SDOS Episode 51 – The Original Dog Whisperer, Paul Owens

Episode 51 – Today I’m talking to the original dog whisperer Paul Owens. Paul is someone I’ve been wanting to interview for a long time has loads of experience and dog training stories to share. Paul got his first dog aged 20 and immediately fell in love with dog training. He stayed in love with it for 40 years too and talks us through some of the changes he has seen during his career. This episode is NOT to be missed!

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Transcript below

Dom:     Hello, my bonny bairns and welcome to the Superhero Dog Owners Show. I’m your host, Dom Hodgson, and this is episode 51, and I’m joined by the Milk Tray man himself, dressed all in black, Alex the video guy. What’s going on with you?

Alex:      Hello. This wasn’t actually an intentional-

Dom:     You’ve been working backstage at the Palladium or something, in your off time?

Alex:      It looks like it, doesn’t it? Well, us video guys are supposed to blend in, as much as we can. But this wasn’t a conscious decision, so, yeah, just feeling the stealthy vibes today.

Dom:     I like it. It’s cool.

Alex:      Thank you.

Dom:     Blending in’s good, but when you’re a business owner, Alex, it’s best to stand out.

Alex:      Absolutely.

Dom:     Yeah. That’s something that all of the pet business owners will learn if the read my Walk Yourself Wealthy book, and the reason why I’m mentioning this upfront is because we’re almost at 30 reviews on Amazon.

Alex:      Excellent. Nice one.

Dom:     And loads of great feedback from people who’ve obviously bought the book, read the book, and started implementing it straight away, yeah. That’s what it’s for. It’s a shortish book, but this book will teach you how to increase your prices and stand out from the competition. So if you’re a groomer, a dog trainer, a walker, or you own a doggie daycare or a boarding kennels, then this book will help you to improve your business. Some people have said they found it quite inspirational, Alex, which is lovely to hear.

Alex:      Brilliant. That’s good to hear.

Dom:     Yeah, yeah. Bit of a swelled head, you know, when you hear thing … but it’s nice to think that it’s helping people. That’s why we’re doing these things.

Alex:      Absolutely.

Dom:     So speaking of inspiration, who’s been some big inspirations for you in your life?

Alex:      Good question. I have a bit of a musical background, and I always liked Matthew Bellamy from Muse because he was an awesome guitarist, is an awesome guitarist. He inspired me on the music front and it kind of encouraged me to pick up a guitar. And then, I suppose on the filmmaking front, there’s all kinds of people, loads of film makers. Philip Bloom and kind of more modern vloggers like Casey Neistat and people. They’re the kind of people I look to and think, “Oh, yeah, I could learn a fair bit from them.”

Dom:     Brilliant. Yeah, it’s funny isn’t it, how we get inspiration from different places, don’t we? Sometimes our idols let us down, Alex. In the past, one of my biggest man crushes was Bruce Lee, when I was growing up. I was bang into Bruce Lee films.

Then I got a bit older and I started to get into cycling, still like cycling now. We follow the Tour de France every year, me and Toby, and obviously Lance Armstrong was a cheat. Well, he was a seven-time winner and he was a huge inspiration for me, and read his book and that, which obviously that, the book is still inspirational, you know, because he obviously overcomes testicular cancer. But obviously his fall from grace wasn’t as splendid to watch.

Alex:      Yeah, of course.

Dom:     I had similar thing happen, actually, with the dog training, because like many dog owners, I was bang into Cesar Milan when he first came on the scene, you know.

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     Thinking “How is this guy doing this, you know? How is he just controlling all these dogs at the click of his fingers and a shush?” I’m going way back here, like 10, 12 years, and before I really knew anything about dog training, I guess. Once you start to learn about dog training, you realise that there’s a reason why the dogs were acting the way they were acting and it’s usually because they were afraid, you know.

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     The dogs were afraid and they didn’t … They were doing stuff because he was there and he was enforcing his rule, and sometimes in a very physical way. You don’t have to, and you shouldn’t really … that shouldn’t be the way that you approach dog training, at all.

Alex:      No.

