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Wren

We had our other Lurcher for 17 years, but nothing prepared us for Wren! She was around 7 months old and life completely terrified her in every way. She had a very long list of issues but the deepest ones were a desperate desire to eat at any cost and acute separation anxiety. Our peaceful lives were immediately turned uncomfortably upside down and after only 24 hours of her arrival I made contact with Sarah!

Sarah either talked to us on the phone, by e-mail or visited us to help with specific problems. We have, also, attended Sarah’s weekly training classes since Wren arrived. The familiarity and routine helped Wren to settle with us. She is always delighted to be there enjoying the human and dog friendship and support. It has been good to develop her skills and help her feel fulfilled but it has also been a massively important lifeline for me too. I had to be shown how to help her.

We have had Wren for 18 months and I would say that it took a year to rebuild Wren and her world. We just hung in there and slowly little triumphs replaced the disasters and today we have a happy, content dog. We are so proud to be able to do so many things with her from coffee in the High Street to going for a cross country run with my husband off the lead. She no longer walks on the table and work surfaces checking for food and destroying everything in her path. She is also relaxed when we leave her on her own.

We couldn’t have done this alone. If we hadn’t had Sarah’s calm, sensible help, we certainly wouldn’t have the balanced relationship with Wren that we have today.

(As I type Wren can’t be bothered to get out of bed and says she’ll have her breakfast in a bit. A miracle!)

(Dog's name) Wren

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Monty

I contacted Sarah as I was concerned about an issue that had developed with my 14 month Schnoodle, Monty. Monty is a happy, playful young dog but he had bitten my parents on a number of occasions, always whilst being petted. I was concerned about how to deal with this behaviour and how to prevent this happening in the future.

I had an initial chat on the phone with Sarah, and then she visited my house and spent the morning with me, my Mum, and Monty. Sarah observed Monty's behaviour over the course of the morning and advised us on our interactions with Monty and how to build a more positive relationship with Monty.

Sarah advised us that Monty was giving us clear canine signs about certain situations which he found unsettling, mainly to do with being handled too much. Monty had been giving us these signs for quite some time, but we as his owners just hadn't been reading them!

With Sarah's guidance we have learned to understand how Monty is communicating with us, and we have adapted our behaviour towards him so that we have a more hands off approach which Monty is more relaxed about. Monty has absolutely blossomed under this new regime and we still have lots of mutual affection, but we now understand that there are lots of other ways in which to positively interact with Monty without having to always stroke and cuddle him.

Sarah advised that there were occasions when using a muzzle on Monty would give me confidence and protect Monty and those who were interacting with him but that didn't understand his behaviour. Sarah taught me how to build a positive relationship for Monty with the muzzle using rewards and building up the time wearing the muzzle very slowly. This has worked very well and I use the muzzle purely when Monty visits the vet as he can be reactive to the intense handling; the vet has really appreciated this and wishes more dog owners would understand the benefit of using a muzzle in certain situations!

Our relationship with Monty continues to go from strength to strength. Because of the guidance which Sarah has given us, Monty is a much happier and more relaxed dog and we have had no more issues with biting.

I would encourage those owners who are experiencing a similar issue with their dog to contact Sarah. It’s all about understanding the dog and speaking the same language - I can’t thank Sarah enough for her help with Monty and I thoroughly recommend her.

Christine Chadwick & Monty

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Cracker

Cracker is a 3.5year old Cocker spaniel who lives with "sister”, Bonny a, one year old cocker spaniel, my husband and myself. We have had cockers for over 30 years and never one as complicated as Cracker. Cracker is a very anxious dog with several behavioural problems that my husband and I were keen to address and with Sarah's help and guidance he has improved greatly.

The first issue was guarding aggression. We had been out for a family walk with our son and Cracker enjoyed a meal of dead rabbit, which he returned later that evening. Trying to move Cracker from the mess was a bad move resulting in our son being bitten, not badly...

After this I contacted Sarah. She suggested before any help from her that Cracker needed a full health check to make sure there were no underlying medical problems. This was done and the results returned negative, so I contacted Sarah and she came for a home visit.

