Month: September 2017

How to help a dog keep calm during fireworks – Essex Dog Photographer

Is it just me, or does summer seem to have slipped away and autumn has snuck in without me really noticing? The leaves are turning the most gorgeous reds, browns and yellows and I just love the smell of leaves in the forest and the crunching underfoot that I know will come. Anyway, I wasn’t going to talk to you about autumn, but with September ending and Halloween costumes entering the stores, my mind is taken forward to fireworks.


Stock Image - I'm sure you'll realise why as you read on.

When I was a child firework night/Guy Fawkes was a big event. I loved standing by the bonfire, sprinkler in hand, watching the fireworks go up at a local display, the crowd ooh-ing as they went up and ahh-ing as they exploded, as the sky filled with a myriad of colours leaving the scent of gunpowder in the air.

As an adult I still love fireworks but these days the thought of big displays fills me with a nervous anticipation. You see Layla is scared of fireworks. My previous German Shepherds were either entirely uninterested in the noise or barked every time a bang happened, rushing over to me to get a treat, knowing full well he got a treat for stopping barking – he ended up associating bangs with treats and quite liked the game.

The same cannot be said for Layla. When she was a puppy we used to sit on my bed and look out the window watching the fireworks – she used to actively watch what was going on without a hint of fear. The problems came when my neighbours over the road had display level fireworks in their back garden. Layla was fine watching them from the window but during a break in the fireworks, she needed a wee. So I quickly put her out in the garden and just as she was finishing and walking back in a firework went off. It was a ground-based one rising about 30 ft in the air. It spiralled up hissing and spitting and I honestly think she thought it was going to attack her. It was very loud and made me jump.

She shot inside and paced around the bungalow, desperately trying to find somewhere to hide and eventually she hid behind the sofa, head against the wall panting so hard her tongue went purple. I have never seen her so distressed and I have never felt so helpless. She was jumpy for days after and I spoke to my homeopathic vet the next day and he gave her gelsemium a good remedy for anxiety but especially for anticipatory fear. It helped but I knew that the next year I would have to put a plan in place to get her out the village when the neighbour's big display was on, and to also help her with all the other smaller displays that happen from the end of October until mid-November. One celebratory day, or weekend, of fireworks really has turned into a month-long nuisance for someone with a fearful pet.

My solution, other than removing her from the worst of it, has been desensitisation training. There are many CD’s available on the market with firework sounds that can be used but my personal recommendation is the Dog’s Trust. They have paired with the creators of the CD ‘Sounds Scary’ to make the tracks available for free which you can access here. The tracks can be streamed or downloaded. I’ve read that the better the speakers that play the tracks the better the results as the dogs believe the sounds to be real.

I start using the CD in September. It’s really important when using it to not start the playback too loudly or you’ll be starting with a startled dog and it won’t help anyone. It’s quite surprising how low the playback should be to start with. Start with the volume at zero and gradually raise it 1 level at a time until your dog’s ears start twitching – be aware that there may be gaps between the pops and bangs and not to raise the volume until you’re sure there is sound present. You may not be able to hear the sounds but as long as your dog is noticing the sound, at a level that they are comfortable with, then leave it at that level. Do no more than 10 minutes at a time. I start the first sessions during the day as that’s when Layla is less edgy with the sounds and as the days go on I put the CD on later and later until it’s playing when it’s dark and the curtains are closed like it would be come November. Over time you can increase the volume of the tracks, each time making sure your dog is comfortable with the level of the playback. If they start looking at all agitated then turn the volume back down and finish that session. You can always try again later when the dog is relaxed and start at the lower volume.

The other trick up my sleeve was introduced to me by my homeopathic vet. It’s a product called Kalm Aid. It’s a nutritional supplement and, to be honest, when I looked at it and the ingredients in it I was more than a little sceptical that it would work. After all, the main ingredients are a couple of amino acids and very little else. Well, it turns out these amino acids stimulate the production of serotonin in the body which has a strong calming effect, and boy does it work. I was sent the liquid version by my vet and was told to put it in her food a few hours before the fireworks were likely to start. He suggested I tr0y the right dose for her size (as written on the bottle) a few days before I needed it to make sure that the dosage was appropriate for her and to adjust as necessary i.e. decrease by 1-2 pumps if too sedated or increase if required.

Image taken from

These days, with the sound CD being used from September, the Kalm Aid in her food on know firework display nights, a good walk during the day, and a safe place to hide in (usually under the duvet on the bed!) Layla is settled enough t be able to cope with the noise without batting too much of an eyelid. Thankfully firework night has become a less anxious affair for us and long may it continue.

I really hope this helps those of you with similar issues. I know fireworks are a big issue for many dog parents and these days they are no longer confined to 5th November and seem to stretch on and on. I wish you and your furry family a relaxed, calmer November.

