I’m not sorry, I’m damn proud

Is this an apology? No! Is this a confession? No! This is a fact. I’m no longer going to say sorry for my dog. I have a reactive dog. He is called Frank (the handsome chap in the photo above) and he has been the apple of my eye from the moment I saw him cowering in the corner of a huge cage filled with big, barking dogs. I knew I had to get him away from there.  I took him home straight away.  I didn’t care about his history, I just had to make him safe.

Frank and I have a very special relationship. He loves to be near me, he likes to keep me safe when I’m on my own, but he is really well behaved with me and always does what I ask of him.  We have been on a huge journey.  Frank has shown me huge unconditional love and loyalty despite being dumped twice.  He still has faith in humans.

When I take Frank out for a walk it’s a different story.  I won’t lie to you, it is a huge challenge. As soon as he sees another dog he starts doing a very high pitch whine.  At every dog.  Every. Single. Dog. Of course Frank has got history as most reactive dogs do. I smile meekly at those other dog owners and apologise for my dog and mutter those get out of jail words “he is a rescue dog.” They give me a very quick knowing smile; you probably know the one I’m talking about.  I quickly move on and breathe until we come near another dog.

Why should I apologise for my dog? He means the world to me and here I am wanting to walk him with me in a balaclava and far away from where anyone can see him or me. Frank has never hurt anyone.  In fact, those dogs who are off lead and come running over to him are the ones that are upsetting him.  You know the ones I mean.  The owner shouts at you from the other side of the field “my dog is friendly”, except it’s not very friendly to completely ignore all the signals that my Frank is giving out.  Those “friendly” dogs have not learnt doggy manners and end up stressing my dog out and me as I try and divert Frank away from the dog who is causing all this distress.  Meanwhile the owner comes running over and gives me a mouthful about controlling my dog.  “Sorry, he is a rescue” I mumble and escape as quick as I can.  But actually my dog is on a lead.  Yours isn’t.  Your dog came over to us.  Your dog has just caused my dog stress that will take days to leave his system and mine. 

Frank has never attacked a dog whilst we have been out or any dog that comes into our home.  He is wary, he is fearful of other dogs and his high pitch wailing is a pretty big signal for dogs to stay clear. Frank has come a long way.  I use to do home boarding and would have  boarders at home and after a couple of hours Frank was happy to mingle with them and if they wanted to sleep on Franks bed he let them.  In my house, Frank is the most submissive dog.  Frank is actually a pretty cool dog,  he even has his own Facebook fan page.  His antics used to be legendary, but he is quite content now and behaves really well, apart from that high pitched wail!

I made a really big decision the other week.  I am going to stop apologising for Frank’s reactiveness to other dogs. I am going to stop hiding Frank away.  No more sloping round the industrial estate late at night for me.

I walk quite a few reactive dogs and, again, I’m not going to apologise for them.  I take my hat off to anyone who has a reactive dog.  They are hard work.  It requires a huge commitment from the owners in time, love, consistency, patience and money.  But when they give you something in return, no matter how small, it’s the best feeling in the world. When you take a dog that is reactive for a walk, the very first time that they don’t react to their normal trigger is better than birthdays, Christmas or winning the lottery. It’s an amazing achievement!

So I’m not sorry anymore.  I’m damn proud of my Frank.

Love Sally x

Sally & Frank

Sally Cousins is a self confessed mad dog lady!  

After being mum to several rescue dogs she decided to turn her passion in to her career and set up her own dog walking business back in 2015.

Sally not only runs her business, she also writes for her own blog and also does guest blogs for other dog businesses. You can also find Sally chatting as a guest  on dog related podcasts.

Sally Cousins

Social distancing for life

Why I will keep social distancing long after it's lifted

Social distancing with dogs has been something I’ve been doing for years. And when social distancing was implemented back in March, it was something I found relatively easy to do.

You see I have never been one for close contact with people. Hugging is not my thing. Kissing someone on the cheek that I hardly know. Hell no. Although if someone instigates either then I do reciprocate, I’m not a rude person.

However if you happen to be a dog that I know that wants kissing and hugging, then I’m first in line. Obviously

For years I’ve been preaching to dog owners about giving dogs on a lead a wide berth.