Dom:     So that was an interesting thing, and obviously still have this conversation now with a lot of pet dog owners who, just through exposure to people like that on the telly, they think that they can just a click of the fingers and the dog’s going to do what they want. Then if the dog doesn’t do what you want, then you just give them a little shove, or you tell him off.

But the problem with that is where does it lead, you know? Because if you tell a dog off or you give him a little shove and he didn’t listen to you, well, what do you do? Do you shove him a bit harder? Do you shout at him a bit more, you know? It’s like a one-way street to Frustrationsville, in my opinion.

Alex:      Yeah, absolutely.

Dom:     And depressing, you know. It’s really depressing too, telling your dog off all the time and trying to be something that you’re not, it’s … Anyway, I’m glad all those days are behind me now. But Cesar, as it happens, goes by the moniker of the Dog Whisperer, as you’ll know-

Alex:      Yes.

Dom:     … but he isn’t the original Dog Whisperer, Alex.

Alex:      No?

Dom:     Mm-mm (negative). The Original Dog Whisperer is a really cool guy, called Paul Owens-

Alex:      Right.

Dom:     … who we interviewed on the podcast, didn’t we?

Alex:      We did, indeed. Yes.

Dom:     And we have that interview for you guys, right now. So, Alex the video guy, would you please flex that finger and push that button?

Okay, so my guest today is someone I’m really, really excited to talk to. I’m not usually a fan of some kind of dog whisperers, but that was until I heard about my next guest, who is the Original Dog Whisperer. He’s the author of three books, the bestselling Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training, which has sold over 350,000 copies all over the world. He’s the Founder Director of children’s after school violence prevention programme, Paws for Peace. He’s practised and taught yoga in the United States and India for over 40 years, so we’ve got a lot to talk about. I’m really excited.

Paul, welcome to the show. Paul Owens.

Paul:      Thank you, Dom. Appreciate it.

Dom:     You’re very, very welcome. We’re going to dive straight in, Paul, with the Greyhound Round. This is a quickfire round where we get to know you a little bit better. Are you prepared and ready to go off the leash?

Paul:      Let’s give it a shot.

Dom:     Okay. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Paul:      Early. 5:00 AM.

Dom:     Awesome. Okay, that’s good timing for us. What’s your favourite doggie film?

Paul:      Jeez, that’s a good one. I’d have to say Babe.

Dom:     Yeah, definitely. Good film. Would you prefer to walk a poodle in the park, or a Weimaraner in the woods?

Paul:      Portuguese Water Dog in the lake.

Dom:     You’ve got to be awkward. Okay, do you prefer red or white wine?

Paul:      Beer.

Dom:     Your favourite animal that isn’t a dog?

Paul:      Elephant, dolphin, eagle, horse.

Dom:     In that order. Brilliant, his top four. All right Paul, I’ll give you nine out of 10 for that. That’s brilliant.

Paul:      [inaudible 00:06:41].

Dom:     So we’re going to go … I want to go back in time a little bit, yeah, or before …We’ve got a lot to talk about, what you’ve got going on now, but where did it all start for you, before the dog whispering and the dog training? What was your experience of growing up with dogs?

Paul:      One of the ones that really pops up was when I was five and my father brought a puppy home, scared the living heck out of me, and I ran up the stairs and hid.

Dom:     But you got over that fear.

Paul:      Then, when I got to be about 20, I got my own dog and got through training classes and turned out I really liked it. So I did some study, I practised under a few trainers. This was back in the early ’70s, and I hung out my shingle about 1974. I know I don’t look that old on the screen, but I really am.

Dom:     You definitely don’t. Was there anybody in particular who inspired you to want to work with dogs, or was there an incident that made you want to become a dog trainer?

Paul:      No, it was the dogs themselves, Dom.

Dom:     Yeah.

Paul:      I just felt such an affinity and a closeness, just like anybody who’s in this business does, and so that’s what propelled me as I went along.

Dom:     Awesome. Can you tell me an embarrassing dog training story? I’m sure you’ve got one or two.

