Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer's Big Scary Bangs

Thunder Storms and Fireworks... aahh, the joys of summertime. Some dogs are not bothered by these loud noises. Whether it is their personality or their socializing or breed purpose, there are many dogs who can tolerate all of these loud annoyances. However, for whatever reason, there remains a number of dogs who are totally petrified of these loud noises. I have heard that some breeders play special CDs or expose the pups very early on to these loud noises (like if it is a gun dog breed) that this helps to desensitize the pups for later on in life. I have LEARNED that if the mother is exposed to these sounds and is used to them while she is pregnant, that the pups should have an easier time desensitizing as well. However, if the mother is scared by these sounds, she may secrete hormones (as a result from adrenaline) into her system which will in turn effect the puppies own chemical reaction to stress later on. That is one reason why a good breeder will choose the mother by a calm temperment, and not breed skittish fearful dogs.

Here is my experience with my dog (mind you this is my very first dog ever I have ever owned or trained)... Rosie was fine the first year or so with thunderstorms and her first fireworks. I love thunderstorms, so that was not a message she was getting from me. The first couple of years, she would hear the thunder and look up to try to see it to either follow it or get away from it I'm not sure. But she was curious. With the fireworks, I took her downtown her first summer for the 4th of July fireworks, and though she was not overly thrilled with the bangs that exploded and proceeded to echo off of the side of every building and bridge all the way up and down the river they were fired over, she tolerated and remained under control.

The following summer was just a total disaster. Nothing I did consoled her, so here I was in the middle of a huge crowd of people on the streets of the town I live in and I could not remove her from the situation safely until she calmed down. I made her down and kneeled next to her, talking calmly, rubbing her soft furry ears and trying to shield her from some of the noise and chaos. After the fireworks were over, I had to wait for everyone to leave from all around me until there was just a trickle of people left. So this was no short process at all, but we got home and I managed to get her to play in the yard with me before we went inside for the night.

The following year, I met up with some friends at the parade and I agreed to meet them downtown for the fireworks that night. The firecrackers going off outside were really scaring Rosie, so I set up her crate and lined it with her soft dog bed liner and had her spend the day in there. My new kitten joined her later and lended some emotional support as Rosie waited out the day. I really considered leaving Rosie home that night since I would be just down the road. At the last minute, I decided I would give her a try and we would return home if it was too much for her. We sat further away from the spot where they set the fireworks off, still there were lots of people and still they were loud. My friend and her 2 small boys sat to my right on a hill, and I had Rosie in a down/stay... on leash of course, on my left. I talked softly to her and kept her down and she seemed to do so much better. Perhaps the Rescue Remedy did help a little! I was happy with her seemingly not so terrified demeanor at the night's event. However, she was more than happy to get home and to her crate again.

Rosie spends her third 4th of July in her crate with her kitten, Solace

Year number four, I think a Musket went off a few times at the parade and basically at that point, I called that 4th of July a wash. I did not plan to attend the fireworks. I set up Rosie's crate again (this time it had closed sides) and I shut the windows all day. That night after dosing up the dog with more Rescue Remedy, I proceeded to open up the top of the living room window and watched the fireworks from the top of my desk. I was able to take a few photos of some of the fireworks, and was surprised at how much I could see from my apartment!

That brings us to year number five. Last year I purchased 2 CDs that are supposed to help desensitize dogs (or whoever) to fireworks and thunderstorms. They were recorded live, so they were real sounding indeed. Rosie's result from listening to the thunderstorm CD was less than good. On the CD, there are periods of time where you hear a steady to heavy rainfall. Well, now Rosie starts getting anxious when there is steady/heavy rain falling outside, with or without thunder. I am playing the fireworks CD at a low volume (as I did the thunder CD) as background pretty much throughout the day. I am not expecting any miracles. I may just leave her home this year and attend the fireworks alone. I don't really know yet.

This article is not over yet.

When I finish, I will have discussed how petting, soothing, talking gently to a scared dog does not encourage a dog to be scared. This is a widely believed myth many dog people have that came about from the Victorian age of child rearing and dog rearing. If you get the Bark magazine, I will be using information by reknowned dog trainer/behaviorist Patricia B. McConnell, PhD. Sept/Oct. 2008 "Both Ends of the Leash" article called "I'm Okay You're Okay: A gentle hand or a tasty treat doesn't reinforce fear, it reduces it"

This article was a great find for me... a very unreknown dog trainer, as finally I now had proof that this myth was fake! Wait till I told everyone who gave me hell for the way I dealt with my dog during fireworks!

1 comment:

Keldrena said...

This stuff is good to know. It's my service dog in training's first forth of July and I want him to do well.