Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Bella's Noise Phobia

This week I was happy to meet Bella, a new client with noise phobia.

How do we treat noise phobia?

Well first, we have to be sure all the dog's other needs are being met - as with ALL behavioural programs, and we do this by way of a behavioural consultation, which can throw up all kinds of things we may not have previously thought of.

Then, we help the dog to feel comfortable with any equipment we are using - in this case a snuffle box with various items in it.

We slowly added things to the snuffle box, creating layers of sound from rustling paper right up to banging pots and pans, and we did it very gradually, waiting for Bella to be comfortable with each layer of sound before adding in a new item.

It is super important not to rush this, the dog must be comfortable and "under threshold" at all times.
We then, extremely quietly, began adding in a layer of sound external to the snufflebox, so not under the Bella's control.

The sounds we chose were all based on fireworks and thunder as these were the problem sounds for Bella. There are many useful videos on You Tube of lots of different noises that can be played through a surround sound system, or a sound bar.

While Bella was happily rooting around, making noises of her own in the snuffle box, and rewarding herself with treats and goodies, she was also becoming very gradually exposed to these new noises at a level she could cope with, and enjoying herself while doing so.

It is important to keep sessions like this quite short, and very relaxed and to also be able to read the dog's body language so you can see if at any point the dog is beginning to show any kind of discomfort.

Desensitisation is to be done very gradually over many sessions.

It is also important to avoid exposure to triggers while undergoing any kind of desensitisation program (after all, you do not want to get halfway through the program with your dog and then confirm all their worst fears!) so Bella is going to spend her days with her human's dad, while her human is at work, so as not to be left alone in the event of a thunderstorm.

I really enjoy doing this kind of session as you can see the dog grow in confidence in front of your very eyes, and to see them engaged and enjoying an activity they would have found otherwise worrisome is something special indeed.

It is important to seek a professional before doing any kind of desensitisation work as it can easily go wrong when rushed or when the dog's minute signals of communication are missed.

Bella was already growing in confidence when I left, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how she has progressed when I see her next.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Lead manners matter.

When you see another dog on a lead, remember to put your dog on the lead too.
Especially if you have very friendly dogs like the lovely crew I met this evening, who were all gorgeous, happy and playful. Thankfully their clever dogparents have taught them a recall and they were able to call their dogs away 🙂
There is a reason why they are on a lead.
Sometimes they are not friendly.
Sometimes they are in recovery from surgery or an illness.
Sometimes they are newly rescued and need to be kept safe.
It doesn't necessarily mean they are not friendly, but it does mean the dogparent doesn't want their dog performing certain behaviours.
My Twyla, for example, is an 11-month-old, very large, cheeky, friendly, dribbly, impulsive, bouncy and strong Springador.
She loves to chase birds and leaves and has a sprint that would leave a greyhound standing.
She is super friendly, ridiculously playful, and if she was allowed, would be "that dog in the park", who chases every other dog wanting to play with them, whether the other dog wants to play or not, while the dogparent yells "Don't worry she is friendly!!!" as they helplessly run after them in a vain attempt to catch them.
I do not want to be that dogparent. I am rubbish at running. In your mid-forties you understand your limits when it comes to exercise.
Those super friendly dogs, like Twyla, can be just as inappropriate as the unfriendly dogs, running up to other dogs who might not appreciate it, and so she is not allowed to run off with other dogs unless they are certain dogs who we know well.
Super friendly dogs run the risk of being bitten by dogs that are not so friendly - which would eventually mean the super friendly dog decides other dogs are not so nice, and then become afraid of other dogs and not so friendly themselves.
Big super friendly dogs also run the risk of hurting themselves or others when they get very excited with much smaller dogs.
Young or adolescent super friendly dogs can be very quickly taught that other dogs or people are something to be cautious of.
Plus one day I would like Twyla to be reliable enough to help other dogs to not be afraid of dogs - and if she has a long learned history of being the super friendly dog in the park, she will not be appropriately prepared for this role. She needs to learn to be appropriate with other dogs instead.
And so, apart from with certain other dogs who I know are good role models, who she loves a good run with, and until she is reliable, she knows that she goes on a lead while other dogs are around. She has her friends who she does run with, her places where she can go off lead, and she is a very happy dog who is still very much in training.
I think it is my duty to keep her and others safe.
So please never think me rude if I don't let her run with other dogs - I am just letting her learn to be appropriate with them first ❤ .

