Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
Friday, July 2, 2021
Why am I so keen on helping dogs and people with anxiety to live a happy life together?
I want to tell you a bit of my back story. It comes with a trigger warning for domestic and sexual abuse, panic attacks and PTSD.
I talked to a person I know on Facebook earlier about a really dark time in my life.
I was in my 20s, a lonely single mother, and had had bad experiences with various people throughout my life. I found myself falling in with the wrong crowd and ended up in a domestic violence situation.
It was horrible. I was separated from my family and all but a select few friends, and I was too blind to see it happening until it was too late.
I was abused in the most awful ways, and I turned to addiction after addiction to help me cope.
I found the strength to walk away from the abusive situation after a few years, but it left me with many struggles.
I was afraid of my own shadow and had developed panic attacks.
I felt worthless and had lost all my confidence.
I eventually managed to give up my addictions with the help of my earth angels but felt like the whole world was watching me in disgust regardless.
I was ashamed to be in my own skin; the guilt I felt for what my children had been through was unbearable.
I had no real friends apart from the two I had been allowed to see.
My family barely spoke to me.
My children were struggling.
My dear darling Ruby, a Labrador who was perfect in every way, had witnessed the entire period and all the horror that came with it. She never did like men very much but had become my best friend.
That dog saved me from me so many times.
But I found doing anything for her so very scary.
I could barely speak to people, and when I did, I had become a stuttering mess.
So I hated it when I had to communicate with vets or people in the pet shop.
She was a prolific puller, and I thought people were looking at us while I tried to walk her.
So for a long time, she did not get walked, and her claws grew really long, but I was too nervous about approaching a groomer about it to actually get them trimmed. After all – they were bound to think I didn’t deserve such a lovely dog.
There were so many things I wish I had done differently for that beautiful dog.
My one comfort is that for several years before she passed, I had already begun an ongoing journey of learning to manage my PTSD and my anxiety. When I got Moo, my Tibetan Terrier x Cavalier my life was incredibly different.
He has never known anything except love.
But you see, he struggled with poor health, to the point the poor boy was vomiting and passing blood daily and was so underweight and clinically anorexic that it broke my heart. His behaviour was fearful and aggressive, and I was so afraid people were going to blame me. After all – what was I thinking, getting another dog, when I clearly couldn’t look after myself or the family I already had? (Despite the fact I was doing so, and quite well – I just could not see it.)
There was talk of putting him to sleep.
But I was determined to get something right for once, and I set about learning how to help him.
I was so scared – it is terrifying, thinking about learning new things and meeting new people. But I had to do it.
And that changed my life.
From there, I learned about canine behaviour, developed a passion for it, got qualified and started working with dogs with all kinds of struggles through my Locke’s Dogs – Behaviourist & Trainer business.
But there was still that nagging part in my brain that said I am not good enough. I was getting great results with the dogs, but it didn’t feel like I was doing enough.
And I worked out why.
After leaving Moo with my daughter, who also has anxiety, for a week, I realised that I needed to be helping BOTH ends of the lead. I needed to reach out to anxious dog owners as well as their dogs.
I KNOW that a happy life can be had together.
So Fun Not Fear® was born.
If you need help with your dog’s issues but your anxiety has stopped you in the past, we can help.
Get in touch.
Saturday, June 5, 2021
If I sound judgemental – tough.
I have had too many people moaning lately about how their dog is being an inconvenience, and I am done being friendly about it.
I am not talking about if you are ill and can't help not being 100% for a few days. That is different.
I am not talking about if you have genuine struggles and are willing to seek help – that actually makes you a good human for your dog, and I would love to work with you to help you resolve this.
But, instead, I am talking of people who ignore their dog day in, day out.
Who expect them to lay quietly, sleep, eat, sleep and never so much as bark in between, being a good little robot while their human flits about doing whatever humans do.
Who forget that a little fluffy person has been looking forward to being with them all day.
The only attention these dogs get is when they are being told to go and lay down, be quiet, get down, hurry up, and so on. What fun is that in life?
Don't ignore your dog.
It's not complicated.
You wouldn't routinely ignore your child. Your dog has most of the same feelings and emotions as a two to a three-year-old child, and if you try ignoring one of those for too long, then you are going to find yourself regretting it reasonably quickly.
There is a saying. "Your dog is part of your life, but you are your dog's whole life". And you are. Imagine if the love of your life couldn't be bothered anymore, no matter what you say or do. Humans get very upset when it is done to them. What makes them think their dog feels any differently?
Too many people play with their new dog or puppy, the novelty wears off, and then they are bored of their dog. Or they have got new hours at work, or something in life has changed slightly, and now they have less time for their dog.
Their living, breathing, thinking, feeling dog.
Their dog, who spends all their time wishing their human still played with them, still got their tuggy toys out, still gave them belly rubs and took them to lovely places and rolled around on the floor playing kissy-face or whatever they used to enjoy doing.
And then these same people wonder why their dogs start to display "problem" behaviours when they are bored.
And yes – I get that you have been to work and you are tired. That the kids played up, and it's been a long day. Guess what? It's been a long day for your dog, too, sitting around bored and missing you… and 15 minutes of your time spent playing, having fun and showing them you care might do you both some good.
