Interview with Lauren Langman of Absolute Dogs
You are a co-founder of Absolute Dogs, the online training program that is games-based and solution-focused. How did this endeavor begin?
You know, the truth is, dogs have ALWAYS been my passion. My mind is forever buzzing with ideas on how I can take dog training to another level, both for dogs I’m so lucky to share my life with and for every other dog out there that needs some help to live their best life. Dogs have always been a part of my world—I sought them out.
At first, I fell into the trap of trying to force myself to fit into the conventional paths in life. I took a degree in Law, to meet expectations passed down to me by my family and from seeing a childhood friend’s life (whose father was a lawyer). I’d convinced myself that Law would enable me to create the country living lifestyle I’d so wanted to be my reality. It was interesting, for sure, but it never made my heart sing and I couldn’t help myself but to keep dog training the whole way through! My beloved naughty but nice Border Collie, “Poppy,” was my super pal during that time and I was training her at every opportunity, and all over campus! Even then I was committed and creative in my approach
In the end, after acing my degree and trying out a few other potential careers such as being an English teacher, my passion finally became so strong that it overpowered any concerns I had about following this dream. To live my best life, to REALLY be me, I had no choice. This is a lesson I am determined to pass on to my daughter and all my students: Don’t waste time fighting what your heart is screaming to you. If you know what lights you up and makes you so excited for the next day to begin, you are lucky. You are one of the one percent who know what they want to do with their life. You have so much to give. Don’t deny the world, or yourself, the amazing impact you could create.
It took some time and a lot of hard work (I started my business in a back garden that felt like it was on a 45-degree angle slope!), but now I run what’s likely the largest dog training center in the UK, training seven days a week. We discovered and purchased our immense property through appearing on a British TV programme called “Relocation, Relocation” and we have transformed it from quite a barren site with many dilapidated buildings to a state-of-the-art dog training facility with a 70-metre arena surfaced with artificial grass, water treadmill, heated pool, four on-site holiday cottages (and another three off-site) for our students, filming and podcast recording studios… the list goes on and on!
Another of the Absolute Dogs co-creators, Tom Mitchell, first came to my business, Devon Dogs, with his gorgeous Poodle “Illy” for dog training. The more we worked together, the more I laughed. We talked and realised we were both nurturing big ideas on the ways we could steer dog training into a much kinder, more transformative, science-based trajectory. We knew we were on the same wavelength, buzzing with energy and passion to make this happen. We started filming together and the rest is history. Absolute Dogs was born, reaching millions of owners all around the world! It has just gotten better and better, including the launch of A-OK9, innovating premium-quality dog health supplements protecting dogs from a market flooded with inferior products, and inventing new solutions. We have SO much fun.
Can you tell us a bit about the program? How does it differ from traditional training methods? Are there any similarities?
Our purpose, our mission, is to ensure that NO dog and NO relationship is lost. Our students tell us the most important gift we give them is hope. Because without hope, how can you find the fight to try? Our students KNOW that we will be by their side throughout their journey, and let’s be honest, every owner should realize (and be excited by!) the fact that training is never done. You are your dog’s advocate, their teacher, their guardian through life and any challenges they may face, and the one who can open doors to joyful and fulfilling life experiences for them too. It’s a privilege to hold their paw through life and support them through reward- and games-based concept training to live their BEST life!
The biggest thing that separates us from traditional methods is that we have realized the power of training for the situation rather than in the situation. Let’s take a dog who wants to chase squirrels—one approach could be to yank the dog’s lead every time they go to chase. (What are you going to do when the dog’s off-lead?) Another might be to try and tempt your dog to come away with you by offering them a handful of treats. (Are you actually managing to be sexier than that squirrel?)
These approaches tend to fall flat on their face as you have not really taught the dog anything or empowered them to make better choices. You’ve just used a tool to try and intimidate and control in a setup that won’t help you when the dog’s off-lead, or you’ve tried to compete with the thrill of chasing a squirrel with a few dog treats—not happening!
Instead, why not set your dog up for success by gifting them the skills they need to make the right choice BEFORE you put them in a situation where they need that knowledge? Would you ask a kindergarten student to complete their university degree with flying colors? Would you blame and punish the kindergarten student when they failed? Let’s give our dogs the opportunity to play super fun games that re-shape their brain, growing the ability to disengage from temptations and see value in having proximity to us, before we ask them to choose interacting with us over the temptation of chasing that fluffy tail!
By taking a little time to show your dog that you can offer them experiences even more rewarding than scoffing the half-eaten hamburger or racing after the neighbor’s cat, and building a reflex ability to disengage from distractions that previously made their ears switch off, you have given them the gift to navigate the world more safely and you have invested in their relationship with you. We want dogs to have plenty of opportunities to “be a dog” AND we want to ensure that they stay safe and realize that WE are the gateway to all good things.
