ELEVEN ways to help your dog with fireworks

Thunder and fireworks, while exciting, can be terrifying for your dog. Let’s look at ways to help them deal with the stress.

1. Isolation

Place your dogs in an area in the house that is isolated from everything. Bathrooms are good, as are internal bedrooms. A dressing room, should you have one, is the best, as the clothing on the walls effectively dampens any exterior sounds.

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2. Masking

Play music in the room where the dogs are. This results in a masking effect, and creates additional ambient sound. Play a selection with a wide range of frequency, highs and lows, and lots of drums. House music, rock music or country is a good choice during periods of loud thunder or fireworks. This is not the time for relaxing to Enya or yoga vibes. Ensure the music doesn’t stop when you are away, as the silence can be deafening.

3. Soundproofing

Place sound absorbent materials, such as carpeting, towels, blankets etc. in the room where the dogs are staying. This will in effect break up the sound transfer, and reduce the pressure reaching the dogs. By the way, this also helps with a noisy puppy; or a crying baby.

4. Sedation

Personally I am not a fan of drugs such as Prozak or Ace. However, if your dog has an extreme case of PTSD, or is severely affected by load noises, then this may be your only solution. They do work, and most have minimal side affects. Check with your vet first though.

5. Feeding

Feed your dogs shortly before the action is about to start. Most dogs take a nap after dinner, so may be more relaxed. However, if your dog has a tendency to throw up when fearful, then I would not feed them prior. Rather I would wait until you return home, or until after the fireworks are over.

6. Training

Group Stay on grassYes, I am a trainer, so clearly I may be accused of bias. But the truth is training is very effective. The trick is to know how and when to train, and to know your limitations. Start by introducing your dog to noise on a limited basis, over a period of weeks. Don’t wait until July 3rd to start. Depending on your dog, and if you are reading this, chances are your dog has this issue, you may have to start small, and build up in baby steps. Don’t flood your dog. Build on successful results, and avoid overwhelming your dog, which could cause them to crash. Remember, positive is always more effective than pressure.

7. Calming

Calming kind of goes with training. Basically you use your training foundation to maintain calm in your dog. Using a gentle assertive voice you show your dog there is nothing to fear. By “assertive” I do NOT mean dominant compulsion. I mean remaining calm and respectful, but using your “parent” voice. Use words such as “settle”, “relax” or “easy”. Avoid corrections, such as “NO!” These increase stress. Remain kind and fair to your dog, while showing them noise is just that; noise!

8. Companionship

Having a second dog can be useful. Or for that matter another animal. However, it only works if the companion is calm and relaxed. Placing two animals that are both reactive or stressful will result in a cumulative or even exponential effect.

9. Crating

Karnak Down Sun

Anyone that knows me knows I love crates. If used correctly, they are awesome. But like any tool, you need to prepare and train. Crating plays on the denning principle in animals. Most dogs love their crates. Mine cannot wait to go into their crates, as it provides a safe and quiet place for them. If your dog is not comfortable in a crate, consult a professional trainer before leaving them in a crate over July 4th.

10. Kenneling

Another option if you are out for the night is to board your dog at a kennel. Check that they have protocols in place to ensure your dog cannot break out of a kennel, or better still, that their facility is soundproof. Keep in mind that some kennels are full over July 4th, or have minimum stays.

11. Treat

As a trainer, I love things that keep my dogs occupied. A bone, or a Kong filled with cheese or peanut butter will keep them occupied for hours. My dogs will chew on almost anything I give them. Avoid things that they could choke on, and if you have more than one dog, ensure you keep them separated to avoid conflict over a bone or toy. Did I mention crate training?

P.S.Thundershirt

This tip is a freebie. Look into the “thundershirts” that dogs can wear. They work on dogs that are already anxious, and may minimize their reactivity. I have found these work best on dogs that have been acclimated to them over a period of weeks.

EXTRA: Exercise

Ludwig running in forest.jpgDon’t forget exercise! Run, swim or play with your dog for a hour prior to the evening. You probably need the exercise too; I know I do, but your dog will LOVE the additional attention. And after all, isn’t that what life is about.

A tired dog is a sleepy dog.

Do we pass the AKC Trainer Test?

AKC CGC logo

THE TEST!

Normally, I hate tests! They stress me out, make me nervous and generally mess up what could be a great day! But I will make an exception, just for you!

Last week I was reading a blog by well-known Animal Behaviorist, Dr. Mary Burch. She is the Director of the AKC CGC program, and has been instrumental in improving the quality of training.

(http://caninegoodcitizen.wordpress.com)

In her blog, as well as in her book, she offers advice on Choosing the Right Trainer.

(http://caninegoodcitizen.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/choosing-the-right-trainer-for-you/)

I decided to put myself, and Partners Dog Training School, to the TEST!

TIP: I added some comments to educate you, and your friends in what else to look for; and what to ask!

Choosing the Right Trainer

1.  How long have you been training dogs?

My answer: About thirty years.

Tip: Ask how much of that time was spent as a professional, full-time trainer, actually making a living from teaching dogs. In my case, 20 years.

2.  What kinds of classes do you teach?

My answer: I teach obedience, protection, agility, dock diving, service dogs, detection dogs and search & rescue.

3.  Have you put any titles on your own dogs?

Yes, French Ring Title, AKC Tracker Dog Title, Schutzhund title, Obedience title, Agility Title, AKC CGC titles.

