10 Uses of Blankets During a Thunderstorm and Fireworks

During a thunderstorm, blankets can be one of the most useful tools to have on hand. They can serve multiple purposes and can save you a lot of money if you have a dog that is in such a panic they dig at drywall or flooring. Many people have spare bedspreads or moving blankets laying around and these are the types I most often recommend.  Moving blankets are thick and work well for both noise dampening and darkening a room, but they also tend to stand up well to chewing and digging.  Bedspreads are often weighted which can help increase comfort and allow for some great burrowing.  If you don’t have either, don’t worry any blanket will do.  With that said, I don’t recommend your grandmother’s antique handmade quilt.

One blanket can be enough for some dogs, but I do recommend having a few due to the versatility.  Here’s 10 useful functions of a blanket for management during a thunderstorm.

Purpose #1: To Burrow or To Hide

Dogs that can will try to flee or hide when they are afraid.  Blankets provide a great place for the dog to burrow and hide.  Take note to places your dog will try to go during a storm and place a blanket or two in this area.

Purpose #2: As A Noise Barrier Around a Crate

Many dogs love to go into their crate or “doggy den” during a storm.  It is already a safe place to them.  While we don’t want to lock them in their crates we can definitely help make it feel even safer by reducing the noise inside the crate with a few blankets drooped over it.

Purpose #3: Darken Room

While we often focus on the noise, many dogs are actually frightened by the lightning flashes.  Whether it is the lightning itself or a learned association that lightning predicts the scary boom, blankets can help eliminate this aspect of the storm when used to cover windows.

Purpose #4: A place to hide treats for a search in the middle of the storm

For dogs that will take food during the storm, giving them the opportunity to search for those treats in the blankets not only can serve as enrichment and distraction during the storm, but it can also change their opinion of storms.  Some dogs learn, thunder predicts a fun game of find the treats.  Additionally, if they are searching the noise might be muffled by their head under the blanket. For dogs that don’t take food, the smell alone may be enough to change their opinion a little each storm and over time they may start investigating the blanket and eating those yummy treats.

Purpose #5: Allow your dog to play the game of the destruction with an old one

One of the games we play is the game of destruction (post coming soon).  For dogs that chew or dig during storms, I will typically select something I don’t mind being destroyed.  I will elicit a game of play with the item and then the dog takes over destruction. Old blankets can be useful for this and when they are all tired of shredding, you can use those pieces in a food toy.

Purpose #6: Use the shreds to stuff inside of a food toy to make it harder

Shreds whether from the game of destruction you played during a thunderstorm or from you physically cutting up an old blanket can be useful for making a food toy a little harder.  The new Treat Snake or the JW Hol-ee Roller.  For some dogs just taking the shreds out is fun, even without the food.  These are great toys to give during a thunderstorm if your dog will work to get food as this will take his mind off the storm.

Purpose #7: The feel of a blanket can be comforting

Whether your dog decides to burrow or hide, or simply lay on top of it, the blanket alone can be comforting.  If placed as a cover on your dog, the weight of the blanket may have a calming effect similar to that of swaddling a baby.

Purpose #8: A place to spray pheromones

To add to the feel of comfort there are pheromones that mimic a mother dog’s milk that is designed to appease the puppies. Studies do show the pheromones to be effective for some dogs during fireworks, thunderstorms, visits to the veterinarian’s office, and more.

Purpose #9: Make a fort to hide in with your dog

Remember when you were young, how much fun you could have in a blanket fort.  Bring back your childhood innocence while helping a dog out. You and your dog can enter the fort and play with feeding toys while getting the benefit of the blankets muffling some noise and blocking out the light.  Bonus, building a fort brings out the child in all of us which can send out some good vibes to your dog. If you have never built a fort before, don’t worry WikiHow has you covered with this article.