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Socialisation - Getting it right for your dog.


That thing where it is drummed into dogparents of young puppies that if we are not finished checking off the things on the socialisation lists by 12 - 16 weeks, our dogs are doomed to a life of misery ever after. 

That means our dogs must see 200 types of people, with beards, pointy hats, alien ears, clown's shoes and driving 7 different colours of tractor, with a different accent for every day of the week.

That means also experiencing every animal known to man, plus bringing back to life some dinosaurs, to introduce them to our dogs, too, by 12-16 weeks.

That means our dogs need to experience a round the world flight, to catch a boat trip, to get on the motorbike, to use the sidecar, to get to the race track where they can experience the thrill of a trip around the F1 track with Lewis Hamilton on his tea break, before helicoptering in to headline at the o2 Arena.

Of course, this must be done with an example present of each of 222 breeds listed when you look at the recognised A-Z of The Kennel Club. Naturally.

And don't forget to go to 17 different clubs and classes, plus puppy parties, dog parks and every other dog-themed activity within 175 miles of your house. 

Fast Forward to 16 weeks + 1 day.
Chances are you have a dog who is either in therapy for their drink problem, has taken up gambling in Las Vegas, is looking forward to a "clean break" from their dogparent ...or, at the very least, is really struggling to come to terms with all the things that they have experienced so far.

Socialisation, when done wrong, often causes much more harm than good. 

We can sensitise rather than desensitise them to stimuli and turn the stimuli into triggers.

We can take a timid puppy and show them exactly how scary the world is. Imagine having strangers and scary things all looking at you all day. Scary noises and experiences that your dogparent won't let you run away from. Being overwhelmed by frightening stuff is not pleasant.

We can accidentally teach our puppies that every time they see other dogs it is a free for all by allowing them to wrestle and play every time they go near another dog - which is fine when they are still cute and the size of gerbils who can be picked up and plopped next to their next victim, once the dog they are terrorising in the name of "play" has had enough. But, once they hit adolescence and beyond, they will end up with humans who struggle to recall in the park and other dogs who suddenly do not like them and their attempts to play.

We can show them exactly how children pull them around and hurt them. 

How older people wheel walkers into them. 

How other dogs bite and bark.

How babies steal their toys. 

How cars backfire or make them feel sick. 

How vets jab you with needles. 

How buses rattle and wobble as they speed past on fast roads. 

How cats jump out and scratch you. 

How postmen try to burgle you. 

The list of things we can show them is endless.

Or... we can socialise them the RIGHT way.

Sure, dogs need socialisation, and they learn a lot in those formative weeks, but they are learning every minute of every day for the rest of their lives. 

If they haven't yet met a pug in a pig costume, riding in a pushchair with a chimp in a tutu pushing them along by the time they are 16+1, then the world will not end. They have their entire lives to see such wonders, and should they be going through a fear phase at 12 weeks instead of the expected one at 8 weeks, or they are just a little nervous in general, then it will not hurt them to wait until they can cope better.

Scale the socialisation program right back to things your dog is likely to experience regularly. If they are going to see pigs, let them see pigs. If they are going to see trains, let them see trains. If they are not going to be seeing camels any time soon, there is no need for them to go visit camels.

Then make these experiences either positive or background noise while you are doing something else with your dog. 

Background noise is generally best to aim for. While we do not want our dog to be afraid of things, we do not want our dog to be the opposite. Running up to absolutely everything expecting to play, jumping up, bowling over toddlers in their joy to see them. Being "that dog" whose dogparent assures you is "friendly" when they annoy the shit out of the other dogs in the park. 

