Guest writer – Jessie of Honest Hounds
I have always wanted my own dog, for as long as I can remember. Having grown up with a gorgeous German Shepherd who was just perfect, I see now that my dad had clear boundaries and expectations in place from Day 1, and she was a result of his hard work. Yet back then I thought dogs were just fluffy family members who cuddled you when you were sad and played with you when you were bored.
I didn’t understand how complex they could be, the behavioural problems that you could face, or how confusing it can be owning a dog, even if you were trying to do your best.
When I turned 30, I finally got the chance to get a dog that was mine. I didn’t enter into the process lightly, but did extensive breed research with my husband and finally settled on a Vizsla. It told me these dogs are high energy (perfect for a runner and avid hiker) but also very gentle and liking of cuddles. They are often known as ‘velcro’ Vizslas.
The Story of Atlas
We suddenly had a little bundle of endless energy and saggy skin. The whirlwind that was Atlas took over our house. Having a puppy was challenging, but we had a clear training plan and he excelled.
He slept through the night in the first week and never pooped inside the house. He learnt things so quickly and he was beyond adorable. We felt like we had done a pretty good job until about 8 months old when Atlas started showing some very challenging behaviour.
It started with a few growls and snaps when he was woken up on the sofa and we were shocked. Honestly, no one had ever told us to expect this, especially not from a puppy. We specifically got a puppy, not a rescue, because we didn’t think we could deal with any challenging behaviour (oh the irony). So, out of our depth, we reached out to a trainer.
Poor advice from that trainer then made all our problems worse. She basically told us to hide away, and we still received severe human aggression from Atlas.
Atlas was one week from being put to sleep. He couldn’t be rehomed and we had ended up in A&E multiple times due to his bites. We felt so alone and getting through each day with him was hard; I was scared to be in my house with my dog but we loved him so much and we just couldn’t give up on him. To summarise a long journey, we found a different, amazing trainer (David from PackWorksDogTraining), who introduced a new approach built on respect and boundaries and it turned our lives around.
Atlas is now one year and three months old and he is thriving. (You can find our full journey on Instagam https://www.instagram.com/story_of_atlas/ if you want to know more).
Why Honest Hounds?
While we were going through this process, we felt so isolated and alone. It felt like everyone else had a perfect loving dog, and despite trying so hard we had completely failed. I worried that other people were going through the same and thinking they were alone, but I took a leap and started sharing what we were experiencing. I couldn’t believe how many people reached out to say they were going through the same.
Setting up Honest Hounds
After a few months, I was getting a lot of messages each day from people who needed help or just wanted to talk about the issues they were having. I have always made sure I reply to each message, but I found myself often having the same conversations. Then, I decided to look for a way that I could keep all of the things I had learnt in one space that could be used by anyone. I also knew that there were so many people out there who also had a wealth of knowledge and inspiring journeys with their dogs. I wanted to be able to connect them so they could share their experiences too.
So, Honest Hounds was born! I took some time and chatted to some friends about what would be helpful to include and I set it all up through a private website called Circle.
Honest Hounds is a community-based space which has a number of pages that include everything a dog owner could need! We’ve got resources and tips, hikes, competitions, podcasts, blogs, a community chat, a map of all of our members for meet-ups, a space for introductions, and discount codes from amazing companies like WufWufUK and so much more! We are also looking ahead to include even more amazing features based on feedback from the community. It’s been 4 months since we launched and already we’ve got over 130 members across 7 countries, with new people joining every day. Some people choose to engage very actively while others just browse the resources at their own pace.
A safe place
The one thing everyone has in common is that they join knowing it is a safe space. There is no trolling or unkind comments or judgement of owners just trying to do right for their dogs. I’ve had these in the past from people about Atlas who don’t even take a second to understand our journey, and it can be so upsetting.
So, I wanted to make sure this didn’t happen to our members. The membership options allow for the monitoring of this to ensure it remains a safe space and we are continually blown away by how supportive and positive the community is.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the community you can check it out here: https://sites.google.com/view/honest-hounds/home. We’re confident you’ll love it so we’d love to give you a month’s free membership to check it out for yourself.
You can head to the link here and join – https://honesthounds.circle.so/checkout/one-month-free-membership as soon as you do you’ll have full access to the amazing community. We’ll see you there!
Looking for something great to treat your dog to each month? Try our themed monthly boxes.