Purpose #10: Put them in places your dog digs to protect surfaces

If your dog has primary areas he goes to dig, say a certain wall or a certain area of the floor, you will definitely want to redirect him, or consult with your veterinarian right away for ways to alleviate his anxiety during storms.  Additionally, placing a pile of blankets in these areas can give your dog a better option while helping to protect the surface.  One client cleverly took a blanket and hung it on the wall where her dog normally dug and put some spray cheese all over it. The dog that normally dug, licked spray cheese instead. Surprisingly this was a dog that would not eat during the storm, but perhaps digging spray cheese was not in his behavioral repertoire.

How to Party with Your Dog

I had a few friends over to my house not long ago. Drinks were passed around, we sat on the couch discussing the recent Walking Dead, how my roommate met his girlfriend, and how I came to have 5 cats in my apartment. With each discussion, we pushed our stereo to the max. It wasn’t until I went to the kitchen to get refills that I realized maybe this wasn’t the best environment for my dog. I turned the radio down and went back into the living room to see my dog being roughly petted and posing for snapchat. When she was in her younger days Maddie, my dog, had been a party animal, going from person to person for affection and leftover snacks. She could find the sucker in the bunch and follow them around like a puppy dog (Ha! Get it? Because she is a dog! Oh, I’m clever).

Maddie’s cousin: TicTac

It’s been a good 5 years since her party days and I could see she was distressed. I only had 4 friends over, I didn’t think she’d be so bothered, but I could see it then. Before I got the chance to say anything and say my dog is not comfortable my phenomenal roommate stepped up. Most people wouldn’t describe their roommate as phenomenal. I could type for days about why he is, but for starters, every day I come home from work I debrief him on what happened during my day. How dog trainers train. Why shock collars are outdated. How I use Skinner and Pavlov’s methods to enhance my training. How dogs talk more with their bodies than with their mouths. The way dogs say “I’m distressed” with their bodies (whale eye, lip licks, tight mouth). Turns out he had been listening the entire time. I know… pretty phenomenal, right?
The best part, instead of telling our friends that they were torturing the dog without knowing it for a good snapchat story, he grabbed a handful of treats and threw one on the ground letting Maddie chase that instead of being on the couch with the crazy humans. He then looked at them and said watch this. He gave her the sit cue, she sat, he treated. He gave her the down cue, she laid down, he treated. He gave her the spin cue, she spun, he treated. They were in awe. One of them even snapchatted Maddie doing her spin. This gave me time to grab her a frozen treat and put her in her crate for a puppy break.
Forty-Five minutes later Maddie was out of the cage doing sits and downs and spins on her own accord to get treats. I pulled out her mat and showed them how I reinforce her for staying on it and continued our conversation about The Walking Dead, my roommate’s relationships and my 5 cats. The music was back down and my pup was happy.

Sometimes we forget to be responsible dog owners, by sharing my knowledge with my roommate my dog didn’t have to suffer my shortcomings that night. I would have never thought that showing off my dogs sit would be the highlight of the night but dang it if people aren’t impressed. I train all day, and when I get home sometimes it’s tough to muster up the strength to train a little more. That’s where roommates come in. We tend to think that if you bring home a puppy it’s 110% your responsibility. However, just like babies, shouldn’t it take a village?

Maddie.

The great thing about positive reinforcement training is you are not going to permanently damage your dog if you don’t know what you’re doing, although you might accidentally reinforce an unwanted behavior. My roommates treat delivery is awfully slow, and his marker words (yes, good girl, yeah) are a little disorganized but Maddie gets the gist and loves him to pieces. So, if you have people in the home, show them everything and get them involved. Use the village.

I now have my girlfriend working on the 50-cookie-challenge (with Maddie, the dog), while my roommate works on targeting (with Kylo, the kitten) and I don’t even have to share my paycheck with them.

Help! The cat is spraying!

A short-story about our personal struggle with cat-spraying. You are not alone and we are here to help.

Jordy: “Emotional Urinator”

About 4 years, 30 pounds, and 3 cats ago my luck on animals ran out. As a child, I had the most patient, kind husky, Nick. My cat who moved out with me, Tiger, was one of the best roommates I’ve ever had despite the fact he owes me $6,240 in rent. He paid me in cuddles so no grudges here. My girlfriend’s dog, Maddie falls into the patient category as well. I’d call her kind but she steps on my face at night to get closer to her “real mother”. Grudges are held, Maddie!