As the owner of a reactive dog and a professional walker of many reactive dogs, I know they need space. It’s not just reactive dogs that need space, they should all be able to have it.

So when the lockdown and social distancing rules were brought into place, I was relieved for the owners of dogs everywhere.

Yet I wonder why some dog owners can be so thoughtless. Why they feel the need to barge in to you or demand that their dog says hello to the one you are with.

social distancing

As a car driver I give way to other cars. I’m considerate, I don’t drive right up their backsides. When I stop at a zebra crossing, I happily stop before someone has stepped on the crossing.

And you know what, I’m mostly rewarded for it with a thank you.

I don’t sit at pelican crossings revving up my car with over exaggerating sighing as someone quickly runs over as the bleeps go.

I repeat, I’m considerate.

Horses get plenty of space

I’ve recently moved to a village near Newmarket in Suffolk. If you don’t know Newmarket, it’s famous for one thing.

Horse racing.

As I drive through the town in the morning, I often see the horses on their way to the gallops for their exercise. They gently trot from their relative studs and make their way across the town.

Now in Newmarket, everybody gives way to the horses. It’s the unwritten law of the town.  And it is strictly obeyed. The town has been set up to make this easier, but people still have to stick to that unwritten rule.

The horses have their own pelican crossings. There are flashing lights at another crossing to alert you that horses are about to cross.

They even have their own path, and get this, us humans have to walk on the outside closest to the road.

The jockeys are very considerate too. Most of the horses exercise with other horses from their studs so they often travel through the town in groups.

Every single jockey puts their hand up to thank you for giving way. To both directions of traffic.  They really appreciate you giving the horses space as it keeps the horses calm and safe.

These horses are worth a fortune so the last thing anyone wants is for them to get upset and start bolting.

social distancing

Give me space please

I just wish people were as considerate to dog walkers and in particular to the dogs.

One thing I always do is to  give way to pedestrians, cyclists, dog walkers and joggers when I’m walking with dogs. I know that they can scare dogs. A cyclist suddenly going past you at speed can upset a dog.

The appearance of a jogger who doesn’t want to slow down their pace can be intimidating. A pedestrian who is striding along in the middle of a pathway, oblivious to their surroundings.

Good job I’m giving way then.

And I have to say I rarely get a thank you. Which makes me sad. But I can live with that.

I just wish more people would allow plenty of space when out and about. So for me I will keep practising social distancing when out and about long after it’s lifted.

Will you be joining me?

Check out my corona support page for ways to help you and your dog during this pandemic.

Sally Cousins is a self confessed mad dog lady!  

After being mum to several rescue dogs she decided to turn her passion in to her career and set up her own dog walking business back in 2015.

Sally not only runs her business, she also writes for her own blog and also does guest blogs for other dog businesses. Sally is also the author of  “The Lockdown Dog.” You can also find Sally chatting as a guest  on dog related podcasts.

Sally Cousins

Barking dog driving you crazy?

One of the things I’ve noticed since being at home because of the lockdown, is that I seem to be surrounded by a barking dog at every angle.

And to my horror, sometimes it is Frank that is setting them all off barking. Thanks Frank.

Too be fair as I’m walking round that is sometimes all that is needed to set some dogs off.  I can always hear when the postman is approaching too.  Bark, bark, woof woof.  Yep that postie has his own personal calling card.

I live next door to a beagle.  He seems to be fine, except for his penchant for howling.  I know it’s a breed thing, but he only does it at night, usually around 11pm.  Which is annoying as it sounds, let me tell you.

The thing is I’m quite a relaxed neighbour and I let that go because it’s not incessant barking.  It’s just the one howl (takes me back to reading 101 dalmatians as a child and the howling hour!)  But if that dog was to repeatedly bark when she was, out or all the time in the garden, then I would say something because it would be impacting on me.

And you may well have a barker, and you may even be quite accepting of your dog’s barking. It’s their breed, oh he is quiet inside, she doesn’t like men, he doesn’t like the postman or even she’s ok. But is it really ok to leave a dog barking?

Some bark out of boredom, others out of fear.  But with time on our hand, now is the perfect opportunity to start working towards resolving that barking problem.

So, I got hold of my good friend and barking specialist Claire  and put some of your questions about barking dogs to her.