The Fireworks CD can be found at the Dog’s Trust here.

Posted by 4 Legs Photography in Uncategorised

8 Dog friendly place to eat in Woolacombe

This week finds me in my spiritual home, Woolacombe. I’ve been coming here since I was a small child and coming down the hill and catching that first glimpse of the sea feels like coming home. A holiday in Devon isn’t complete without a cream tea and, if I’m completely honest just generally overindulging! I’ve been bringing Layla with me to Devon since she was 5 months old so I've found plenty of dog friendly place to eat.

I’ve always found it easy to take Layla into restaurants and I’m still finding new places to go. So as much as it has been a difficult and laborious process, I’ve gone round all my favourite restaurants and cafes to bring you “My favourite places to eat in Woolacombe with furry family in tow” [OK, so maybe that title needs a bit of work, but it’s still a good list 😉 ]

Looking down at Woolacombe from the hill

The Red Barn

This place! Uh, I just love it!  The view is just spectacular and to watch the sun go down while eating dinner is just fabulous.  There are plenty of BBQ bench seating outside for those balmy summer days should you wish to stay out in the fresh air.

As you go in through the front door of this open airy barn, there is a section on the right with curved booth seating and a few tables and chairs for 2.  This is the designated dog area and to be honest, has the best seats in the house!  It can get a bit toasty when the sun’s out but if it’s too much then they’ll open the windows or draw the curtains a bit.

Once you’ve found your seat and decided what you want, you make a note of your table number and go up to the counter to order your food.  There is a separate bar area to order and pay for drinks and places to sit should you just want a drink.  Your food is then brought to your table so you can eat whilst admiring the spectacular view, and the most amazing sunsets should the weather be kind.

The food is very tasty, unpretentious, great value and there’s always a good selection of specials on the blackboard.  They open at 9 am and have recently revamped their breakfasts which are just what you need to set you up for the day!  They serve food throughout the day until 9:30 Friday to Sunday and 9 pm Monday to Thursday.

Every Friday they have a live band playing, which usually starts somewhere around 9 pm.  I have to say I usually leave then as it gets so loud it hurts my ears (let alone Layla’s).  This is certainly one of my favourite places for a relaxed meal when I’m in Woolacombe.

You can find their website here

Sunset over Lundy from the Red Barn

The view from inside the Red Barn watching the sun go down over Lundy

The Captains Table

A wonderful family run restaurant, the Captains Table is another great dog-friendly place to eat. Situated on the high street near the Woolacombe Bay Hotel, there are a few bench seats outside that many dog owners like to sit at, but dogs are certainly welcome inside.

The restaurant is bright and airy and decorated with a nautical theme, as you might expect. They have an upstairs seating area which has a great panoramic view towards the beach, although upstairs is a dog free zone.

They have an extensive list of specials to complement their diverse menu. Their food is wonderfully fresh and great value, and they have a lovely selection of fish meals including crab, and lobster on request.
The tables have waiter service and I have always found everyone to be warm and friendly. I have to say I’m rather partial to their macaroni cheese (a weakness of mine!) and they have amazing cream teas (and their tea pots actually pour properly!). This is another place where we regularly visit and I look forward to my naughty indulgence while I’m there 😉

Click here for their website

Bar Electric

Bar electric is a great laid back, relaxed bar and place to eat.  It has funky decor with a combination of relaxed sofa seating, high tables and bar stools,  and conventional tables and chairs.  There's even a snug side room with sofa and a real cosy feel. On the walls hang tv’s playing surf movies and there’s relaxed chill out music in the background.

There are a few themed nights throughout the week, including their fabulous curry buffet with all you can eat for £7.  For those that don’t eat curry, they do still serve some dishes from the normal menu.   Once you’ve picked where to sit, you order at the bar and your food is brought to your table.  From the bar, you can get anything from a latte, a larger, to a long island ice tea.

If you're looking for some entertainment then they hold an open mic night on Wednesdays and laid back acoustic live music to accompany Sunday lunch.

Want something a little up tempo and feel like letting your hair down? Then Friday night they have a live DJ, with Saturday being their 'we love to party' night!

It really is a place to suit everyone, but do expect a laid back approach. Just sit back, relax, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy great food with great company.

Bar Electric's website can be found here.

The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk is another family run business. Situated on the Esplanade, looking down the length of Woolacombe beach, it really is a restaurant with a view!  There is plenty of seating outside to make the most of the wonderful views and the perfect place to sit and watch the waves with a glass of your favourite tipple.

As you go in, the bar area is to the left with 3 tables that accommodate dog owners (which can be booked in advance). They carry a smaller menu than most in the village and are higher priced than many, but the food is delicious with great service. It’s nice to find somewhere that does something a little different from the norm and the menu evolves. They have gorgeous desserts to (my favourite part of any meal!)