Background noise means our dog is more focused on US, playing with US, enjoying sniffs and doing stuff with US, and not bothering anyone else. Background noise exists, but our dogs are not bothered by it either way. 

You could go and sit at a bench a distance away from the road and have a little picnic together, do some boundary games, or proof some cues perhaps, and let traffic and traffic noise go by and melt into the distance. Horses, tractors, lorries, all kinds of things can go past without you or your dog paying much attention to it, and your dog will all the time be learning that those things are not so worrisome.

If Mrs Snodgrass's demon crotch goblins (from next door) are likely to pull your dog's ears and tease them, then find some more likeable children for your dog to experience. Children that will play alongside your dog without forcing interaction. 

Maybe your dog can play something with you at the park, where parents and children come and go on the swings, but not bother your dog. 

Or they could be family members, or friends' children, who have been briefed on allowing the dog to come and see them in their own time and how to read dog body language and are being supervised.

You could have a very short car ride and come home again.

You can visit the reception at the vets, sit and play for 5 minutes and come home again with no terrible or arousing experiences occurring.

You could allow your dog to have a long line and go for a sniffy walk to experience all the wonderful smells around them without rushing.

You can walk where you can see other dogs in the distance without your dog being rushed by them or being allowed to rush at them either. 

You can introduce your dog to calm dogs, who will not be stressed by a puppy's antics, and you can play with your dog in the calm dog's presence to teach your dog that other dogs are not a reason to go doolally and that other dogs are generally none of their business.

Contrary to popular belief, your dog doesn't need to run like the wind with a pack of baying hounds every day atop mountains and along sandy beaches to feel like their social needs are met. 

They can enjoy seeing other dogs, having calm interactions, or not really interacting much, and just have a few friends with whom they enjoy playing. They can also cope well without seeing many other dogs, but by being allowed to sniff grass verges and check their peemail in peace. 

You can leave out a pushchair or a bike, or set up snuffleboxes, so they can experience wheeled things, noises, smells and textures from the safety of your living room.

You can have a few days off from the whole blooming thing and just enjoy each other's company. In fact, make a point of doing so. Think of it as a spa break for relief from your dog's overflowing stress bucket.

The key is to start as you mean to go on. 

YOU keep your dog safe, and only in situations they can handle. 

YOU show your dog things from a distance and make the experience calm and pleasant. 

YOU play with your dog. 

YOU exercise with your dog, and don't rely on other dogs to exercise your dog for you. 

YOU teach focus and engagement with YOU while out and about.

Socialise your dog in this way, gently and with care. 

View it as a lifelong objective to help your dog navigate the world from a place of security. Instead of attempting to fit in every experience ever invented while telling yourself "he needs to get used to it", he should "face his fears". 

Your dog will likely not need to do anything other than be appropriate and feel appropriately with other things.

Vegan food for dogs


Rant alert.