At its heart we have safe online communities of thousands of knowledgeable and loving Gamechangers who are always eager to support each other with encouragement, sharing their own experiences of what has worked for them and, most importantly of all, to celebrate the wins that other people in the owner’s life might not even recognize. When you become part of our community, you will always have a kind and knowledgeable shoulder to lean on.
We are very proud to say, it is not an exaggeration that this way of training transforms (and in some cases, even saves) the lives of countless dogs. And let’s remember the difference that it makes to the owners’ lives too. Some people come to us in a dark and desperate state having had their lives turned upside down by their dog’s behavior; the difference that games-based concept training makes to their dogs empowers them to get their lives back on track too! Plus, we train passionate Gamechangers to become Pro Dog Trainers so that they can help us create a wave of change all around the globe. And there is SO much more… this is just scratching the surface. Whatever the struggle, there is ALWAYS a game for that!
How does Absolute Dogs inspire handlers to work through specific struggles to achieve success? What are some of the rewards?
One of the most powerful motivators for our students is actually our online communities. It’s all too easy to watch a video of me doing a demo with one of our dogs and say, “Well, obviously they can do it. They’re an experienced trainer with a working breed dog. It’ll never work for Susie Smith with her Heinz 57.” Our communities are our spokespeople, our testimonials, our proof of what can be achieved. Students quickly find themselves wanting to become ambassadors of this way of training. By sharing their own success stories and ideas on which games and resources to tap into with anyone having a bad day, a beautiful cycle of gifting empowers even more transformations.
Then there’s the fact that the training journey itself is rewarding. To see your dog tackle a fear that’s been holding them back, to see their tail wagging and no longer cowering in the corner—that’s immensely rewarding. To have your dog ask you to pet them when you thought you had no relationship—makes you melt at the knees! To walk your reactive dog past another dog and pay it no notice whatsoever! Why wouldn’t you want to keep going—achieve more, knocking through every barrier you can to achieve your dog-owning dreams? We help our owners THRIVE rather than struggle and firefight.
Our rewards are all about experiences—eating a piece of kibble is an experience, but not a particularly thrilling one! What if instead we bowled that piece of kibble along the floor for them to chase, or asked them to catch it as we throw it into the air? A lot more exciting, right? We love to incorporate toy play when it’s appropriate too (we’re always keeping an eye on their arousal level!) and we teach our students to observe their dog, see what makes them light up, what “reward experiences” do they create for themselves?
Do you have a terrier that’s always disappearing to hunt down rabbits? Let’s flip that around and give them the opportunity to hunt you down—play a game of hide and seek! Suddenly they’re keeping an eye out for where you are all the time without you even needing to recall them! Or maybe your dog loves to swim and can be difficult to get back on-lead at home time—recall your dog, clip on the lead, unclip again and, as a reward, cue them to go for a dip! Now they’re learning that recalling and going back on-lead doesn’t automatically mean the fun’s over. The possibilities are endless and we encourage our students to have as wide a range of reward experiences as possible—after all, variety is the spice of life and we want you to stay sexy!
Is mindset important when it comes to dog training? Is it essential to “dream big?”
Yeah, it’s massive. Mindset is everything! Absolute Dogs coaches this better than any other dog training company. We coach people as much as we do dogs. We cheerlead and encourage each other—no dream is too big. It is a very special place. If you ask most dog trainers, they will tell you that their business is actually 90 percent training humans, not dogs! At Absolute Dogs, we know the formulas that will get our owners real-life results. Our methods are VERY tried and tested. We know the training will work. The key to making the transformations happen is imparting that knowledge to our students in an engaging and accessible way and, most importantly, supporting the owner to feel capable, positive, gritty, resilient, and flexible.
When someone owns a dog, they are part of a partnership and it can be all too easy to forget about the other end of the lead. This is a big mistake as, without providing coaching to both parties, you will always be left with an imbalance and real-life results will likely stay beyond reach. Often, our students realize that in reality they too are built from their strengths and from their room for growth in all the many concepts, and sometimes we will only truly be able to become the best owner we can be for our dog by working on our own growth too.
For example, if you’re really struggling with your tolerance for frustration and, so, end up shouting at your dog every time they make a bad choice, you are making a withdrawal from your relationship bank account every single time—and you are distancing yourself from achieving your goals. By understanding why your dog’s behaving the way it is, that it hasn’t yet been gifted with the skills it needs to make better choices, and instead, make an effort to focus on supporting your dog to learn rather than getting upset and frustrated, you are already well on your way.