Paul:      Jeez. Well, they’re not so much embarrassing, but all professional dog trainers, they all have some really, really interesting ones they come out of, but I walked into a client’s house one time, it was about 7:00 at night, and this guy had called me and he said he was having all kinds of problems with this dog. I opened the door … this is one you’re never going to hear from another dog trainer … and I opened the door and two feet off to the left is a full mannequin dressed in S&M leather, complete with the hood and the whip in the hand. The guys looks at the mannequin and looks at me with wide eyes. I said “No, no. I’m a dog trainer. See you later.”

Dom:     That’s way beyond your pay grade.

Paul:      Holy mackerel.

Dom:     Okay, good story. No, and I’ve never heard a story like that before.

Paul:      And you never will again, so, you know.

Dom:     Paul, you’ve been doing this a long time. What kind of changes have you seen in the last 40 years?

Paul:      Well, you know, that’s a good question. The psychology is the psychology. You know, you’ve got classical and you’ve got Skinner and you’ve got all that stuff, but what has really changed over the last year, which is what keeps all of us doing this, is that human-animal bond. People more and more are starting to realise just how wonderful dogs are, that they’re not just property, which we’re trying change those laws. They’re sentient beings and we’re trying to grow … as a friend of mine said, we are expanding our hearts through dogs. I thought that was the perfect definition.

Dom:     [inaudible 00:09:39].

Paul:      I think that’s what’s grown the most the last 40 years, is that openness that people are realising that dogs are more wonderful than we ever thought they were, especially 40 years ago, when I started.

Dom:     Yeah, that’s beautiful. That is nice. Have the kind of problems that people are coming to you with, have they changed a lot over the years?

Paul:      The basics always stay the same, and the root has always stayed the same, and that is two major things that I speak about with my teacher training programme. People are just … and I don’t mean this in a negative way, as far as people are ignorant, but they simply are unaware that these methods exist, that proactive, positive, force-free, nonviolent methods exist. They’re just not aware of them.

They’re really surprised, especially when they see “dog whisperer”, for example, immediately their minds go to the television programme that has kind of bastardised the word by using all kinds of physical punishment and everything. So they’re unaware that when I come out to the house, that isn’t what I do. There’s no punishment. You never correct the dog, you correct the dog’s behaviour. That’s one of the core things, is that people aren’t aware of it.

Number two, they’re not motivated to do it. When they say, “Oh, I have all this stuff to do and I’m really busy.” Part of a dog trainer’s life is to try to help motivate people, by making it part of their everyday lives and making it fun.

Dom:     Yeah, I totally agree. I think it’s a huge part of it, being able to motivate and giving them the confidence that they can do it, you know. You don’t necessarily need to be a dog trainer to have a well trained dog, do you? Anybody can-

Paul:      You’ve hit the nail on the here there. That’s exactly right. People need to be rewarded, and one of the biggest things that I’ve seen over the years … I do a lot of career days, where I go into schools and we talk about, what do want to be when you grow up?

The last one I did, they had a well-dressed woman from Disney and she made her 20 minute presentation, and then she was followed by the guy preceding me, who was a SWAT officer, and he was decked out in all of his flak with shields and his wand and all this sort of stuff. And I look at my Golden Retriever and I said, “And that’s who we’re following.”

So we go into the room and I say, you know, “The only thing you have to do is remember three things,” for these kids. One is you have to find something that you really love because you’re making your own statement. You’re making your own input on whatever it is you’re doing in life. Number two, make sure it makes a contribution to the world. And number three, you’ve got to make some money, so that you’re doing it. If people look at life that way, then dog training is just a great role model on how to live.

Dom:     Definitely. Good careers advice there. Fantastic.

Paul:      [crosstalk 00:12:22].

Dom:     Yeah, it was awesome. Paul, you’ve had a busy year. You’ve had a busy 2016. You’ve just released Welcome Home! Paul Owens Ultimate Guide for Newly Adopted Puppies and Dogs. Tell me a bit about … There it is. Fantastic. Tell me a bit about why it’s so important to get off to a great start when you bring home your new puppy, or even adopting a dog.

