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TOP TIP: Fireworks and the anxious dog.

October 4, 2012adminTips0

Some Dos and Don’ts…

If you have a dog that gets very anxious around fireworks, it’s quite natural and almost instinctual for many us to try and soothe any nervous behaviour we see, often by talking quietly to a dog in a comforting way and petting him or her too, saying things like, “it will be okay, Sammy…don’t worry” over and over.

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Some people will sit for ages with an anxious dog and stroke and kiss, believing they are supporting him in this kind way. This approach is, however, unfortunately unlikely to have any positive effect (for the dog) even though the person is being kind and believes he is making things better as it is applying human psychology to dogs, an approach where, even though the intention is kind and good, can often make matters worse. The dog’s interpretation is likely to be ‘you are sitting here, stroking me, talking quietly to me…and you’re on the floor too…you never do that…you’re obviously very frightened too! Everyone’s frightened…and no one is in control…’

So, what should you do? As strange as it may seem, you should do your best to ignore a dog in this state of mind and behave naturally, so that the dog ‘gets from you’…from your behaviour alone…that there is nothing to be concerned about. Don’t touch or make a fuss of an anxious dog and try not to look at him for any sustained period. It can be tough, very, but you will help more in this ‘ignoring way’ than if you try to soothe with words or by petting. Be positive, turn the radio and the TV on and try to just get on with things. The message here is that if you’re relaxed and in control, your dog will be less anxious as a result. Over time his anxiety should significantly decrease. Using a crate and covering it with a heavy blanket is a good way of providing your dog with a safe haven or den when he feels anxious; I prefer to leave a crate door open so a dog can go in and out whenever he likes. Just the knowledge that he has free access to a very secure/dark place in the home will in itself reduce any anxiety levels. If he settles down in his crate of his own accord, by all means check on him every now and again but say very little and leave him alone for a time after that. Appear confident and you will give him confidence.

If you have a dog that gets very anxious when he hears fireworks or loud noises, alternative strategies can be discussed/explored so contact the LoveK9 team if you have specific queries.

TOP TIP: How to introduce a dog to his new crate

July 10, 2012adminTips0

A good general approach when introducing a crate is to…

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    • Agree with other family members where the crate is going to be situated at home and leave it in that position, at least initially. Set it up in the room without your dog present as this can become a noisy process.
    • Make the crate inviting – a soft blanket, toys and a few welcoming treats placed inside the crate will all help convince any dog that this is a good place to be! A really good idea is to cover the top of the crate with a heavy blanket so the new secure den becomes just that.
    • Make a fuss of your dog (not in an excited or over-the-top way) whenever he is in or anywhere near the crate initially. A simple ‘good boy’ and a gentle pat on the back is just fine. Giving a few tasty treats to your dog in or near the crate initially is also a good idea.
    • Then pay the new item little attention for about 10 minutes, be patient and allow your dog to get accustomed to the new item in his own time. Leave the crate door open.
    • Practice, only for a few minutes at a time, asking your dog to go in and out of the crate using treats/ball and a positive and patient attitude – your dog will glean confidence from your relaxed behaviour.
    • Before you know it the positive association will be made and you can start to train your dog to enjoy staying in the crate for a short time while you are present. Success!

As these are general guidelines only, common sense should of course be used at all times. No dog, whatever breed or size, should not be left in a crate for any period of time unless he is completely comfortable with the idea first, and then only for very short periods of time.

TOP TIP: Praise and correct, but not both at the same time!

July 10, 2012adminTips0

Sometimes people correct a particular canine behaviour at home when, for example, they see Rufus chewing a piece of furniture. This can involve a ‘No, Rufus, stop that!’ instruction and/or a range of other phrases!…but then, after only a second or two after Rufus stops chewing, they praise him for stopping and tell him ‘he’s such a good boy.’

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The message the person is obviously trying to send is “Good boy for stopping that chewing behaviour” but the message the dog is likely to receive is “Wow, they really liked that behaviour. Might try that again!” If someone interacts positively much too quickly after a negative behaviour, signals will get mixed up.

The general idea is if you feel you must address a negative behaviour, tell him ‘no’ and gain control of the situation, putting your dog on-lead if appropriate. Move him a few steps away from whatever was getting him into trouble and ask him to ‘Wait’ quietly for a minute or so. Then call him to you and praise the recall behaviour and then release him. The quiet time spent in between correction and praise brings clarity from your dog’s perspective and he gets the message, “That first behaviour is not on!…and we can now go on as normal…”

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