Every Friday night they have a Thai curry night, and they serve a traditional roast every Sunday lunchtime. 

They are open all day Monday to Sunday from 11 am but only serve food from noon to 3 pm, then 5:30 pm to 9 pm.

You can find their website here.

a view down Woolacombe beach whilst sitting in the Boardwalk

The Tides Inn

With lots of seating outside, the Tides Inn is a great place to sit and enjoy the sun or watch it go down on a balmy summer’s evening.

Inside, there is lots of seating, both tables & chairs and more booth style seating, set over 2 levels. Dogs are welcome freely through the whole restaurant.

In the last year, the Tides Inn has had a change of chef and a revamp of the menu.  Now serving less traditional fare, it has a more gastro-pub style with its prices now more on par with The Boardwalk.  Along with the change in menu, your order is now taken at your table.  There is a specials board with a regularly changing range of starters and mains.  As always they have great desserts! In all honesty, I have previously been known to forgo a starter and have 2 desserts as I didn’t know which one to choose…well, I was on holiday!!

At the back of the menu, there is now some fascinating info on the evolution of the building and its previous life as the 3rd hotel in Woolacombe.  I love to hear the many lives a building has over its time.

Tides Inn can be found on their Facebook page here.

The Beachcomber Cafe

The Beachcomber Café is set just below the main car park in Woolacombe with outstanding views down the beach!  In my humble opinion, it is THE absolute best place to go for breakfast and is quite possibly the café with the best views in the country.

There is an anteroom with a few tables and chairs as you first enter the café, with access to some outdoor seating with plexiglass on the railings which can make the area a real sun trap!  The main café is open and airy with an ordering area at the end.  They have a good selection of cakes and have quite a few different teas on offer.  They also have a fresh orange juice machine – is there anything better than a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice on a sunny day whilst looking down Woolacombe beach?  Who needs Spain anyway 😉

The only downside is there is no in-house loo, but the very clean public loos are just next door.

Aside from the amazing breakfasts, they serve light lunches and snacks from 11:30 am onwards including cream teas, ploughman's, sandwiches, chilli and burgers.

I would love to hear if you know of a café with a better view...but I’m pretty sure you can’t find one!

Click here for Beachcomber Café’s website.

View from the Beachcomber cafe

The Fortescue Arms

Outside of Woolacombe, near the Golden Coast holiday park, you’ll find the Fortescue Arms.  This family run, dog-friendly free house not only has a restaurant but also a dog-friendly B&B.

Dogs are allowed in the large bar area, where you can also have a meal.  They serve freshly prepared food every night, with a carvery every Sunday.  The carvery is also available on other days of the week dependent on the time of year and high season.  We always love to go on carvery days as we love the choice available (and cauliflower cheese with a roast is just so naughty 😉 )

This place would be most dog’s restaurant of choice, as on carvery days the owner, Robert,  can be found walking around the bar area with a handful of meat.  Yep, you guessed it, The Fortesque is so dog-friendly even our 4 legged family get to join in on the goodies!  No one is left out.  Layla has been so many times now that as soon as she hear’s Robert’s voice she starts looking around and wagging her tail!  She knows what’s coming and she’s never disappointed!

There is also a great dessert selection available with a wide selection of pies, tarts and ice cream available.  I’m rather partial to their gorgeous lemon meringue pie!

It’s somewhere we will continue to go back to year after year, and  I suggest next time you are in the area your dog will love you if you pop in on carvery day.

To see the Fortesque’s website click here.

Lee Meadow Farm and Cafe

Set back from the main road, down the road to Lee, you’ll find Lee Meadow Farm Shop and Café.  It’s also a Camping and Caravanning Club Certified Site.

We’ve always received a warm welcome as we enter the well-stocked farm shop come café.  There is seating available outside when the weather is good, and warm cosy seating inside when the weather is less favourable.

The café is a real surprise, the quality and presentation of food are unexpected when you drive up to the shop/café and see it flanked by the farm.  I have never had such a well presented, tasty, diverse Ploughmans as I've had here.  It’s so pretty it is a shame to eat it!

The farm is a working farm with pigs, sheep, duck and chickens to name a few, and as such, the farm sells its own produce along with local produce from around the area.

This is a real gem of a place tucked away from the masses and a tranquil place for either a quick drink or a bite to eat. Definitely worth a visit.

You can find Lee Meadow Farm’s website here.

Beautifully presented ploughman's

So there they are, 8 wonderfully dog friendly places to eat with your furry family.  It was hard work but I made it - the things I do to help you out 😉

In all seriousness, Woolacombe is one of the most dog friendly places I know and I never tire of that beach.  If you have any dog friendly places you know of that I haven't mentioned then please let me know.

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Posted by 4 Legs Photography in Uncategorised