I was a Dog Walking Douchebag!

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 dom@packleaderdogadventures.co.uk 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


Dom Hodgson
Dom Hodgson




April 28, 2015

A great article, and absolutely correct! I always mention that I will NEVER tell anyone what they must do. This is completely up to them, however everything we do in life carries a consequence. Consequences may be desirable or undesirable. The UK still have very relaxed laws concerning dog ownership. I often travel overseas these days with my work [dog behaviour and training]. Dog laws in many European Countries is far stricter than here in UK. I recently travelled to Spain to take part on Radio Talk Europe a show run by David The Dog Man [a well known and respected canine expert out there for decades]. The dogs I met had impeccable behaviour, but then look at the dog laws in Spain! Dogs genuinely didnt show any desire to pester people, to go to any dogs walking or playing ‘with their owners’ on the beach. Even in a dog park we visited, no dogs chased one-another. All, although off leash [allowed in the dog parks] focused entirely upon their human family and interacted with them. When dogs did come nose to nose, a polite wag of the tail, seconds of a sniff and then scampered back to the family. I have seen this in so many countries where laws are observed. I returned to UK and within minutes I saw dogs chasing dogs, owners calling their dogs to no avail. The trouble is when I and other like-minded professionals whom have observed and researched this fact mention this it terrifies people [nice caring people that want to do the right thing for dogs and their owners] because they have invested in dog walking and dog day care businesses. They are afraid what we say will be the demise of what they do. However it doesnt have to be, all they need to do is start being the key figure in their dog groups activity and redirect dog to dog focus back onto the humans. Its easy. On my Stay and Train classes once dogs are fully focussed upon me or my assistants [humans], then they are allowed out as a group [ok, Pack!] but they are never allowed to rampage together. The interesting FACT is, they dont desire to. They watch the human, and where the human goes, they follow watching and waiting for the next exciting event. This may be food appearing, the human running off, a toy being thrown, a tug game…anything, but it WILL be fun and it WILL be instigated by a human.
Dave Davies [www.daviddaviesdogtraining.com] in association with Pack Leader Dog Adventured

Lyndsey Burton
Lyndsey Burton

April 27, 2015

Very interesting and informative. Love Dom’s methods, my Labrador is much better behaved since joining the Pack!


April 27, 2015

Ah Dom, I do love your honesty – it’s very refreshing! Great article and I think that every dog owner is guilty of falling into this trap My dog MUST play with every dog they see so they turn into a lovely, sociable hound and I will let my dog DRAG me over to say hello to every dog we meet. Which inevitably means your dog will completely tune you out and your just their taxi driver to the doggy equivalent of Disneyland! It didn’t take me long to figure this out but unfortunately, the general public don’t seem to realise the pitfalls of exercising their dogs this way. We try and educate as we go though and I’m sure all your dog clients can see the difference in their dogs’ day to day behaviour as a result. You’re an inspiration :-)

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