Wantage Literary Festival has lots of lovely highlights to enjoy between 21st October & 4th November, including Graeme Hall. Liz Nicholls asked him a few questions…
Q. Hello Graeme! You have great energy on telly… Are you naturally bouncy & positive or do you have to work on this?
“I think it’s the way I am. Some days more than others, like everyone. I love what I do though, so I’m sure that helps.
Q. If you were a dog, what kind would you be?
“My partner says I’m a boxer. She says because ‘I’m silly and loveable’. She missed out handsome… and modest. Obvs :)”
Q. And if you could live as any breed of dog in any home or environment, what would you choose!?
“A Boxer dog in my partner’s house before we met. I’m not saying he’s spoilt, but…”
Q. I’ve read that you became a dog-lover in your 40s & weren’t raised in a doggie house – is this true?
“Yes and no. I’ve always loved dogs but mum and dad were busy working people so it was always deemed it wouldn’t be fair on the dog. It took me a few years before the conditions were right for me to have my own.”
Q. What lessons do you think lockdown taught us about our relationships with our dogs?
“We have a generation of dogs affected by a lack of socialisation at a key period of their development. The evidence suggests we may not have seen the worst of this yet. So the key message for the future reiterates what experts have said for a long time: you can not over-stress the importance of early socialisation.”
Q. Are you surprised by your career pivot & what would the young Graeme say about it?
“I’m sure young Graeme would be surprised I ended up as a dog trainer because when I left uni I didn’t even own a dog. That said, I’ve always believed there are times to think with your head and times to think with your heart. I chose a university course with my heart, and I chose a new career path because it’s something I was passionate about. It wasn’t necessarily sensible some might say, but so far it’s working out well for me.”
Q. And you are so in demand – do people accost you much when you’re out and about?
“Rarely a day goes by that somebody doesn’t stop me in the street to share some kind words. It’s a privilege, how often do most of us have strangers compliment us on our work? Perhaps it should be more common for everyone! I once got asked if I wear tweed to bed (I don’t, for the record).”
Q. We are a nation of dog-lovers. What cliche would like to quash to help us all to be better dog parents?
” ‘A waggy tail means a happy dog’. Often, yes but not always: a waggy tail is a sign of excitement and not all flavours of excitement are happy ones. A tail that’s wagging attached to a dog who is bouncy and flopping is usually a good sign (I call it whole body wag).
A rigid dog, looking through the corner of his eye with a slowly swishing tail might be something to be wary of, depending on the dog.”
Q. Do you genuinely believe you can help ‘any dog, any age, any problem’?
“Help, yes. Perform a miraculous transformation, not always. But even now after thousands of cases I’m still surprised what you can do, even in a short time”
Q. What’s your favourite book?
“Surprisingly perhaps it’s not about dogs. I’m currently reading a book about Donald Campbell, the world land and water speed record holder. He’s a special interest of mine.”
Q. What’s the most common mistake owners make when it comes to their dogs?
“Forgetting to praise them when they’re good.”
Q. Were you always well dressed & interested in style?
“I think I was. My mum has a black and white photo of me somewhere as a toddler wearing a suit for a special occasion. It’s hard to tell, but it looks as though it may have been tweed.”
Q. Is there any useful gadget or bit of dog kit that you couldn’t be without?
“The made-to-measure dog box for the car. It keeps the dogs safe, secure and comfortable. I covered over 200,000 miles with my last one. And it doesn’t rattle. Happy days!”
Q. Finally, if you could make one wish for the world, what would it be?
“Maybe we could learn a lesson from dogs. They famously live in the moment and don’t hold a grudge. The world would be a better place if we were all like that, don’t you think…?
Book your tickets (£15/£10 students) for Graeme Hall in Conversation with Lin Lawson, 8pm on Friday, 3rd November, at The Beacon. Visitors will be able to enjoy ‘The Dog Father’ and presenter of Channel 5’s smash hit show Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly at Wantage Literary Festival for a second year. Hear Graeme’s hilarious and heart-warming stories of training dogs all over the country, and get the opportunity to ask him anything about your beloved canine friend. Book your tickets for this & more at Wantage Literary Festival.