Tuesday, June 30, 2009

4th of July Safety Tips for your Dog

With 4th of July just around the corner, it is important to keep your pet safe and secure.   Many dogs are afraid of fireworks.  Here are some things to keep in mind to keep your pet safe this holiday:

* Avoid keeping your pet in the yard.  Fearful dogs will try to dig, jump or climb their way out of the yard to escape the noise.  Many dogs get lost and end up in the shelter this way. 

*Make sure that your pet has proper ID in the event that he/she gets lost. Consider microchipping your dog.

*Avoid the temptation to take your dog to fireworks shows or outdoors. A fearful dog could bolt and get lost. Fearful dogs can also get reactive and may react to people and other dogs around them. Play it safe, keep them at home.

*Keep your pets indoors and provide a secure place for your pet stay in.  This can be a crate or a quiet, pet-proofed room in your home that does not receive as much outside noise. Dogs can try to chew their way out of an area when scared so make sure it is a secure area.  Close your windows and front door to shut out outside noises.

*What if you have a new dog or puppy and this is their first 4th of July? Make it a fun time. During those hours when fireworks happen (usually 9 p.m. to midnight here in Los Angeles), play games with your dog. Play fetch or tug of war. Give your dog an interactive toy to play with or work on a Nina Ottoson interactive puzzle with your dog. Click here for examples. This will keep your dog's mind off the noises outside and on the games you are playing.  Here is an example of my dog working on a Tug-A-Jug, she is so preoccupied with working on this toy, outside noises are unlikely to distract her:

*Consider playing music or keep the T.V. on as background noise. There are music CDs that have been created specifically to calm dogs.  The following website, "Through a Dog's Ear" is an example.  Here is a link with some music samples: http://www.throughadogsear.com/samples.htm

*Alternative remedies:  For mild cases, some dogs respond well to flower essences and homeopathic remedies. Bach's Rescue Remedy for pets is one of the older brands out there and can be found in natural pet stores: http://www.rescueremedy.com/pets/ .  For homeopathic remedies you can consult with a homeopathic veterinarian for suggestions and dosage instructions.

*Another calming product is Dog Appeasing Pheromone that can be sprayed on your dog's bedding or as a room atomizer.  It is usually sold in pet stores under the brand name "Comfort Zone." 

*Body Wraps:  some people have reported success with body wraps which in effect "swaddle" your dog.  In her book, "Help for Your Fearful Dog,"  Nicole Wilde discusses a variety of methods of doing this and the proper way of introducing your dog to a wrap.  In addition, there is a product called an "Anxiety Wrap" that is a body vest designed to achieve the same result.  However, you would need to first acclimate your dog to the vest before a storm or fireworks so your dog does not react negatively to wearing the vest.  So, this may be an option to consider if other methods do not work and you have time before next year's holiday to work with your dog on wearing this item.


*For severe cases talk to your vet:  For severe cases of anxiety or if your dog is at risk of injuring himself/herself, prescription medication may be necessary to keep your dog calm and safe during this holiday. In such cases,  it is best consult with your veterinarian before the holiday.

My akita has mild to moderate anxiety to fireworks. I make sure that he is in a pet-proofed room with the T.V. on and the windows closed. Sometimes I will distract my pet with toys and games he likes to play.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Applying Positive Training Techniques to Humans

Most of my private consultations involve dogs living in homes with children. After going over the benefits of reward-based training and how responsive dogs are to positive reinforcement, I get one of two responses from parents: “does this apply to children too?” or “you mean like how we raise our kids?”

A recently published article described how positive, reward-based training, which traditionally had been applied to marine mammals, could be applied in schools. One elementary school attempted to apply this program to see if it could reduce behavioral problems and fighting. By implementing this program, desired behavior was rewarded or encouraged while undesired behavior was ignored or redirected. The school reported a dramatic drop in the number of suspensions and fighting.

This is not the first article to address how marine mammal training can be applied to humans. Several years ago a humorous, yet instructive article came out in the New York Times which chronicled one woman’s experience applying exotic animal training to her marriage in an attempt to modify her husband’s less desirable habits. The husband in question left clothes on the floor and other undesirable habits. The author found, that the more she nagged, the more resentful her husband got. When she rewarded her husband (by showing affection or praise) whenever he put the clothes in the hamper, she found that he was more willing to keep the house clean.

While these articles address how positive training can be applied to humans, a more important question is: should our canine family members be treated differently than our human family members? While positive training is commonly used with exotic animals, physical punishment or coercion is still commonly used with canines, the species that has had a close relationship with humans for thousands of years. This begs the question: if you would not discipline your child using harsh methods, why should you treat your pet dog any differently?

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Group Dog Training Classes in June

Basic Obedience

We are happy to announce that we are now offering basic obedience training at Bam Bam & Friends Pet Boutique on 4311 Overland Ave in Culver City. We offer smaller class sizes and cover: sit, stay, down, come, go to your bed, wait, leave it and more. Classes are ongoing. Contact us for current schedule.

Click here for more details.

Puppy Socialization

Now offering informal group classes where puppies receive some basic training and lots of socialization with strangers and other puppies in a supervised setting during your puppy’s critical socialization period. Contact us for current schedule and registration.

Click here for more details.