Then there was Jordy…

When my girlfriend, Rachel, and I started dating and I was over at her house I would do what any normal nervous person would do and insistently pet the cat, Jordy. The more I visited the stronger my relationship with Jordy got. Did I mention I was there to build a relationship with her human parent? Yeah, I went in to get one girlfriend and ended up with two. Definitely not complaining. They had dark hair, so both were my type.

Turns out the human girlfriend ended up being my favorite as she never started to eliminate on my stuff, humans are good like that. You guessed it, Jordy did. My backpack, guitar case, pillow and spot on the couch. All of it had fallen into the grasps of her evil urine of doom. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but having a cat who won’t use a litter box is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Ok maybe my worst enemy, but definitely not my second worst enemy. It was awful, and the house was a handful and a half to clean.

My girlfriend and I tried everything. New litterboxes, more litterboxes, different litter, secluding her to a smaller space, nothing worked. Finally, my sister, behavior counselor for Real Pet Behavior, Tara Houser, stepped in to help. She noticed Jordy’s behavior linked to me. Although obvious, I didn’t spot it at the time; in hindsight, I’m an idiot. Tara knew just the right questions to ask and got to the bottom of it. She went from being in insistently petted to basically nothing. I got busy, things were less awkward around my girlfriend and I had less focus for the cat. We established that I needed to start paying attention to her. Yes, it was a little frustrating at first to come home and only pay attention to the cat for five minutes so she felt like she was still the number one girlfriend in my life; but hey, my new backpack makes all the ladies love me and it doesn’t reek of urine. Win.

Cat urinating is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with. It’s difficult and smelly. Good news? My sister (and me!!) are here for you. It’s common and solvable and buying new things after the fact makes the whole thing worth it. Like who doesn’t like shopping?

What Kind of Teenager Were You? The Truth About Punishment.

What Kind of Teenager Were You?

In my family, there are three kids and we were each very different.  I was the Saint.  I always chose to behave to avoid getting into trouble.  My sister was Sneaky.  She would do things, but cover them up to avoid trouble.  My brother was the challenger.  He honestly didn’t care about mom’s wrath (not that she was all that bad).  We each had our own way of responding to potential punishment. Parents don’t mean for their children to learn to be sneaky, spiteful, and they surely don’t want to have a child be good for fear that they might get in trouble.  They want their children to behave because they taught them well.  They want them to behave to gain great privileges in life. And here’s the big one, they want them to behave because it makes them feel loved and respected (what many adult children eventually realize and hope to deliver).

What does this have to do with dogs?

Dogs are smart.  They figure things out quickly and it’s why punishment often times has unintended consequences. Now, I’m not going to tell you that your dog is sneaky, challenging you for the role of pack leader, or being a saint because of the use of punishment.  I’m just wanting you to understand that punishment has unintended consequences no matter the learner.  Yes, punishment often leads to a dog sneaking off to go potty somewhere else in the house, because they learned it upsets you when they potty inside.  Yes, punishment can lead a dog to appear to be challenging you when in reality they are just scared to death and defending themselves (which I’d like to state can spill into many unrelated areas).  Yes, punishment can stop behavior all together or ensure compliance to avoid punishment making your dog appear to be a saint.

The Good News

[su_pullquote]“The way to a dog’s heart is thru his senses.”[/su_pullquote] Just like our parents, or those of us with human children, we pet parents want our pets to behave because they love and respect us.  Too much of the time we expect them to come pre-programmed this way.  But just like human children and uh-um husbands, we have to teach them what we would like them to do and guide them lovingly away from the things we don’t want them to do.  You’ve heard the expression, the way to a man’s heart is thru his stomach.  Well, the way to a dog’s heart is thru his senses.  When we teach what we want with positive reinforcement and take time to explore the world with our dog doing things he enjoys, we ultimately gain a dog that behaves because he wants to “please us.”