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New book looks at how to train your dog with Fun Not Fear

Author and dog trainer Freya Locke’s first book, The Fun Not Fear Club – Get a Fun Not Fear Lifewith your dog, is a game-based guide to fun and enjoyable dog training.

Based in Newmarket, Freya is well known around the area for her dog training sessions. She also judges dog shows and teaches online around the UK and the world.

The Fun Not Fear Club takes the reader through dog behaviour, training and care in a light-hearted and humorous manner.

Freya Locke with Twyla and her book. Picture: Keith Heppell
Freya Locke with Twyla and her book. Picture: Keith Heppell

“What I found when I was learning to train dogs – because I actually came into it quite later on in life, after having a dog of my own with problems – was that every single dog book that I came across that was dealing with specific problems was really hard to read,” explains Freya, who is a chartered, certified and accredited trainer.

“There’s a lot of jargon and a lot of long words, and you need a degree and a dictionary basically to be able to understand any of it.

“I actually have PTSD, so I get quite nervous about things myself, and what I found as I was going through all my education around dogs is basically we treat things the same way: we minimise our triggers and then we find ways to make them better.

“I needed to find a way of getting that information over to clients without overwhelming them with jargon and too much technical knowledge.

“But I needed to be able to teach them through things like anecdotes and stories and things that are easy to understand, so I came up with Fun Not Fear as a way of teaching my clients how to understand behavioural concepts without making it too lofty.”

‘Triggers’ for dogs can include barking at other dogs, or being afraid of certain noises. “Obviously we can teach them sit down, stay and all that kind of thing, but that doesn’t teach them how to be comfortable around their triggers,” says Freya, who reveals that she’s always had dogs.

“So we do do the basic training as well, all reward-based, but we also teach dogs that their triggers are actually good news, using the Fun Not Fear method.

“First of all we make the trigger so small that the dog barely notices it’s there, so if they’re worried about other dogs, for example, we’ll put the other dog right at the other end of the field, where our own dog doesn’t care about that dog anymore.

“Then we’ll turn that dog into good news, so every time they look at the other dog, for example, they might get a piece of chicken – and after a little while what happens is our dog will be looking at the other dog across the field and they’ll go, ‘Well I’ve looked at it, where’s my chicken?’

“And at that point they’re starting to feel a bit better about the other dog, so we’ve turned that dog into less of a trigger and we’re turning it into good news.

“Fun Not Fear is all about how to take our dog’s worries, using games and rewards and things that the dog likes, and then slowly we can introduce them back into the dog’s life.

“Basically, we’re just taking their triggers and turning them from something fearful into something fun.”

Freya, who also works as a carer, says that reward-based training has been around for a long time, but notes: “What you see on the TV is people correcting the dog into a behaviour that they want the dog to do, and they use punishment – but then once the behaviour stops so does the training.

“Then what happens is that behaviour can come back, but also the dog is then used to a certain level of punishment. They have to escalate, so that’s why you’ll go from telling the dog no to tugging on their lead.

“When that stops working, they might stick some sort of collar on them, and when that stops working it might be an even worse collar... Slowly these punishments escalate.

“But with reward-based behaviours, we reward the dog for doing what we do want them to do. They don’t necessarily need to have treats and toys, but even just a verbal ‘good dog’ is enough to tell the dog that actually you’re doing this right.

“It takes a little bit longer, and sometimes it takes a little bit more skill to do, but long-term it’s a lot more effective – and people have known about that for years but it just doesn’t make sexy TV.”

In 2015, Freya acquired a puppy called Moo, who suffered from inherited poor health. This led to fear-based behavioural struggles, which subsequently set Freya off on her journey as a dog trainer.

She had to learn ways to help Moo thrive as much as possible, and he went on to live a good life after his recovery until he was six, when a random grass seed injury killed him.

In the meantime, Freya was gaining a lot of knowledge in training and helping dogs, which she found easy to impart to others, helping them to find the best way to manage their dogs to enable them to live the happiest lives possible.

She is now on her second degree-level course on the subject – she studied her first at the ISCP (The International School of Canine Psychology and Behaviour).

Freya’s current dog is a Springador named Twyla, who can be seen on the front cover of the book. The Fun Not Fear Club – Get a Fun Not Fear Life with your dog, which has received some excellent reviews, is available now from Amazon.

[Read more: Your guide to the best dog-friendly days out in Cambridge]

For more information on Freya’s Fun Not Fear Dog Care School, visit funnotfear.co.uk.

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