Other issues with Cracker are retrieving and not giving up other dogs tennis balls while out on a walk; consuming undesirable items e.g. tissues and socks, crowded places and fear of children running around while he is in a confined space.

Cracker was walked daily with Bonny and a group of dogs of mixed ages and breeds. Thinking back to those days I now appreciate he was not happy. He was always on my heels and not playing as a dog should.

With Sarah's advice I now walk him with Bonny and sometimes on his own, but away from the group of multiple dogs. He has become a far less anxious dog enjoying his outings, having the confidence to move away from me and playing with Bonny when together.

Just over a month after since Sarah's last visit he is a much happier dog. We still have work to do with him but without Sarah's guidance and common sense approach we would still be living with an unpredictable and unhappy dog.

A few days after Sarah's last home visit we received very helpful paperwork that we can always refer back to, and the assurance that if there are any problems with Cracker in the future help is only a phone call away.

Very many thanks.

Linda Alford

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Tammy

I met Sarah Cooke through the stalwart work she does for Greyhound Rescue West of England. She has helped me so much in my work as National Behavioural Officer for GRWE. Often when I am struggling to help a damaged dog that has just entered the rescue she will help me to find the way forward. She is very skilled and has an excellent understanding of dogs of all breed types.

For this reason when I became the owner of Tammy a bright German Shepherd pup Sarah was the obvious person to turn to for our puppy classes (at Westfield Vets) and then to continue with our Bronze and Silver KC awards. Tammy is now half way through doing her Gold award. This looked unachievable when I first started on Bronze but Sarah breaks it down into tiny steps and makes it seem so easy for owner and dog.

I am so proud of what Tammy has done and what a lovely dog she has turned out to be. Thank you Sarah for your advice, your intuition and your support both with Tammy and with the GRWE dogs

Carol Baby
National Behavioural Support Officer Greyhound Rescue West of England (GRWE)

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Suki

We collected our new puppy in February 2014. She was beautiful but it quickly became clear something was wrong. She barked furiously at everyone and threatened to bite. My arms were soon covered in bruises and the little cuts that puppies’ needle sharp teeth give. The vet suggested I contact Sarah Cooke from Dogaffinity and to book onto her puppy foundation class.

Sarah arrived at my home, armed with a container of cubed boiled chicken, on the day I called her. She quickly and professionally assessed my puppy’s behaviour as fear based aggression. My little puppy was scared and I had not realised. Sarah showed me how to teach Suki to sit, lie and stand. Sarah suggested using a game Suki could use to occupy her and, by the time she left, Sarah had given Suki and me a whole new start; wonderful.

At the first puppy class we attended, Suki sat in her little travel ‘cave’, hiding from the other puppies; at the second class she was a little more confident, got out of her bolt hole and hid behind my legs. By the time we completed our puppy foundation award six weeks later, Suki wasn’t hiding at all and I quickly signed on to the Bronze training course.

Suki and I have been training with Sarah ever since, and she is now on her Gold course. We work on the Gold course requirements, but we also play games like skittles and do obstacle courses, racing through tunnels and round cones, which Suki loves (and so do I). Living in a busy tourist area, Suki’s training is invaluable and I am always very proud of her when she instantly obeys commands. She is still wary of big dogs and people she doesn’t know, but Suki is a very different dog from the one she would have been without us understanding her.

(Dog's name) Suki Danson

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Phoebe

I contacted Sarah in July 2012 as we were struggling with our 4 year old Cocker Spaniel, Phoebe. Her behaviour when either the postman or a delivery man called at our front door as causing us concern. Sarah came to our home and worked with our whole family showing us support and sharing her knowledge and her practical advice. With Sarah's calm and positive approach she was able to teach us how our actions speak louder than words in a dog's world. She was able to show us how Phoebe reacted to our body language; her surroundings and how we had fuelled her behaviour on fast forward! ... [read full testimonial]

Louise Ainsworth & Phoebe. July 2013

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Hades

Sarah is a very knowledgeable dog behaviourist, and understands your dog's needs. Sarah works very closely with you offering support, and advice about how best to work with your dog. She has a wealth of knowledge on breeds and their characters therefore offering best practice for the breed type.