DOG BARKING

Barking dog Q & A with Claire Lawrence

1) Since lockdown my dog has started barking in the house but not outside. Why are they barking and what can I do about it?

You’re not alone! Even my dogs have been testing barking in the house and here’s a couple of reasons why it could be happening. 

Attention. With more people around and interactions to be had, dogs (especially more barky breeds) can learn to use barking as a secret weapon to get that eye contact from you. That’s all it takes to tell them its worked! If your dog is barking and it’s in your direction, chances are its attention based. 

Most attention seeking barking comes down to a lack of mental stimulation. So increase those sniffing games and make sure your dog is having some down time away from you throughout the day when you’d normally be at work. 

Has it really just started? Or have they been alert barking to things passing your front window for longer than you’ve realised? Dog who bark out of the window are normally either alerting you to a potential threat they’ve spotted. Or perhaps they’re bored and find the barking at things fun to do. 

The best thing to start doing with either of these is to prevent your dog from being able to see out of the window/where they’re barking. Again teach them to come into that room and lie down in their bed or perform another behaviour you deem acceptable. 

2) My dog has always been a barker, and I’ve worked really hard on minimise this. I’m really concerned about that all going to pot when lockdown is over and the world and its wife are out and all our good work is going to be gone. What can I do to minimise that?

Depending on why the barking was/is happening will determine the best approach to take. All I can really say here is if what you were doing before the lockdown was working to reduce or at least manage the barking, then I’d say to continue doing what you were doing. If at any point it starts getting work, don’t hesitate in seeking out a trainer. This will dramatically increase your chances of it not escalating with the right professional. 

3) Now I’m home all day and the weather has been nice my dog has turned into a barking maniac. He starts barking at other dogs in the garden, which sets off all the other dogs in their gardens. I don’t want to keep the door shut in the nice weather, but I don’t want to be responsible for the barking hour either. What can I do?

I can understand not wanting to shut the doors to the garden, but in which case I’d recommend moving your dog into a room where he can’t go in and out at his own leisure. Otherwise the barking will escalate. 

I would recommend that when your dog needs to go out, you pop his lead on before you go out, give him a treat and show him you’ve got some more. Go outside with him and keep his attention on you. Rewarding and telling him he’s doing a great job keeping his focus on you, opposed to the distractions. 

DOG BARKING

4) My dog is barking more and more for my attention now I’m home. I try to ignore her. I take her to her bed without interacting too much. When she stops barking, I will try and give her something to do like a kong. However, it’s not working. I need about 50 kongs to keep her quiet.

I’m afraid even taking her to the bed has already highly likely rewarded this attention barking behaviour. Keep a diary for a week of what times, and when she kicks off barking at you. Then you will start to see some patterns which can aid in your following weeks training of getting the Kong or treat training time in before she starts barking. 

There are usually clear signs or what we call ‘triggers’ that are encouraging her to bark. 

5) My dog is a big barker. Now I’ve got some time on my hands I want to see if I can get his barking under control. What’s the best place to start?

Firstly, I wish I read many more of these statements. Lockdown has pretty much given us a barking dog training gift. If you aren’t using this time to put extra work into helping your dog with their barking issue, you’ll have missed a massive trick. 

Start with your treats, toys and relationship building. Get your dog to have all eyes on you with whatever it takes reward wise to get there. Start in a low distraction environment and build it up week by week. 

I’d also be being modest if I didn’t say to check out more of what I offer. So, be sure to take a look at the three barking dog books I’ve written. I also host a weekly podcast show with a sh*t tonne of information in relevant to barking dogs. Find out more here.

Claire Lawrence is an ADTI SCDP Dog Training Instructor, author of books ‘3 Steps To Silence’ and ‘You’d Be Barking Mad Not To!’, UK events speaker and winner of ‘IMPACT’ Pet Business Of The Year Award 2019.

If you would like to hear more from Claire, then book a ticket to her 3 Steps to Silence Barking Dog seminar.  Claire will be delivering this seminar in Haverhill, Suffolk on Saturday 12th September this year!

Sally Cousins is a self confessed mad dog lady!  

After being mum to several rescue dogs she decided to turn her passion in to her career and set up her own dog walking business back in 2015.