When you know better, you do better. AND you grow as a person. A roadblock is just the potential for a creative solution. We highlight to our students to be wary of placing labels on their dog like, “beyond hope.” These can become self-fulfilling prophecies; sometimes, the reality is that it’s we who are standing in the way of their progress.
Right at the beginning of their journey, we ask our students to write down their Powerful Why and keep it somewhere safe. Envisioning this is so powerful in manifesting and unlocking amazing results. There may be a few slight tweaks to what the final picture looks like, but we’re passionate that you WILL achieve your dreams. We help our students to have faith in their dog and themselves, and dream BIG!
Are there mental and emotional “tools” that can be utilized during a competition?
Absolutely! Having a really brilliant dog groom and rock with me, my fiancé, Matt, is a massive support both practically and emotionally. Training myself to be able to block out the crazy, busy, buzzing environment so that I can focus on the task, visualize exactly how I will tackle the course, and manifest the belief that we could definitely be the ones taking that trophy home has been a Gamechanger for me.
You need to know how to talk yourself into something (rather than out of something) and how to tell yourself all the reasons why you’re going to SMASH this (rather than list out your fears and concerns). You know you’ve done the absolute best prep work that you can and have worked on constructive criticism, now’s the time to be your own cheerleader!
I find the dog I’m competing with also gives me emotional backup. (Who doesn’t feel brighter after soaking up some love from their beloved pup?) Think about why you’re there, what’s your Powerful Why for wanting to do this? Be conscious about the language you use—even when talking to yourself! It’s positive and energizing language ONLY that’s going to fuel the best mental and emotional state around the event.
Be intentional about what you give your focus and energy to—it’s just as important what we feed our mind as it is what we feed our belly. The diet that you allow into your mind is going to have a massive impact on how you feel. Protect and shield your well-being from things that don’t help you.
Drink LOTS of water. It’s so important for physical and mental well-being. And make sure you schedule in time to rest—even when you enjoy something, it can still be very physically and mentally draining. Set yourself up for success!
You’ve been a competitor at CRUFTS for several years now. What’s it like to compete on such a public stage?
Oh, you should have seen me a few years ago! I used to feel quite physically sick, rushing to the bathroom, generally dreading it! This was such a shame as I’ve always worked so hard to get on that magic green carpet—just qualifying is a MASSIVE accomplishment in itself which requires winning competitions all around the country.
By letting my nerves get the better of me, I was cheating myself of the well-earned joy you should get to experience competing at one of the most prestigious events in the world. And to be honest, those nerves likely affected our performance too—so we all have double the reason to tackle this struggle!
Learn to embrace it and love it. Be grateful for the opportunity. We have a saying that we pass on to every student: Vow to experience excitement, not overwhelm! You’d be surprised how similar those emotions often are. I was feeling overwhelmed because I cared so much, it was incredibly important to me. But if I’d just reframed my thinking a little, I was actually EXCITED! You get so much more out of the experience when you can control your mindset. Get excited and seek it out; this is thrilling, exciting, energizing! Crave it, rather than dread it! This is actually something you REALLY want.
Now I cannot wait to race back onto that stage every single year—I can’t get enough! It’s 100 percent one of my biggest highlights of the year.
Can you tell us about the dogs you’ve taken to CRUFTS? What have been some of the struggles you’ve overcome? What are some of the victories you’ve celebrated?
I’m so proud that we (and I say we because it is a whole amazing team that’s behind us, helping to make this happen each year) have taken many different dogs to compete at Crufts. We have won the Championship at Crufts, won the Crufts singles event, won the ABC (Anything But Collie) event, and we’ve also won the teams event. I am mega-proud, and I have also been runner-up a lot—that’s all part of the process of growing and fine-tuning, experimenting and perfecting.
It’s also important to remember that we’re working with living beings, not robots. We all have off days! And actually, some of my most proud moments have been when I’ve competed with some tough dogs who don’t necessarily find being in such an overwhelming environment super easy, and yet we’ve been a brilliant team and I KNOW they have given me their absolute max. That is a massive victory and worth even more to me than a trophy. I’m SO proud of them and pleased for them. To be able to leave knowing that you couldn’t have done any better, that you attacked the challenge on every level that you could, is just the greatest feeling. You always go home with the best dog!
Your daughter, Eliza, made her CRUFTS debut this year. How did she do?
I can’t tell you how proud I am of Eliza. The night before the competition, she actually told me she knew she was going to win! Her empowered words and air of calm confidence showed me she really is growing into the emancipated young woman that I have always tried to support her into becoming. Too often, women struggle to have faith in their abilities, and believe me, this girl is talented and has reason to feel confident!