I see a lot of posts lately regarding vegan food for dogs and a research paper surrounding it. There is a lot of bickering going on about it in the dog world.
For transparency, my own dog currently eats raw meat/homecooked stuff and dried body parts of various levels of stinkiness. She is Omni.
Myself, I consume vegan products and try to live a vegan lifestyle.
My children are Omnis. That is their choice, and I respect that.
But would I choose a vegan diet for my dog?
After having Moo, with all his food struggles (and he ate meat), and then doing my canine nutrition diploma, I can categorically say that yes, I would feed vegan if need be.
I know many dogs who have or do well on a vegan diet.
Twyla has meat because it is easy to formulate a diet for her, easy to get hold of, and in the house anyway - I am lazy. Pure and simple. She is happy eating whatever is put in front of her.
Dogs can digest meat AND vegetable matter and process the protein from either. They can also eat insect-based protein too. They can also usually eat a vegetarian diet with small amounts of yoghurt or eggs. As long as they are getting the correct nutrition and their diet keeps them healthy, then there is no reason not to give them the food that best suits them - of either diet.
They are not wolves and do not need to eat the same as a wolf, just as we are not chimps and do not need to eat the same diet as a chimp. Evolution happens, and dietary needs change. Their bodies reflect this with the ability and equipment to digest different foods from their ancestors. Despite what militant fans of any particular diet will say, there is NO natural dog diet apart from that which we feed them as they evolved as a species over thousands of years living on our waste, leftovers and goodwill. In fact, in some countries, dogs are kept for the very purpose of cleaning up after the humans.
Most dogs will do well on either diet so long as they get the right balance of nutrients and do not eat foods known to be toxic to them, such as chocolate, onions, grapes, and sweeteners.
What is also not suitable for them is a ton of processed food and never a morsel of anything fresh passing their lips.
Research is pretty much ALWAYS funded by food manufacturers and companies on either side of the argument. Until independent research is done, it should often be taken with a pinch of salt (or not - too much salt is bad for dogs).
Similarly, vets and dog pros only know what they have been taught, often by food manufacturers, and are not all nutrition experts. It is easy to find reports that agree or disagree with either side of the argument.

There are many reasons why we choose what we choose to feed our dogs. From budget to allergies and intolerances, other health reasons, availability, or simply knowing what our individual dog enjoys most. Which may surprise you - Moo would have given up his own tail for vegan puff pastry. His favourite thing to eat in the world was a tidbit of a Greggs vegan sausage roll. I would save him the pastry bit where it joins together, and I would eat the rest. He LOVED it.

Twyla eats roadkill and Lego if she is given a chance - which she generally is not - but it shows that our dogs do not always know what is best for them. Personally, I would live on Vegan Cornettos and Free From white chocolate. Again - choosing a diet by palatability might not be best!
In the end, we all just want what is best for our own dogs and for that to fit in with our own ethics and moral codes.
Frankly... it's nobody else's business what anyone else feeds their dogs. So quit with the insults on either side (often discriminatory and illegal) and mind your own f*%!ing business.
If you want to feed your dog meat, then do. If you don't, then don't. But don't insult other people by calling them names and telling them what they should or should not do with their own lifestyle, dogs and family when it has f:*% all to do with you.
That is all.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Dogmother's Day 2022

Today was Dogmother's day in the UK. 

It is a day when dogs and children are supposed to let Mum have a lay-in, in bed, have cups of tea or coffee, eat chocolate, do the washing up, and maybe even buy a nice dinner for them.

It's a bit like a special Christmas just for Mums. 

Why they get two Christmases, I don't yet know. Between doing all the housework, the cooking, going to work, getting the shopping and making sure everyone stays ok, she barely has time to enjoy any presents really. I mean, what a waste... 

I think I should get two Christmases instead. I like presents best of all. 

I did get one present today, though. 

Mum took me for a long ride in the car - first we went to a place called the "Train Station" where there were lots of people and noisy things. 

I didn't really know what to do, so I just sat beside Mum and watched while people scurried about. 

Then Ellie-Mai, one of my humans, got on a long tubey, noisy metal thing, and it went off into the distance! Mum didn't seem worried, though, and she said that Ellie-Mai would be back soon and that I was a very good girl. I do wonder where Ellie has gone - I hope she brings me back some nice things and that there are lots of pet shops there.

And then came my present - my very own field!!! For a whole hour!! 

We had to go for another short ride in the car to get there, but it was worth it as I had so much fun! 

There were lots of smells in my field, and I could see things called "Sheep". The Sheep are weird. They don't look like dogs, but they have four legs and are fluffy... and they never have to wear leads, collars, or harnesses, and are allowed in the field ALL of the time. I don't think that is fair. I think I should be allowed to be naked in a field all the time too. 

But at least in MY field, I don't have to wear my lead. Mum said I still have to come back when I am called, but I am allowed to run and sniff and be free. 

