they have a toy with them their dogs will just want to be with them. Isn’t that what every dog owner wants?
I know I may sound like an ex-smoker, who I find are generally the most anti-smoking people out there, but I think my experience is a good one to tell you of how I think it’s a mistake if you let your dog think that playing with another dog is the best thing ever.
Given a choice dogs will choose to do what they enjoy doing the most. Once they find a pleasant activity they will enjoy it, remember it and seek out doing it again. If that activity is playing with other dogs then that’s what they will want to do whenever they get the opportunity.
A dog that plays and trains with its owner will enjoy it, want to do it again and likely choose being with its owner over going over to see another dog. A dog that gets its main excitement and stimulation from playing with another dog will enjoy it and want to do that again too.
To anyone with who has just acquired a puppy I would certainly advise against joining a puppy class where they encourage any kind of free play and worse doing any kind of roughhousing with other dogs and puppies.
Why be such a spoilsport? Well there is of evidence from many respected dog behaviourists that a lot of dog to dog and indeed dog to human aggression is linked or can be traced to a dog just being allowed to play too much with other dogs, basically enjoy it very much or maybe too much and they end up seeking out other dogs in the park or pulling towards them on lead.
Then you have a problem
There’s really no need for your dog to play with other dogs anyway. Most dogs and especially puppies are fairly easy to play and tire out if done correctly, I'm no genius and if I can do it you can too.
In many ways I was lucky that I realised pretty quickly I was going to have problems with my dogs if I didn’t learn how better to control them. I am very grateful that I learned and am still learning from some brilliant trainers who say put yourself at the centre of your dog’s world and you be the thing that provides the exercise, play, entertainment and stimulation.
It’s a view I totally agree with and I think my business is way more fun now for ME and the dogs.
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Dom Hodgson has run Pack Leader Dog Adventures, a very popular dog adventure and training 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 give advice and try new products to help with the adventure business Dom thought he was in an ideal position to sell and promote the things his and his clients dogs love the most.
Dom can be contacted at email@example.com and positively welcomes feedback.
David Davies (bipdt, cfba, GoDT (master trainer)) has over 20 years experience running his own dog training business David Davies Dog Training. He now helps through his training and behaviour sessions at his home in Hurworth. Dave also teaches internationally. He loves helping dogs and their owners enjoy a better relationship through training and having fun. If you would like to book a consultation with Dave please phone 01325 722339 or email