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Every year many dogs suffer psychological trauma during the 4th of July fireworks, whereas, we humans are ecstatic over fireworks. Understanding your dog’s fearful behavior and what you can do at this stressful time of year is important for the emotional well-being of your pet.
Interestingly, one of the only innate fears humans have is a fear of loud noises. We still “jump” and our bodies prepare to “fight or flight” (or freeze) when we become startled by a loud, erratically heard noise. The bright flashing light can contribute in part to your dog’s fear, as well as the squeals of young children that may accompany the loud booms. Many dogs try to run away from fireworks by escaping the house or yard. Without understanding the origin and nature of the “threat”, it’s adaptable to survival to do so! It’s adaptive for us and for our dogs. Evolution would have it, that when a loud noise is perceived, in order to survive and procreate another day, the fittest need to take action. However, some dogs are frozen in fear and shake uncontrollably. Your dog’s fear may not be so obvious, but now’s the time to learn to read dog body language if you haven’t as yet.
Make preparations to protect your dog from the drama of fireworks by not leaving her alone and creating as calm an environment as possible. If you’re going out to watch fireworks, leave your dog home with a loving pet sitter and prep the sitter about your what you’d like done. I’m going out on a bay cruise to get an up-close look at the fireworks being launched form the barges there. I’ll be posting photos!
If your dog has not been properly desensitized to fireworks, there are ways to do that. However, it’s always a challenge and the July 4th celebrations are such a short and infrequent occurrence that lots of Management, Security and Noise Blocking may just be easier on you both.
There’s a lot you can do to make this wonderful holiday fun for you, and to make it “hum drum”, or even a happy time for your dog…which is precisely what we want! Get the Do No Harm Dog Training and Behavior Manual for teaching classes, private behavior consultations and pet parents.
Linda Michaels, M.A., Psychology, author, behavior consultant and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: LindaMichaelsPositively@gmail.com for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us atDogPsychologistOnCall.com Originally published RanchCoastNews. All rights reserved.
If I ask you to work the math problem: 85 + 15, you can surely answer 100 with just a little bit of thought. If I ask you the same while you careen down the first hill of the Mamba at Worlds of Fun, you might have a harder time working out that math. When the brain is distracted with lots of stimuli, like the sensation of dropping 70 mph in a train on a track, it can’t function as well as if you were sitting in a classroom.
Training a dog can often be like trying to teach someone math on a roller-coaster. To achieve optimum results, it is best to start teaching your dog his new skills in a classroom fit for a dog. This is a place where your dog is accustomed to spending time. For most, this is the kitchen; it has readily accessible rewards and is many times the place a family spends a lot of time.
Learning skills in this low-distraction place gives your dog a chance to focus on the lesson being taught. It is a much harder task to understand our training intentions when your dog is distracted by his environment. When a dog’s attention is divided between your lesson and, for example, the children running through the kitchen, the excitement of the activity probably wins.
Even more difficult for a dog is trying to learn something new when he is not only distracted by things happening around him, but also stressed by these things. Many things will stress a dog. There might be something that is causing fear (some dogs don’t like visitors arriving to their house, loud garbage trucks picking up the trash, men in baseball hats and beards, etc., etc.) or your dog might be feeling stress because of how you are trying to teach your lesson (punishment for wrong choices can be very stressful). Keeping your training fun for you and your dog will actually increase the quality of learning and your dog will be quicker to understand and remember his training.
So start in a classroom, and over time, sprinkle distractions into your training sessions. Beware the assumption that your dog can respond to your cues in all levels of distractions. If you find your dog not responding to the cue, give him a little extra help using a treat to lure him into position, and realize you might need to practice a bit more in a less distracting area.
Before you know it, when life gets as crazy as a roller-coaster, your dog will understand and respond to what you are asking him to do. Enjoy the ride!
Author: Melissa Laub, CPDT-KA
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