I have had something called my "season" for the past two weeks; Mum said I have to stay on a lead and I wasn't allowed to go to the park with my long line, so running, sniffing and being free is very important to me right now. Mum thinks I might run off with a stinky boy dog, but truth be told, I prefer my sausage to be of the edible and cooked variety. 

Mum still misses my brother Moo. Sometimes she still cries. But I have been trying super hard to be very, very good, and I have been making my Mum smile a lot by only being a ferocious beast when nobody is looking and curbing my beastliness when she wants me to be good. I miss Moo too, and I sniff his bed every day and cuddle his unicorn. I wonder if there are unicorns where he is now? 

Mum says that she is super glad I am here as I help her feel better and that I am her most special girl.

I even started walking nicely on a loose lead. Just sometimes, and in some places. I find it hard to concentrate on walking when there are big fields near us, but it is much easier for me when we are on paths near houses and fences. Mum doesn't mind - she says we just need to keep practising.

I have also been practising being calm around people and other dogs. Mum wants me to help her with her work, stopping other dogs from feeling scared of big ferocious beasty dogs like me. I can understand why they would be afraid. I am pretty tough and fearsome. All the pigeons fly away when they see me, and the cats are big wusses around me. But we don't want dogs to be scared - so it will be my job to help them. That would be quite a noble cause for a super dog like me.

Mum is going for a bath now, so I will see if I can find my harness and chew the blooming thing up while she is not looking. I have been trying to find it for a while, but now I want to be free like the sheep, so I must, must, must destroy it. 

But first, my weary legs and eyes tell me I need a little snooze.

It's hard work, being a ferocious beast.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

The hardest day.

As some of you know, I lost our Moo on Thursday the 17th Feb, closely followed by my beloved Nan an hour or so later. You may not have met them, but they have helped so many of you and so I thought that I would share this with you.

My Nan was a huge part of my life and a wonderful, funny, kind and loving lady who taught me about being the kind of person I want to be. From childhood until the day she passed, I don't think there has been more than a day or two that I have not had contact with her in some way or told her that I loved her. She was 100.
I feel as though my heart has been ripped out.
A small comfort is that Moo and Nan were close in life. He came to visit her when I would take her shopping, and they had a special treat pot that I would have to reach and get down (Nan couldn't reach the top of the cupboard), and she would sit at her little table in the kitchen talking to Moo, asking him to "sit" and telling him what a good boy he was, feeding him his treats and naughtily sneaking him extra ones as though I would not notice. He would get excited to go see "his Nanny" and would trot up her path beaming his beautiful smile and go trotting into her kitchen, with his swisher wagging away expectantly.

