On Monday 9th September, Sunderland-born dog trainer Dom Hodgson is heading off on his bike to take part in the first ever Tour de Rescue. Over four days, he’ll be cycling 200 miles and visiting 15 rescue centres to raise awareness of the work done by local rescue volunteers, and the amazing dogs they re-home.
The Tour starts in Alnwick, visiting SHAK Sanctuary and Alexa’s Animals, before moving South to Bryson’s Animal Shelter in Gateshead and across to Morgans Rescue in Alston, Cumbria. Dom will then cycle through Yorkshire, before concluding the Tour in North Wales on the 12th. At each location, there will be a charity event evening where local dog trainers will share their best training advice about rescue dogs.
Last summer, the RSPCA saw an 85% increase in dogs getting handed over, and investigated a staggering total of 130,000 cruelty complaints. Speaking to Dom about his motivation for the Tour, it’s clear to see that this is an issue he holds close to his heart – ‘I’ve always had passion for rescue dogs as I've owned three myself, so I know that they can make amazing family pets if they’re given the structure and routine they need.’
After giving up his job in 2011 to begin walking rescue dogs at his local shelter, Dom became a professional dog trainer and has written two books designed to help make dog training as easy as possible for pet dog owners.
Merging this passion with another of his – cycling – The Tour de Rescue is something he’s always dreamt of doing, especially so close to home – ‘I’ve always wanted to do a tour of Britain or France but couldn't justify spending so much time away from my family and business. The Tour allows me to get on my bike and raise awareness, and hopefully some money, for rescue dogs and the amazing people who volunteer at the centres in my home region.’
As part of the Tour, Dom will be hosting seminar-style talks at each of the shelters he visits alongside five other speakers, sharing training tips and personal stories in the hope of helping those thinking about getting a rescue dog.
‘I regularly speak at events all over the UK so I’ve pulled together all my dog training connections to do a seminar at each location. I hope these talks will raise money and also create a fantastic resource to help those thinking about getting a rescue dog, or even those who are struggling with their dog. We are also doing a big raffle at each event with fantastic prizes donated from local businesses.’
The money raised from each seminar will be split between the rescues Dom visits that day – which in the Northern leg will be SHAK sanctuary and Alexa’s Animals in Alnwick, Bryson’s Animal Shelter in Gateshead, and Morgans Rescue in Alston.
Having been cycling three times a week for the past three months, and practicing sitting on the bike for four hour stretches (ouch), Dom feels well prepared for his mammoth journey and hopes it will inspire others.
‘I'm not naive enough to think it's going to completely end the problem of dogs ending up in rescues, but I really hope it helps more dogs stay with their owners and out of rescue centres. Many people think rescue dogs are damaged goods and too difficult to train, but they just need the right kind of care – I want to take away the stigma.’