I will do everything I can to show her, both through modeling it myself and teaching her, that she has every right to explore the absolute heights of her talents and interests and to not let anything, including her own internal monologue, hold her back.
She is a natural dog trainer and it showed on the green carpet. My girl won! She SMASHED it, winning Young Kennel Club Crufts 2023 Jumping at just 11 years old. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.
Is dog training a family affair? Are there other family members who train and compete?
For sure! Eliza got the Agility bug from a very young age. She adores animals and couldn’t wait to get involved in the fun. And my fiancé, Matt, has also competed in Agility at Crufts. He is a brilliant trainer but doesn’t quite have the same passion for competing as I have. Both Eliza and Matt are involved in training our dogs—we all live and breathe dogs, morning, noon, and night!
In your opinion, can dog training positively impact a handler’s personal and professional relationships? Does it offer lessons on communication, compromise, and commitment?
Unquestionably! Dogs are great levellers. If you need help to live in the moment, spend time with a dog! They’re a fantastic reason to get out into nature and take a breather. They can help you get fit, especially in regards to competing. I actually decided I needed to take a long hard look at my physical health if I was serious about wanting to win. My dogs were, for sure, more fit than me! I needed to keep up with them!
They always know when you need them. I have to ashamedly admit that very few things will get me off my phone (I’m a workaholic!) except my dogs. They enable me (force me!) to step away from work and re-fuel.
When you compete at this level, you have to commit to training. The only time I take off is when I’m away on holiday. My grit and resilience have grown, for sure. I’ve always been determined to achieve my dreams, but you can always push a bit harder, reach a little higher.
Dogs positively impact everything. Just the other day, it had already been a pretty intense morning and the day wasn’t over yet! Matt suggested we take the dogs for a walk together and he was 100 percent right. The act of taking the dogs for a walk gave us some decompression time, a chance to connect with each other, and it meant that we were ready to tackle whatever else the day held, as a team.
Even in the office, our dogs pretty much moonlight as therapy dogs! Whenever a dog enters a room, they change the energy in the space. This week, my charming Border Collie, “Tokyo,” popped in to visit my staff to crack some smiles and get everyone in the right head space to smash out their work. It’s no secret what a difference the love of a dog can make, and I am so, so, so grateful to share my life with dogs who love me. I always invest a lot in earning their trust and developing a strong relationship, and when you reap the fruits of that your heart just bursts!
Outside of Absolute Dogs, dog training, and parenthood, do you have time for anything else? What do you do when you’re not working, training, or competing?
I LOVE horse(back) riding and hacking on the moors, and spending time at the beach with my family, horses, and dogs. There’s little that soothes my soul more than experiencing the majesty of the sea—it really does bring me harmony and at the same time supercharges my batteries, ready for the next challenge!
I have to admit that I am obsessed with spending time in spas! A little pampering does a world of good! Fitness and general health have become increasingly important to me, especially after seeing my Dad diagnosed with terminal cancer, and more and more I’m trying to eat right and spend time on my Peloton bike. I also have a physical therapist I like working with. Matt gets involved too. I want to help my whole family live the longest, best-quality
I love studying (both dog training and life in general). We have a saying, if your teacher doesn’t have a teacher, get a new teacher! Running Bowerland (the site of my Devon Dogs business) and our holiday cottages is a full-time job in itself, and I adore renovating and titivating the cottages, discovering little enchanting touches to add and finding every opportunity to bring smiles to our
I will never stop motivating myself to pursue the path of self-improvement. It’s so, so, so important to always think, “How can I get more out of life, how can I give more in life?” I’m determined to squeeze the maximum joy and productivity I can out of every day.
I just love speakers like Brendon Burchard, Tony Robbins, and Brené Brown, and positive, science-based dog trainers like Zak George. I read books and magazines and listen to podcasts which offer me ideas I respect on business and life. Never stand still, always keep evolving into the best version of you. That is my ethos.
What’s next for Lauren? Do you have a dream that is yet unrealized?
I will live somewhere hot near a beach someday; not right now, but I have it in my sights! I want to travel a bit more, there is so much beauty and inspiration out there just waiting to
I LOVE coaching people. This is something I have been doing for years now for private clients, alongside the coaching elements in our dog training businesses, and I want to take it even further. I’m building the picture of what that looks like and I’m SO excited.
In my crazy schedule, the work where I have the opportunity to stop and connect with someone on a really personal basis, listen to them and support them to overcome the obstacles in their way, feels so meaningful. And I just love interviewing inspiring people for our podcast, like Justin Prust, so we can capture their wisdom and share it with the whole world.
I want to move the needle, make my heart beat faster, raise
The things that make my heart sing even higher—I want to do more of that.
Take the leap… fate will catch you.