Tip: Ask if the trainer actually trained the dog from scratch, or did they Title a dog that was purchased as an already Titled dog.

4.  What dog sports do you participate in or have you participated in?

My answer: French Ring, Agility, Dock Diving, Herding, Obedience.

5.  What is your basic philosophy of training?

My answer: I believe in positive reward based training, but with an element of minor compulsion training. By the way, some trainers believe in exclusively training using positive, and others use more compulsion, so this is a complex question. In addition, I will use different techniques on different dogs and in different situations. I almost always chat with clients prior to training, to ensure they are comfortable with my approach and reasoning.

Tip: Ask the trainer if you can observe them teaching a class, or teaching a lesson.

6.  What kind of equipment will we be using in class (e.g., collars, etc).

My answer: We use all types of equipment, from collars to martingales. Generally we try to match the equipment to the situation, and in some cases, we also have to work with what we have.

7.  Do you use food rewards?  Corrections?  If so, can you tell me about these.

My answer: Yes, we use food reward, mostly to build the behavior through motivated repetition. And yes, we do use limited (soft) corrections. As a specialist behavioral school, we are often the point of last resort, and this leads to us having to find solutions to very difficult answers. Many other trainers refer their failures to us, and we are proud of the fact that we succeed in most of these cases.

8.  Are all sizes of dogs together?

My answer: No, we train like-with-like. And each dog has its own kennel, its own crate and its own training session. Dogs need to feel comfortable around other dogs.

9.  Do you know your drop-out rate? How many students graduate from your classes?

My answer: Our drop out rate in the basic (level 1) classes is about 1.5 in 10. In the advanced classes, we have very few drop-outs, as these students have trained with us for a while, and are loyal and committed clients.

10. After the beginning class, do many students go on for additional training?

We are especially proud that more than half, roughly 6 in 10 students, advance on to other classes. Some of these are more advanced, and others are part of our sports program. We specifically developed our agility, dock diving and protection sports facilities to accommodate the needs of our students interested in further training for their families.

Tip: Ask trainers what investment they have in providing sports training for clients. Do they actually work out of a school? Or do they just use a public park?

I have one more TIP to add to this. Ask the trainer to connect on Facebook, and read through the posts. Remember, you are interviewing someone who will in effect be working for you, and its important to know them on a personal basis. My Facebook, as well as that of the school, is open for all to see.

In my next blog, I will look at the questions Dr. Burch asks when observing a class! 

Be a Parent, not a Grandparent

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When interacting with your dog, it is perfectly okay to spoil them.

But remember, love them as a parent!

The Task of a Parent

Parents need to teach their kids what is appropriate behavior. No child is born with an understanding of the complex requirements we have of society. Use encouragement and motivation. Guide them in a direction of what is acceptable and what is not.

We also need to remember that expecting a child to act as an adult is not only difficult; it is ridiculous. (For that matter, there are many “adults” that act as kids!)

Dogs are no different! Puppies need to learn what to chew on; when to eat; when to play and when to sleep.

As the pet owner, you are the parent. And as the parent, you are responsible for teaching them.

Older Dogs

Older dogs that have been raised with few boundaries, need to learn how to act. And while most are willing to learn, there are a few that either have no wish to learn, or are so established in their behavioral patterns, they have no wish to change.

The Task of a Grandparent
What is the task of a Grandparent. Actually, this is quite complex.

In many societies, Grandparents are seen as the “elders”.

They have extensive experience; have learned many life-lessons and are generally well educated. In many cultures, education is not book learned; it is learned through practical hands-on training. A “student” is taught through constant repetition of the correct behavior.

“You learn what you see!”  (Sound familiar?) 

In behavioral training we refer to this as modeling, and at our school we apply this concept extensively. Older (more experienced) dogs teach younger (greener) dogs.

Respect

Something these cultures have in common is a great respect for the elder. Students value their leadership, teachings and knowledge. Students are comfortable with following and obeying the elder; and elders feel appreciated and needed.

In the Western world, this has changed. While many see the elders as knowledgable, the proliferation of electronics and social media has created a belief that the younger generations know more. Now the child believes they are “more educated”.

I am not sure I agree with this. Yes, sure, we know more about computers, games, sport, etc.. But are these truly life lessons? Does this mean we know it all? Is this a new culture?

Grandparents as Spoilers

For many families, the Grandparent has been relegated to the background. (In some cases, the Grandparent is completely missing, but that’s for another discussion.)

Grandparents now fill the role of being the “spoiler”, meaning they spoil the kids, they don’t educate them. This is not necessarily wrong; simply it is what it is. The problem is that some dog owners become Grandparents.

Entitlement Generation

So is this change in our culture possibly the source of our “entitlement” generation? Have we developed a new culture? One in which first the grandparent; and now the parent; is no longer the teacher? Worse, the student believes they are now entilted?

We need to get back to being the parent! Parents still need to teach! And children need to learn. Grandparents should be a part of that process, even if they are more in the support role. After all, they have a lifetime of experience to offer – let’s put that to use!

What has this got to do with Dogs?

By now, you are wondering what has this to do with dogs.

Let me explain.

Dogs are like children. For many, they are our children.

They need calm, confident and motivated leadership.

They need to be educated.

They need to learn restraint.

They need to learn what the rules are in life – what we tolerate, and what we don’t!

Parents not Grandparents.

So while you want to be seen as a dog lover; remember to be a parent first.