Paul:      The way I explain it to people, and the reason I came out … this is my fourth DVD, but I think it’s one that kind of addresses the core problem, and first impressions. If a human being walks into a room where there’s a party, and 10 clowns, real clowns, rush up to him and say, “Hey, how’re you doing?” and start pulling on the people, the next time you go in that room, that whole thing about anticipatory response, you’re not going to anticipate something good is going to happen. That memory is already planted.

So because of the power of first impressions with dogs, if people are aware that this is going to have a big impact on their life, the moment the dog comes into that environment, they’re more motivated then to make this the most positive experience that the dog can have. That first impressions thing is a big deal.

Dom:     Definitely, yeah. Definitely. Getting off on the right foot, that’s fantastic.

Paul:      Yeah, that’s exactly it.

Dom:     Paul, if there was something … if you could wave a magic wand and you could get every pet dog owner to do something new with their dog, that they currently aren’t doing, what would it be and why?

Paul:      Breathe.

Dom:     I like it when we get different answers.

Paul:      [crosstalk 00:13:57] human beings are just wonderful. They have intuition. They have the left brain logic, and they have right brain feelings, and they have all the wisdom of their lives, and they never access all that power because they simply go into the situation, they barge right in, and they don’t quote, unquote, “settle themselves first”. They’re not mindful of the environment. They’re not mindful of what they’re doing and how they’re presenting themselves to the dog.

Whether it’s in the teacher training programme that I have, or whether it’s in my group classes, or my private classes, one of the first things I tell people is just take a step back and take a breath, the same thing that mothers have been telling their children for 100 years. Take a step back and take a breath.

That way, the dog feels that, and I give demonstrations where I do a certain breathing exercise and the entire room just calms down, and people can feel it. I always say don’t believe a dog trainer unless you not only can see it, but you can do it yourself. And they do it themselves and that is what centres, that’s what brings all of a person’s power, and dogs can feel that.

Dom:     Yeah. Brilliant. Love it. What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given in your life? Dog related or something else.

Paul:      Yeah, that was my Aunt Angela, some … God, I’m getting old … that was more than 60 years ago. I was like seven years old, and she said, “Paul, be kind and respect everybody you meet, but you never know who or what you have standing in front of you. So you may be kind and respectful but don’t be stupid.”

Dom:     She knew what she was talking about.

Paul:      She really did, yeah.

Dom:     So can you give me an example of how you’ve used that in your personal life or your business?

Paul:      Yeah, and we all do it. If you meet somebody at a party, you’re friendly. If you meet somebody at work, you’re friendly and you’re respectful and you’re kind. But at the same time, you don’t know whether this person, on a microcosmic level, is suffering from a flu and they’re going to sneeze all over you, so you need to protect yourself. But you don’t know whether or not there’s something behind the scenes that this person has a, well, some emotional baggage, and all of a sudden, you get a little bit close to her, and then you realise you’re in an environment with somebody that, you know, maybe I don’t want to be as close to this person.

So, yeah, in real life, again, dog training is a great model for how to live. Be kind and respectful but use the wisdom of your years so that you don’t put yourself in vulnerable situations.

Dom:     Brilliant. I want to, before we finish off, if we’ve got time, I know we’re running out of time, but can you give me, say, three things that you would recommend that new puppy owners or newly adopted dog owners do with their dogs, to help them to bond and connect and to have a great relationship?

Paul:      The most important of all of them is setting up a safe environment where the dog feels safe, where the dog can build confidence and the dog can build trust. That’s number one. And that holds true for human beings, also. Put yourself in an environment where you can grown and you can be safe.

The second one is play. I teach in all my classes, the number one job that you can give your dog is to hunt. If you don’t give your dog a job to do, they become self employed. They become gardeners. They become home decorators. They become fire fighters and they’re putting out all the imaginary fires on your furniture.

So the number one job to give your dog is to hunt, which is play, which is simply find it games. You find it and you throw treats and toys. You find it and you hide treats and toys. You play hide and go seek with your dog, so your dog’s finding you. That is, I have found over all these years, the number one way to build trust and build a bond with your dog.

