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.

Dog Walking and Training Haverhill

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.

Dog Walking and Training Haverhill

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 watching the replay of the webinar I did back in May? In it I 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.

Dog Walking and Training Haverhill

Why the lockdown could be a blessing for your reactive dog

We are now all use to the term social distancing and keeping 2m away from people. It’s a term I would rather not know, however because of social distancing and lockdown it has made it slightly easier walking a reactive dog.

Now as I walk Frank, my own reactive dog, people cross the road and move in another direction. Which to be fair they always use to do because I put a muzzle on Frank. But now they are avoiding me because I might be the problem and not my dog.  What a very refreshing change!

I still pop a muzzle on Frank though.  There are 2 very simple reasons for this.  If he gets over aroused on walks, which can easily happen if we have one off lead dog come too close, then the muzzle saves my knees from being bitten.  When Frank is triggered, he goes into full flight or fight mode.  As I’m anchoring myself down and holding him on a short lead its my knee that gets it.  He has bitten me twice in the past.  I learnt my lesson and now he has a muzzle. 

The second reason is that some people assume that any dog who has a muzzle on is pure evil and ready to attack anyone and everyone.  It’s a far from true assumption but I use it to my advantage to keep off lead dogs away from my anxious, fear reactive boy.

As we are now in lockdown less people are about. I’ve even started to relax more on my walks with Frank because I know there is now a much smaller chance of Frank seeing, let alone, meeting another dog.

I’m only walking locally to me; I’m not driving him anywhere. I’m being selective around what time I take him out, choosing 6/7pm as most people have been out and are likely having their dinner.

It makes me so happy to see him sniffing and peeing up every bush going because he is stress free in our walks. He is just being “dog” like. He isn’t anxious and worried what’s around the corner. It’s a wonderful feeling, and it will be over once we are out of lockdown, but Frank and I are enjoying this newfound freedom for now.

I would rather not be in a lockdown, its temporarily closed my business and stopped me earning, but the silver lining for me is that I can have “normal” walks with my dog.

If you are a reactive dog owner, are you still walking your reactive dog in the same places you always did?  Hands up, I could be found skulking around the industrial estate after dark with Frank.  It was an easy place to take him.  I don’t let him off lead (unless I hire a dog field) so I didn’t need fields, and I didn’t need daylight because he was staying on lead.

But now I’m in a lockdown I’m taking him to new places in my village.  Check him out by the stream the other day.  Look how actual happy he looks! (I take his muzzle of for photos)

I know its hard to break that great, solid, routine you have got set up with your dog.  It was a worry for me too when I started taking Frank out on “normal” walks.  But I didn’t want to flaunt the rules and drive him to our normal walks.  I also wanted to use my one opportunity a day to get outside to its advantage.  I’ve not long moved to the village where I now live with Frank, James (my partner) and Mosie (James’s self-confessed angry cat.)  The lockdown has been a perfect opportunity for us to explore our village.  And Frank is doing it as well.

As I said early on, I take Frank out around dinner time.  By this time of day, he is tired.  If you go earlier give your dog a warm up first. Now you maybe wondering what the hell a warm up for a dog is.  Well its exactly that!  Basically, it’s a way of zapping your dog’s energy before you go out.  I’ve successfully used it for reactive dogs, puppies and excitable dogs on my professional walks.

Things to try:

  1. A game of tuggy. Pet shops are still open so find one that is size appropriate for your dog. Then play tug and let them win sometimes. If tuggy is not there thing then play with their favourite fluffy toy.
  2. Set up a mini agility course in your garden for your dog. Use objects from around the house for your dog to go up and round, washing up bowls, small step, bench, washing line pole. The options are endless. Lure them round with some high value treats and work on one part of the course a day. Once they have mastered that part, move on to the next till you come to a point that they can do the whole mini course. Once at that point, change it up again.
  3. Train your dog. Teach them a new trick. A middle. Target touch. A check in. Whatever you want really. This is the ideal time to help your dog master that one thing you always wanted them to do. Lots of dog trainers will be going online now so you could invest in a one to one session with them and they will talk you through some cool things to teach your dog.

Just be mindful that on the warm up, whatever it is that you choose to do, you do not over reward with food. You won’t normally hear me say that but as you will be taking your dog out for a walk afterwards, you need to avoid them getting bloat (a serious life-threatening condition) or being sick. In this instance you should limit the food reward and use fuss and/or play as the reward instead.

How long should you do a warm up? In my opinion it should be no longer than 15 minutes. Once your dog is calming down and/or starting to tire that is your sign that it’s time for the actual walk.

If you would like some more warm up ideas/brain games, then check out my eBook Engage and Entertain.

 If you are still nervous about trying a new route, take someone out with you.  James’s has described his role in Frank’s walks as being like a member of the President’s security detail! When we get to a crossroad or anywhere a dog could suddenly spring out from, James goes ahead to check that there are no dogs coming along.  If they are, we divert or use parked cars to stop Frank seeing the other dogs.