Sarah's classes are stress free as she understands the needs of the individual dogs; she tailors her classes to support owners and their dogs. The classes are small and have a chilled atmosphere.

My young teenage daughter now trains one of my dogs, a young male Alaskan malamute in class, she is learning how to read our dog, and is learning how to use good kind training methods with her very best friend our family dog.

Tracy Stanton, Weston-Super-Mare. June 2013

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Sarah and her team have always welcomed GRWE with open arms and many dogs have been rehomed happily and safely thanks to Dogaffinity's experience and knowledge. Volunteers sharpen their understanding of dogs and are helped to build the confidence of hounds awaiting homes. Days at the centre improve dogs' awareness of their movements, help them respond to their handlers and each other and prepare them for positive training in their future lives. This all happens in a calm and positive environment where kennel dogs can thrive. GRWE is so grateful for the kind support which Sarah provides and would recommend Dogaffinity to anyone who wants a good quality relationship with their dog.

Greyhound Rescue West of England (GRWE). May 2013

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Dexter

We fostered Dexter in September 2011, then realised we couldn't let him go, so adopted him on 1st January 2012. He is a Saluki Lurcher and was around a year old when we fostered him after a bad start to his young life.

Right from the beginning he was problematic, very barky and reactive with other dogs, and scared of many things, including motorbikes, joggers, horses, lorries etc., and as you can imagine, this made walking him, with our other two dogs, very stressful!

After a year of this, I contacted GRWE who advised me to get in touch with Sarah Cooke, who works with many of their rescue dogs and came highly recommended. Dexter and I have been having one-to-one sessions with Sarah since October 2012, and he is a different dog! ... [read full testimonial]

Louise Flower & Dexter. June 2013

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Piper Chick

Piper Chick is an ex-racing greyhound that I fostered 2 years ago for Greyhound Rescue West of England. This very special dog was so terrified of people, that they never saw her out of her bed when they went into the kennel block-she was always in her bed quivering. The rescue did everything they could do to try and rehabilitate her, but were pleased when I offered to foster her with my other dogs.

I was already training some of my other dogs with Sarah, and she was able to advise me how to cope with this very special and damaged dog. We had one to one sessions, where I was able to bring one of my other dogs to support her. Sarah's assessment of Piper was so right - she wasn't a nervous dog really, but one that had been very badly treated at some point ... [read full testimonial]

Caroline & Piper Chick. June 2013

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Paddy

If only all dog trainers and behaviourists were like Sarah...she has a wonderfully calm and understated manner and is never judgmental. Her laid back confidence has done wonders for Paddy and for me; we leave the training sessions feeling ten feet tall at our successes rather than admonished for our failings.

Rowena & Paddy, Bristol. June 2013

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Paddy

When we first met Sarah, Holly our rescued Lurcher had numerous issues as she'd had a very difficult start in life. She was extremely worried about people she didn't know coming near her, tail between the legs, wide eyes with a please don't hurt me again look. Holly was also very reactive to other dogs, barking and appearing to be very aggressive.

Sarah taught us how to handle Holly's problems and although she isn't a perfectly behaved Lurcher the improvements in Holly have made all of our lives easier.

Now we regularly take Holly & her companion Sam to fundraisers for Greyhound & Lurcher rescue where Holly allows people to make a fuss of her and she tends to ignore other dogs.

Vicky & Roger, Weston-Super-Mare. June 2013

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Petra

Petra is a rescued podenco whom I adopted in 2008. She had a difficult start in life and exhibited a lot of tricky behavioural problems as well as having very high anxiety levels. Over the years I have worked very hard to find ways to help Petra cope in the big scary world; supporting her when she needed it, pushing her boundaries when she could cope with it and trying to understand and love a very troubled dog with difficulties that really challenged me. I sought help from dog professionals with varying degrees of success along the way, as well as putting in a lot of work myself and supporting Petra with training, complementary therapies, holistic veterinary approaches and other healing modalities. It wasn't until I started to go for one-to-one sessions with Sarah at Dogaffinity that I began to really have fun with Petra - something that was sadly lacking for us ... [read full testimonial]

M.W. Somerset. May 2013

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