They loved each other a lot.
But Moo wasn't always the happiest of dogs. He is the reason Locke's Dogs began in the first place.
When I fell in love with him as a four-week-old pup and brought him home 4 weeks later, I had no idea how much he would change my life. He was my baby, and I was his Mummy from the second I met him and we were basically inseparable from then on.
My dear old Ruby, a Labrador, our dear cat Lily, Moo's brother Hank (who belonged to my then partner, but stayed with us for a while) and myself and the (then) children were quite the little family and it was a very busy, furry household.
It became evident quite quickly though, Moo was not well - he began to develop chronic sickness and diarrhoea and didn't have the love of life that I would expect a puppy to have. He seemed in pain a lot of the time, and the sickness and diarrhoea gave way to bringing up blood regularly, and colitis. The pain was so bad he stopped eating and began to lose a lot of weight.
We guessed it was diet-related, but no amount of changing his food seemed to help and he just grew sadder and sadder and in pain.
The pain made his behaviour erratic, and as none of the local trainers wanted an aggressive dog in class, I was at my wit's end. He was so underweight he looked neglected and had chewed bald patches in his fur.
He was only 18 months and we were already thinking of having him put to sleep. But I knew that under the growling and barking, was a very frightened little dog, who loved to be cuddled and comforted, and was the sweetest, cleverest boy. I knew I had to keep going.
So to cut a long story short, I took as many courses as I could afford until I was doing degree level stuff, to learn to help him myself. Which I did. I found a passion for dogs and dog behaviour that led to the creation of Locke's Dogs and Fun Not Fear® and everything in between. One of those courses, at degree level, was paid for by my Nan. She wanted us to have something to remember her with - but to have it while she was here to see us have it.
I found ways of feeding Moo that meant avoiding the things that hurt him so much and I taught him to eat again as he was afraid of his food. I taught him that other things are not scary after all, and he was relieved and began to make new friends, and enjoyed people and other dogs. We never did crack the postman, but we were winning either way. He put on nearly 7 kg from when he was ill - doubling his body weight. He learned so many tricks and he could basically speak English. He was the perfect dog.
He slept on my bed every night, on my lap every evening, and kissed me awake every morning. He was my world. I have never been so close to another being in my whole life, and I hope he knew the love I had for him.
Sadly, after all, he had been through and recovered from, despite changing the lives of many other dogs, he lost his life in the most rubbish way.
A suspected grass seed.
I won't go into the gory details, but he was in a lot of pain for a long time, and the boy was so very brave that the only thing we knew about it was that he had a bit of a nasal drip that made him cough.
We had sent him in for a second General Anaesthetic, after already having had his lungs examined previously, to check his nose and upper throat. On finding the scale of the problem, we decided that it would be kinder to let him go, and he was put to sleep, cuddled up on my lap in a blanket, quite calm and comfortable, and happy to see his Mummy.
It broke me. But I wanted to share his story with you as I know he was loved and I want the world to know that he was a dog who changed people and their dog's lives. And that my Nan did too. If I have ever worked with you and helped you, it is because of Moo and my Nan that we were able to help your dog.
They are angels officially now, but to me, they always were.
I don't know how I would cope right now without Twyla being beastly and keeping me busy.

The only good thing to have come out of all of this heartbreak is that Twyla is proving she is actually a very good girl, and our bond is growing very strong, very quickly, in our sadness and having only each other to play with.
I am spoiling her, more than ever. Cuddling her more than ever. Letting her feel special and secure knowing Mummy loves her.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Stop slicing bits off your dogs!

And stop buying dogs from abroad with bits cut off! There are plenty of dogs with so much love to give that you can acquire without contributing to this cruelty.

It is disgusting and unnecessary. And pointless. How would you like it if people brutally chopped bits off you or your loved ones?

Cropping and docking do not make a person or their dog look tough. It just makes a person look like an animal abusing bully. Why on earth would a person want to look like that?

Dogs without their proper ears or tails can’t communicate appropriately with other dogs, which can cause aggression problems and make your dog a target.

Imagine desperately trying every day to be nice, make friends and get on with the other dogs, but everyone hates you and is mean because of how you look. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to make them understand you are lovely; they just want to fight you or run away. This is what people do to their dog when they crop or dock them. So imagine – the tool you use to show you are friendly and happy actually makes you look mean and nasty? How unfair is that?

The myth that somehow it improves behaviour is ridiculous. It CAUSES behaviour issues.

Imagine having rain pour in your ears whenever it is wet weather – and there is nothing you can do about it. Imagine inside your ears burning in the hot sun, and you can’t shade them. Imagine your ears being wide open to insect bites, nettle stings and more with no protection.

Imagine that as a young pup, the hand that comes toward you, that is meant to show you kindness, instead grabs you, cuts mercilessly through your skin and bones. Then the hand tapes you into painful contraptions that make your bleeding and sore ears bend into unnatural positions, to the point they grow and stay there. Most likely with no pain relief and no comfort after. Why would that person be so cruel to you? And how could you ever fully trust a human hand again?

Yes – some dogs need to be adopted into loving homes that have already had this horrific abuse done to them, and by all means, they deserve someone to love them and take care of them. Hats off to the kind people who adopt them and then have to endure the stares from people who do not know they have adopted those dogs already in that state and now give them a loving home.

But shame on those who actively go searching for dogs with bits cut off. Cruel bastards.