If there was ever a time to try a new walk with your reactive dog, its now.  Give it a try, do a warm up, take some high value treats out with you and a “bodyguard.” Who knows, maybe, just maybe you will find a route that you can use again and again after lockdown ends that isn’t a creepy old industrial estate late at night.

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.

Dog Walking and Training Haverhill

How to survive the lockdown on one dog walk a day

So there we have it. We are a nation in lockdown.

And it is a lockdown, make no mistake about that. Our PM may not have used the word in his speech to the nation but the fact that they have brought in legislation to fine you for disobeying the rules makes it very much a lockdown that we must follow.

So what does this mean for dog walks? And your dog walker. 

Let’s answer the latter first. Despite my many customers telling me that having a dog walker is essential to them, dog walkers are not classed a key worker. That means we can not walk someone’s dog for them.

Even if it’s for a person who is a key worker. If you are a key worker and rely on a dog walker then you need to make alternative arrangements for your dog now. 

And if you are a dog walker who is still planning on walking someone’s dog, ask yourself these three very important questions:

  1. Are you prepared to pay a £1000 fine for breaking the rules, as set out by Boris Johnson?
  2. Are you prepared to be personally liable for the dog you are walking if they become unwell or ill under your watch? The fact that we have been put into lockdown will likely make your insurance void.
  3. Are you prepared to give up the one opportunity that you are allowed to have  daily for exercise? This may mean that you can not take your kids out or your own dog/s.

If you are a dog owner and you understand that no one else can actually professionally walk your dog how are you going to survive these new restrictions that have been imposed on us when it comes to your furry friend? 

It’s actually not as bad as it sounds. Honestly.

One walk a day is fine for most dogs, but let’s assume that in the forthcoming days our time outside will be given a restriction on time (it already has, we have been told to limit time outside but going on what has happened it’s likely people will find ways to flout this and so we will no doubt be given a time limit.)

If there are 2 adults in the house and you have a high energy dog you could take your dog out individually. Changes are that you will both appreciate a bit of time away from each other and this way your dog can get out twice. Win, win. This would work well if you have 2 dogs. Anymore than that you will need to team up as don’t forget we still have to practise social distancing.

Whilst out with your dog I would advise the following; unless your dog has exceptional recall, keep them on lead. This is for two very important reasons: 

  1. If they run off there is no resource to help you search for your dog.
  2. If they are off the lead they have a higher chance of having an accident from running around. If they do have an accident they will have to go to the vets. And we are in a lockdown which means that you may have to drop your dog off and return home immediately. You won’t be able to stay with them.

At the moment you are probably thinking that I’ve not offered much help to you and you are right. But let’s face facts, it’s important you know what your obligations are when outside with your dog in this strange and unprecedented time that we have found ourselves in. You only have one pass to go outside every day. 

But I’ve got a hot little nugget for you that will help you and your dog, not only stay safe whilst out, but calm enough to enjoy a gentle short stroll rather than a high speed adventure.

A warm up.

Yes that’s right, your dog needs a warm up. I’ve used this very successfully on high energy dogs, reactive dogs and excitable dogs. 

This basically means you are going to help them get rid of their excess energy before you even leave the house.

Imagine that! 

You may have to play around with what works well for a warm up for your dog but we have time on our hands (3 weeks to be precise) and your dog will love the attention.

Things to try:

A game of tuggy. Pet shops are still open so find one that is size appropriate for your dog. Then play tug, and let them win sometimes. If tuggy is not there thing then play with their favourite fluffy toy.

Set up a mini agility course in your garden for your dog. Use objects from around the house for your dog to go up and round, washing up bowls, small step, bench, washing line pole. The options are endless. Lure them round with some high value treats and work on one part of the course a day. Once they have mastered that part, move on to the next till you come to a point that they can do the whole mini course. Once at that point, change it up again.

Train your dog. Teach them a new trick. A middle. Target touch. A check in. Whatever you want really. This is the ideal time to help your dog master that one thing you always wanted them to do. Lots of dog trainers will be going online now so you could invest in a one to one session with them and they will talk you through some cool things to teach your dog.

Just be mindful that on the warm up, whatever it is that you choose to do, you do not over reward with food. You won’t normally hear me say that but as you will be taking your dog out for a walk afterwards, you need to avoid them getting bloat (a serious life threatening condition) or being sick. In this instance you should limit the food reward and use fuss and/or play as the reward instead.

How long should you do a warm up? In my opinion it should be no longer than 15 minutes. Once your dog is calming down and/or starting to tire that is your sign that it’s time for the actual walk.

After your walk, your dog should be ready for a good nap. Don’t forget this is a strange time for dogs too. If they are use to being on their own during the day give them an enforced break. Pop them in their crate or the room they usually stay in during the day and let them have their 40 winks. A tired dog can also be a wired dog so make sure they have the opportunity to rest rather than follow you round the house all day, 

Ultimately, for our dogs, us being at home with them during the lockdown is heaven sent. Use this opportunity wisely!

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.

Dog Walking and Training Haverhill