Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. I work with dogs who are fearful of storms, fireworks, gunshots, and other loud noises. Sileo is a medication that must be prescribed by your veterinarian. They will be able to help you determine if it is the right medication for your pet. The information contained in this video is to help you teach your dog to accept having Sileo placed on his gum line.
It has been almost three weeks since I said goodbye to my faithful friend of 15 and a half years. I miss him. I remember over the years pushing him in his stroller on his painful days, telling him I would take your pain to be my own if I could.
For many things, I could help him. When he was afraid to be left home alone, we helped him overcome his anxiousness. When he got older and “forgot” he learned to be comfy at home, we helped again and used a lot of management.
When he started urinating in his sleep, we laid a pee pad on his bed each night. We cleaned him well the next morning and remembered to pick the water dish up just a little earlier.
When his legs began to weaken, we started carrying him down the stairs. We laid rugs in the areas he most liked to walk and we pushed him in the stroller a lot.
When he forgot his manners, we no longer cared. It was fun to watch him test the boundaries of his new found senior entitlement.
When he stopped wanting to eat his normal meals, we added chicken, carrots, steak, and other yummy stuff. I no longer worried about the weight as he was losing at a rapid rate.
We did acupuncture, pain meds, meds to help his liver. We fed canned food, cooked food, raw food, our food. We played the games he most enjoyed when his little body was up to it. We took him everywhere so if he seizured he’d be with us. Then we gave him more meds knowing it would most likely shorten the time he had with us. His liver couldn’t take those high doses forever (it was already struggling). My pain would come sooner, but I had said if I could take his pain, I would. And so I started.
A few more months passed, and then he winced…
My heart broke moving him from place to place and hearing him cry. My heart broke thinking of all the pain he was in. And so… I made the call. It was time. More medication would do not suffice this time.
Once again I remembered saying, if I could take his pain, I would, and so I did. He stretched and let out one last deep breath, a sigh of relief I presume as he began to transfer his pain to me. As the doctor heard his heart stop, I felt mine break. I have this pain of living without him, but his pain is no more. Run my boy, run fast, run far. I did it and I would do it again!
Each day since I remind myself, if I could take his pain, I would, and I did and while this heartbreak is so much, watching his suffering was unbearable.
Fetch can be a very rewarding game to play with your dog. It engages both mind and body and can be used as reinforcement for other behavior. You sit for me and I’ll send this tennis ball flying through the air so you can chase after it.
Fetch by the Rules
Most of the time, when I play fetch I have the following two ground rules:
- Please plant your paws on the ground. I like my legs without scratches thank you.
- Please drop the ball so I can pick it up or put it in my hand and release it.
If one of the ground rules are broken, play ends (not forever, but for at least a little while).
Enter 2 Ball Fetch
2 Ball Fetch is a great way to help teach the rules of the game.
- A Dog
- 2 Balls (sometimes the ones with squeaker help encourage dropping)
- Clicker (optional – you can just say “yes” the minute the ball is dropped)
- A couple of treats
- Ask your dog to sit, lay down, or do some other behavior he knows well.
- Toss the ball the minute he does the behavior.
- As he returns, as long as feet stay on the ground, show the second ball (if it has a squeaker you can do that too).
- As soon as his mouth opens to drop the ball, click, and throw the other ball.
- Pick up the dropped ball as he is running off.
- After several repetitions, he will start dropping the ball as he approaches.
Tip #1: Remember, if his feet come up, simply walk away and end play. You don’t have to say anything and no need to be upset. Ending play is enough of a consequence that after a few times he won’t be doing that again.
Tip #2: Some dogs will run around a few minutes with the ball, ignore the behavior and wait for the drop, click and reinforce. It won’t take long before they get bored with playing all by themselves.
We walked into the doors of a different shelter this week. They were exited to have us and we were excited to be there. The director was a nice gentleman and the staff was fantastic. The shelter was clean and the animals well cared for. The staff was extremely friendly, knew the animals well, and seem to find joy in their work. They showed us thru the dog runs and the kitty rooms and introduced us to the amazing German Shepherd in the back. A gorgeous, but fearful young man who had been running free on the streets of our little town. His hair had fallen out along his back, he had a couple of small tumors, and his goopy green eyes glared at us. I could see fear in Sam’s face as they asked us to evaluate this guy. With the promise to my mentee and sister we would not take any dog out that I felt posed a danger to someone inexperienced with body language and handling, I knelt down.