Sally not only runs her business, she also writes for her own blog and also does guest blogs for other dog businesses. Sally is also the author of  “The Lockdown Dog.” You can also find Sally chatting as a guest  on dog related podcasts.

Sally Cousins

How Separation Anxiety affects your dog

How separation anxiety affects your dog and how to avoid it

Last Friday I had what could only be described as an unremarkable day.

Like a lot of people at the moment, there isn’t much going on that marks the days as anything other. Except apart from those odd days when you become a published author!

So back to Friday. I am struggling with what I was actually doing. Possibly my cat first aid course.

James was decorating. It was hot and we had planned to have a BBQ but in the end the clean up of the said decorating took longer than expected.

Yes it’s all coming back to me now.

We had pizza instead for dinner and we watched House as we wanted to get season 5 finished. No other telly had been watched that day. I don’t even think we had the radio on.

Why exactly am I telling you about Friday? Well it’s to show that it was a very average day. But it was far from an average night. 

No, not like that. Minds out of the gutter please!

I had a nightmare. Yes, at the grand old age of almost 46, I had a full on, nightmare.

I woke up scared out of my brain. My heart was thumping, I felt panicked. It was horrible.

James got woken up because I needed to try and calm myself. Because even though I was awake I could still feel the nightmare. And the thing was I woke myself up from my nightmare to escape it, but I was still very much trapped by it.

The time was 1.30am.

Once I got over the initial fright. I tried to go back to sleep. Except I was too scared. I was too scared to sleep at almost 46.

So, I went downstairs and made some tea and toast and popped the telly on. I needed to forget about my nightmare. I watched a couple of episodes of New Amsterdam (I really do like medical dramas!) and then decided it was time to sleep again.

By then it was 6am. And I was still petrified to sleep.

But I fell asleep for about an hour and a half. And when I woke up all I could think about was that nightmare.

In fact, it makes me uncomfortable writing about it now 5 days on. And yes, I’ve had more sleepless nights around it.

My nightmare, my reaction and my thoughts after it are actually remarkably similar to a dog who is suffering separation anxiety.

Imagine you are a dog who has had mum and dad always at home with them.

Then one day mum and dad say goodbye and tell you to be a good boy and then they close a door. Hang on you can’t find them. You look for them. You call for them.

You realise mum and dad have gone out without you. You are panicking. If you are shut in a room you may start trying to escape (destruction.) Or calling (barking) for help.

Hours later mum and dad are back. You stick to them like glue. Then the next day it happens again. That very thing that made you petrified has come round again.

This time it’s worse because you know what had happened the day before and you are already feeling anxious about it. You are even more distraught than the day before.  

And so it gets repeated and the anxiety in your dog grows till it becomes such a problem that you have to find a way to not leave your dog alone.

That’s not as easy as it sounds because we have to work, we have to shop, we have relatives to care for, kids to pick up from school.  But those 5 minutes that you just pop out to get a loaf can become so detrimental to your dog’s well being.

The thing is we have completely screwed up our dog’s routine by being at home because of the lockdown.  Of course, we can’t help it, we are doing it for the greater good after all.

We shouldn’t expect our dogs to just bounce back into that old routine either.  It takes us as humans between 21/28 days to establish a new routine/habit.  21 days of going to the gym, 21 days of not smoking, 21 days of drinking 2lt of water a day till it becomes the “normal.”  Till we do it without thinking. 

The same thing applies to your dog for a new routine, although timings may be a bit different.

Whats next?

Well how are we going to solve the problem of our dogs having us around 24/7 to suddenly gone for hours?

How about attending my webinar on Sunday 3rd May at 4pm? I will give your tips that you can put in place now to ensure your dog does not get distressed when things go back to normal.

It’s completely free so you have nothing to lose but everything to gain for ensuring your dog is calm when you do finally have to leave them for a period of time. Just click here to get the details to join.

You can also find tips in my book “The Lockdown Dog” and on my Corona Support  dedicated web page

Sally Cousins is a self confessed mad dog lady!  

After being mum to several rescue dogs she decided to turn her passion in to her career and set up her own dog walking business back in 2015.

Sally not only runs her business, she is the author of “The Lockdown Dog” book, she also writes for her own blog and also does guest blogs for other dog businesses. You can also find Sally chatting as a guest  on dog related podcasts.

Sally Cousins