May 31, 2010
Hi Friends! At the end of this is my blog post from last Fourth of July-How helpful could it have been if it was published on THE day, after fireworks have been going off in Omaha for at least a week and our poor dogs had just suffered through storm season to boot? So I took the post down, so I could come up with something MORE HELPFUL this year! I hope that I have. I have learned from some wonderful trainers and behaviorists* in the past eleven months, researched and obsessed. It’s what I do! : )
I will submit an abrieviated set of tips to Shadow Lake Towne Center’s Pet Tip section for June, and post a link here. I will also polish up this post a bit, so hopefully it will be of use to you this year. As you think through how you will keep your pets happy this Fourth, so they can have at least as much fun as we do, here are some thoughts that I hope will help:
A tired dog is often a calm dog. Spend the week BEFORE the Fourth of July exercising them well, long walks when it is cool out, play time with you, swimming, whatever it takes to get their nervous energy worked out as much as possible.
Consider investing a few bucks in a Thundershirt. This one is new to me this year. It is a snug-fitting vest-like thing that provides constant gentle pressure to your pet’s thorax. I believe it works in the same way as acupressure or baby swaddling, though even the creators do not know for sure! It is $36.00 through their website and reported to be over 85% effective in calming fearful dogs.
Work with a trainer or behaviorist on counter-conditioning and desensitization. More on this later. For now, suffice it to say you need to be very overprotective of your pet-do not use any methods that scare your pet, or put him or her in a panic situation of any kind. Even if your trainer does not use the word “flooding” and even if he is super cute and has his own tv show, if you think your pet is not enjoying training, pick him up and run home. Then call a trainer or behaviorist who works solely with up to date, humane, positive-reinforcement based training methods.
Medications (sedatives, tranquillizers and behavior medications) have a place in managing some phobias. Work closely with your veterinarian to determine if medication may help. Remember that some medications make your pet sleepy, but he or she may just have the appearance of calm, when in actuality they may be just as frightened without the capacity to respond to their fear.
This is not only new to me, but fairly new among behaviorists – It is OK to calm your fearful pet! It was previously believed that coddling would make a fear worse. While you should try to maintain a calm attitude during a potentially scary situation, if your pet is reacting fearfully, do whatever it takes to calm them. In a panic situation, your pet is not open to a training opportunity. They are scared and in need of reassurance. So go ahead and pick them up, pet them and tell them that it is going to be ok.
If you are with your pets, keep them close (preferably on leash) so that if they do panic, they stay physically safe. If you are not with your pets, make sure they are in a safe, contained area. A treat-filled Kong may keep a pet with mild fear issues distracted enough to ignore what would otherwise be scary.
Let’s spend this month interacting and coming up with plans together to keep all of our pets safe and fear-free for the Fourth of July!
Here is the post from July 4, 2009:
Here is my best advice for dogs today, especially for those who are fearful of fireworks. This may also help throughout the stormy season. Often storm and firework phobias go together….Take your dog on a long walk now while it is cool and before all the craziness starts, and they will hopefully be happy and tired tonight. Same idea behind tranquillizers and seditives only without the risks…And I don’t mean drugs can’t be used safely. Use them if you’ve got them (if you have your vet’s ok!)