Dom:     Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Paul, where can-

Paul:      [crosstalk 00:17:51]

Dom:     Who’s this?

Paul:      I was just about to say, my dog just walked in to get her [inaudible 00:17:55]. I’m multitasking.

Dom:     Where can people go to find out more about you then, or to purchase the Welcome Home! DVD

Paul:      Yeah, my website. I’m guessing you’re going to flash that on the screen [crosstalk 00:18:08]-

Dom:     Sure are, yeah.

Paul:      … And so that people don’t get confused about the term, by the way, because it’s been bantered around so much, I always say use your good old common sense. If what you’re watching a professional do does not resonate with you, especially if punishment is being used, go out and find somebody else. Make sure the chemistry is there, and make sure the methods used are what you can resonate with, because different people have different definitions for the word positive.

Dom:     Definitely, yeah. And when you’re not teaching classes or writing books and being interviewed, how does Paul Owens like to chill out and relax?

Paul:      Well, that’s a good question. In the last five or 10 years, I’ve tried to make it a point to go to the movies, like once a month, or at least once a month, but sometimes I do it once a week. And I figured it out, so if you go on the Thursday, Wednesday or Thursday the following week, after the movie has come out, then you’re the only one in the theatre, and I only go to theatres with reclining seats. So it’s a good way to pass the stress, like if the movie’s bad I can fall asleep, if the movie’s good I can just sit there and eat popcorn.

Dom:     Brilliant. Paul, I’ve really, really enjoyed speaking to you. I would love to get you on the show again sometime, if you’re up for it. I just want to thank you again for your time and I wish you all the best.

Paul:      Dom, thank you very much. You’ve been a pleasure.

Dom:     You’re welcome. Take care, my friend.

So, Alex the video guy?

Alex:      Yes, Dom.

Dom:     How awesome was that?

Alex:      That was really cool. I really enjoyed that one.

Dom:     What a cool fellow, right?

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     We had a few technical issues, didn’t we, getting synced up with the Skype, but yeah, brilliant. So Paul’s website, again, is I would highly recommend you check it out. He’s got some cool DVDs, some book, all kinds of things for you to buy on there.

Alex:      Absolutely.

Dom:     Yeah, so, and thanks to Denise O’Moore, as well, for putting me in touch with Paul, who was on the podcast, I think it was episode 45, I think Denise was on, or maybe 46. But Denise also put me in touch with Kelly Dunbar. Kelly Gorman Dunbar, who is going to be the guest on next week’s show, Alex.

Alex:      Handy stuff. Excellent.

Dom:     Somebody else who we had technical issues with, as well. I’m sure it’s going to be much easier for us to just fly all over the world and meet these people in person.

Alex:      Sounds like a good excuse to me, to do that, yeah.

Dom:     Yeah, yeah. Not sure we’ve got the budget yet, seeing as how we still don’t have a show sponsor.

Alex:      No.

Dom:     What are these people playing at. What do want from us? Do you want blood?

Alex:      Well, at least this week we have a van.

Dom:     That is true.

Alex:      We’ve got all this space.

Dom:     Yeah, yeah. We’re not relegated to the video-mobile.

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     So thanks for watching, everybody. If you want to learn more about how to have more fun with your dog, and more control as well, then you should check out my bestselling book, How to be Your Dog’s Superhero, which is available on Amazon, on Audible, and you can also get it from the Kindle store, too. Or if you go to, you can get a signed copy from me and I’ll also send you a free gift, as well.

And if you are a pet business owner and you want to learn more how to have more fun in your business and make more money too, then you should go to and you can get a copy of this, and I’ve got loads of other stuff for you there, as well. You can sign up for my free daily emails, and I will entertain and educate you in the ways of dog training and pet business owning. How does that sound?

Alex:      The force in the dog world.

Dom:     The ways of the force.

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     Why didn’t I think of that? You geeks.

Alex:      Nerd.

Dom:     So thanks for watching, boys and girls, and thank you, Alex the video guy.

Alex:      No problem. Thanks, Dom.

Dom:     And if we don’t see you through the week, we’ll see you through the window.


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Dom Hodgson