This boy, still without a name, stood in the back of the kennel, growling and barking at others who passed or looked at him. We sat down with our sides to him, and tossed a few tiny pieces of hot dog to him. Clearly hungry, he gobbled them up. Within minutes, he came to the front of his kennel, and I tossed a few more. He was nosing my flat hand pushed against the kennel and licking gently, so I placed a few more tiny pieces into his ever gentle jaws. Sam then tossed a few of her hot dogs and soon those two were as comfortable as he and I. It was time…
This boy was eager to come out when I placed the looped leash inside the kennel. With a hot dog piece buried deep in my fingers I was able to bring him thru. Out he came, a big ball of energy. Once into the gated yard, we transitioned him to collar and our make shift harness. Off we went for a nice long walk. He responded well when we saw another dog. He responded well as we passed others. He knew sit, although you could tell his energy was up high enough he wasn’t quite ready to do it every time (unless there was a
chance to nose dive in water).
A young lady approached open hand and I saw his tail drop as she neared, asked her to step back and just as she did, he let her know he was scared with a few barks and a pull forward. Sam walked over handed her a few pieces of hot dog and she tossed it to our boy who eagerly started to approach her and shortly thereafter was taking a few more from her hands. We then walked on. When a gentleman came outside I walked ahead to greet him, and gave instructions to Sam to walk wide around us several times and slowly we closed the gap. This boy wasn’t Cujo, he was a Prince. He just needed us there to protect him and show him humans aren’t so scary after all.
On Day 2, we were greeted with a jumpy little juvenile who just wanted his new friends to take him on a walk. The entire staff laughed as Prince jumped all over the trainers while they put a real harness on him. They shot photos (which we forgot to ask for) of what must have looked like a circus act, but we didn’t care. At that moment, his crazy was refreshing and I knew with some training (both in leash skills for Sam and “sit for harness”) the jumping would be a thing of the past. This boy can go to a real home after a bit of training! And so it began… Prince’s love affair with Force Free, Fear Free Training.
“Don’t pet your dog during a thunderstorm, it will only make him worse.”
Yes Tic Tac you are correct, this statement is simply not true but you don’t have to stick your tongue out and be rude to our readers. There is only one way that could be true for your dog, and that is if he doesn’t find petting enjoyable. I’ll admit, there are dogs that don’t nuzzle into your hand, rollover so you can give them a good belly rub, or do that little kick or strange grin when you find just the right spot. But, for most pet owners petting is very enjoyable for your dog.
I’ve discussed this before in another blog post which can be found here, but counter (classical) conditioning is when you pair something the dog likes (typically food, we’ll call this the “good thing”) with something the dog has a negative association with (we’ll call this the “bad thing”) in order to change his association with the bad thing. Some of the best advice you’ll hear or read about is to have a treat party when the thunder goes boom. When done consistently after several trials (and that could mean 100s of times depending on the dog’s level of fear and value of the “good thing”), instead of pacing and panting, the dog goes “come on sky go boom… I want me some cat food pate.” (In case you don’t know me by now, I tend to put words in dogs’ mouths… this is called anthropomorphism.)
So… if dog’s like petting and we pet them during a thunderstorm wouldn’t it make sense that we are actually using counter (classical) conditioning?
Here’s the thing, we can only feed in response to a stimuli we know exists. This is why we most often feed when we hear the thunder. But, for many dogs the fear-related behavior begins before we even know the storm is on its way unless you are glued to Accuweather (or some other weather service). Next week, I will be discussing some key benefits of using Accuweather or another similar service to help our dogs. To make sure you don’t miss it, subscribe to our blog post updates here.
The Value of The Good Thing Matters
Now, in case you missed it… the value of the “good thing” matters! Depending on your dog, you may be able to belly rub your dog to a better feeling about thunderstorms, but don’t think that will be enough to change the bad thing to a good thing. It’s a great start for when the wind begins to bring the clouds in, but you’ll be better off using something really valuable like “super stinky cat food pate” in a tube when the thunder gets to booming. I wish I could tell you exactly what to use, when to use it, and how many times to use it, but just like you, your dog is an individual. My dog thinks the sun rises and sets in baby carrots. So I might very well be able to use carrots for the boom, but if I try that with most dogs they aren’t going to give one sniff to that little orange thing in my hand when the sky sounds like its going to fall right into the middle of their living room.
Hire a Professional
This is where a good behavior professional can help. As you know if you keep up with my blog… I’m not talking about any professional, but one who has a philosophy of force free, fear free. After all, it wouldn’t make any sense to solve fear with fear. That’s just silly, not to mention mean!
A professional will help you figure out what parts of the storm your dog is responding to, how to implement a customized desensitization and counter conditioning plan, how to determine what is valuable from your dog’s perspective, and what’s the best management strategy for when the storms move in and are more than your dog is ready for. If you aren’t working with a veterinary behaviorist, your behavior professional should ask if your pet has had a recent veterinary visit and if you discussed his behavior with the veterinarian. Your pet’s veterinarian should be kept abreast of your dog’s progress thru training and behavior modification to ensure success and the best overall health of your pet.
Remember, next week we’ll take a look at some ways Accuweather can help. Trust me its actually quite cool!