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Worry Free Walks by Dominic Hodgson
Dominic Hodgson has been where you are now – with a dog he loved but who couldn’t wait to get to the park and get off the lead to do interesting doggy things!
When he set up a dog walking business this just wouldn’t do so he spent time learning dog-training techniques from the best in the business. Now walking his – and other people’s – dogs is a pleasure.
In this book, Worry Free Walks, he passes on what he learned so you can make your doggy walks ‘worry free’, too.
Dom’s doggy style
Dom has a very light, easy and humorous style. You’ll whiz through the book with the odd smile on your face and possibly the occasional guffaw.
“Dom and eldest son Alex enjoying a ‘Worry Free Walk’ with (from left to right) Charlie the giant schnauzer, Dolly the french bulldog. Max the german wire haired pointer, Alex the German short haired pointer, ruby the french buldog, Dudley the lab. Kelsey the Samoyed, and Betty the Giant Schnauzer.”
The book is peppered with entertaining stories about himself, his family and friends.
It’s littered – or perhaps splattered would be a better word! – with the odd ‘adult’ but funny remark. And although we’re all grown-ups here – aren’t we? – it is, perhaps, not the ideal gift for your maiden aunt.
Dogs just wanna have fun
The principle behind the book is that dogs just wanna have fun. Don’t we all?
As an owner, your goal is to create a situation where your dog has more fun with you than with other dogs or sniffing out small furry animals.
The book lists a dog’s needs as:
- Appropriate exercise
- A suitable Diet
- The need to feel safe
Challenge is often neglected. Treats for the sake of it add nothing to a dog except a few pounds – or ounces! But asking them to ‘do something’ for a treat turns it into a game.
For example, simply putting treats inside a Kong adds a new level of interest and challenge.
You and your dog – staying safe
One of the most important aspects of training is safety, and it’s not necessarily what you think it might be.
It’s not just about keeping your dog away from cliff tops and fast-flowing rivers, but about making your dog feel safe in their present environment, too.
Doing a dog audit
As you read the book, you’ll come across lots of things Dom tells you to do – the ‘safety audit’, for example.
There are action steps to take at the end of the chapters. These include discovering your dog’s favourite toys and food. Yes, even if you dog wolfs down anything you put in from of him, he probably still has a favourite.
Engaging with your dog
One of the essential takeaways from the book is that you need to engage and play with your dog.
I thought the whole point (or one of them!) of having a dog was so you could play with them! But, seemingly, not every dog owner thinks that way. Strange 🙂
Roll around the floor with the dog
I have many old(ish) clothes that I don’t mind getting dirty and I call them my ‘roll around the floor with the dog’ clothes. I thought everyone had such a collection but apparently not.
You can’t be precious. Get down on the floor and play with your dog – it is massive, massive fun and your dog will think you’re the best thing since sliced, er, bonios!
Dogs aren’t just for petting and stroking and hugging – or for show! They need stimulation and challenges, and by engaging with your dog, your dog will engage with you.
Then, when you’re on the walk your dog will find you more interesting than chasing small furry animals and smelling other dogs’ bottoms.
Dog training in practise
That’s essentially the method Dom promotes in his Worry Free Walks book. But, as anyone who’s read a self-help book knows, it means nothing unless you put it into practice.
To that end, you must follow the action steps and do what the book suggests. Hey – you’re playing with your dog – it’s fun!
Retractable or not?
Dom is not a fan of the retractable lead and the catalogue of potential problems he lists does, I’m sure, happen. But for the most part, only when the owner is not paying attention to their dog or is using the lead correctly.
Dom’s contention is that if your dog is well-trained, you should not need a retractable lead.
My dogs were fairly well trained although probably not, I will admit, to Dom’s standard, but I found my Flexi leads incredibly useful and very rarely caused a problem.
If you’re inattentive or can’t be bothered to learn how to use a retractable lead – and it ain’t rocket science – then, yes, stick to a normal lead.
Dom and I differ on the benefits of a retractable lead but that’s fine 🙂 Use whatever best suits you and your dog.
Dom is also not a fan of the harness. I have no personal experience of these but I have a friend who used one with her Labrador to great effect.
As Dom points out, the harness was developed to HELP the dog to pull whereas the modern harness is promoted as a better way to distribute the force the dog exerts if they do pull on the lead. Instead of possible damage to their neck and trachea caused by a collar, the harness spreads the load around their body.
But, again, if you train your dog well, you should have full control over them however you’re connected!
Play time for dogs
The GameZone chapter lists various games you can play with your dog to engage them. Many you can do during your normal routine when you feed them or give them treats.
These core games are simple to do and teach, and both you and your dog should enjoy them.
Dom then suggests how to pull everything together and incorporate them on your walk.
A doggy bonus
A bonus included with the book is access to a free – yes FREE! – video course based on the book so you can see how Dom put his own advice into practise.
Worry Free Walks – summary
Dom’s approach to dog training is a ‘playful’ one, rather than a domineering one which some trainers use. Play is better for everyone – owner and dog! It’s a positive reinforcement method which far outperforms other methods of training in every way.
This is a super little book, an easy read and packed with practical advice – but it’s up to you to put that advice into practise.
The inclusion of the video course – free! – is nothing short of magnanimous. Considering you get the course even with the Kindle version it’s a bargain you cannot afford to pass up. (Although I do have a soft-spot preference for the feel of a real book!)
If walking your dog is a nightmare, if you’d like your dog to pay more attention to you when you’re out walking, get this book and apply its lessons.
Worry Free Walks UK
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