You made a commitment when you got your dog to look after them, love them and be their human. Just because you have had a shit day or your situation has changed slightly does not mean that you should emotionally neglect your dog.
And quite frankly, some enrichment, a walk or even just 20 mins playing with the ball down the garden will more than likely mean they are happy enough to let you have a rest afterwards anyway. So why not spend that time curled up on the sofa with them instead of telling them to get down?
After all – you are their human, and any time spent with you brings them great joy.
Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas and Lockdowns.
Friday, June 4, 2021
Is your dog not behaving as expected? Has their behaviour gotten worse or changed?
Have you been told to walk them more often?
Are you finding this is not working?
You are walking more than all your friends with their dogs, but seemingly not getting any better behaviour…
Well, the good news is that no longer do good trainers tell owners that walking more is the answer to all their prayers - in fact, sometimes it could be making things worse.
A dog with many triggers may find walks very stressful, and the walks could be making things worse.
A dog in pain may be finding the pain exacerbated by the walking, and so the walks could be making things worse.
A dog with allergies may find more allergens in the environment when they're outside, and so the walks could be making things worse.
A dog with overgrown claws could be finding walks very uncomfortable, and so the walks could be making things worse.
A dog who is very tired, and not sleeping properly at night, may require rest rather than exercise, and so the walks could be making things worse.
All you will get is a dog who still exhibits these behaviours but is now also very fit.
If your dog is struggling with their walks, the first thing you should do is stop the hikes and do something your dog enjoys instead.
Then, consult your vet and make sure pain is not an issue.
Then, call in a qualified behaviourist who will help you to determine what it is about the walks that your dog is not enjoying.
A good behaviourist will never use aversive methods, shock collars, punishment or anything the dog doesn't like. Instead, they will work with you and your dog to make things better for your dog. So be that on the walk or otherwise.
If you need help or your dog is not enjoying walks, please do get in touch. We can help.
Monday, April 26, 2021
One thing we have discovered, over the course of lockdown, is how bloody fantastically dog behaviour cases respond to virtual help.
The dog doesn't have to be faced with a new trainer, or place in order to get started with their training. This is massive for fearful dogs.
Puppies can learn in a more suitable environment than the local village hall, or a class where they are rammed in with 5 other puppies all teaching each other exactly how not to behave. Granted - some puppy classes are very good at not allowing the puppies to have a free for all, where they learn the exact opposite of appropriate behaviour, but even then, the distraction during the lesson from the other families, the other puppies and dogs, is massive. Where would you learn better? In a cosy place at home where you can relax and concentrate, or in the local nightclub with noise pounding and lots of other people dancing and jumping around? It is the same for dogs.
Dog-dog socialisation is much more carefully managed, so when done right leads to much less reactivity. If each dog your puppy meets is one that you know will provide a healthy and happy experience for your dog, and they are then not forced to spend an hour in each other's company with a pile of other dogs in a training class, then your puppy will have a more healthy and happy attitude towards other dogs in general.
The dog with separation anxiety can't be helped so effectively if their human and a trainer are still in the room, or even the house once you get to a certain stage in their recovery - but if they have their own zoom meeting camera, the human, the trainer can all assess remotely how the dogs are doing and this in turn helps the dogs to become desensitised to being alone as it takes the guess work out of what is going on in their human's absence.
The humans can have recordings of all of their lessons as well as all the links to resources that they need - so training can be watched at leisure, and rewatched some more.
Training can be from specialist trainers all over the world - no longer does the local trainer need to be a jack of all trades when it comes to training your dog. You can now find niche trainers who specialise in your dog's exact problems at the click of a button. Going digital, and finding a worldwide market has given trainers the opportunity to find aspects of training that they are excellent at, and they can then pass this knowledge on to you.
Locke's Dogs for example, has a real affinity for humans or dogs with anxiety, and we have now set up our business to have an arm specialising in this area, so that anxiety prone dog/human partnerships can access specialist help with both of their struggles.
You can train, any time, in any place as your trainer will always be there with you, on your phone screen or any other device - so no need to miss classes ever - and if you do, you can easily catch up again by watching playback of lessons.
It is also better for the environment as there is no need to be driving cars around to sessions, or printing off reams of literature,
There is also none of the "he does it perfectly for the trainer" scenario, where the trainer has their mechanics just right, has the dog doing exactly what is being asked of them, and then when the trainer disappears the dog behaves as usual for their human - their human IS the trainer now!!
There are so many advantages to digital and virtual training. The big schools that teach other trainers as well as dogs, like absoluteDOGS or The ISCP have been teaching online for years. There is a reason for that!
Covid-19 rules mean we are very limited in how we can interact physically with the dogs in the sessions anyway - so it makes no real difference if we are there in person, apart from serving as a distraction to the dog.
Locke's Dogs has even started their own online school, Fun Not Fear®, as a result of realising how much we love digital training. We still do 121 in person, but we limit this now to a ten mile radius of Newmarket as we really don't think that there are any advantages to in person training any more.
Slowly the clients are also catching on and realising that digital is best for them and their dogs too!