I've been working on a handout to advise on the behavioural modification of dogs who are scared of fireworks.
What? I hear you cry. Fireworks season is ages away from now! But...and it is two massive buts, sitting next to each other comparing the size of their butts... if you want your dog to cope better with fireworks then now is exactly the time to think about it. Or if you live in the U.S. then you've just had the 4th of July and I am led to believe that fireworks are all the rage at that time and so you know how well your dog coped and whether you should be doing something about it for next year.
Anyway, this is all irrelevant to the purposes of this blog which is to put a picture-a-day up and which you will have noticed that I have been failing to do.
And in the process of working on my handout I thought I would draw a picture of a dog having fun. I asked Professor Google for a picture of a dog having fun and the Prof gave me this...
...which looks like a dog doing a play bow so that's pretty much what I wanted and it got converted into this...
...which as you can see is modified into a dog that doesn't look as happy, probably because it isn't holding a stick. BUT WE DON'T THROW STICKS FOR DOGS, DO WE?!?! I asked Denise and she said it looked anxious. Which isn't what I wanted either. And what's going on with its legs? I'll tell you what - once I decided that I'd got the face wrong I got a bit laissez faire with the rest of the body. Also I worried about putting 'food' in as a thing that a dog thinks about because that may be sending the wrong message.
It is all too confusing.
However, if you want advice on how to deal with fireworks and how to prepare your dog for fireworks - here is the current version of it. Please feel free to comment and tell me if I'm giving terrible advice!
Your dog isn’t thinking about fireworks now, but if you know that they are going to be scared then now is the perfect time to help them by doing something about it.
What to do before fireworks night
· The best thing you can do is help your dog to be less afraid of loud noises. We recommend using a sound therapy pack like the one provided for free by Zylkene.
This website has full instructions and will take 10-15 minutes daily for about 2 months. If it is less than 2 months before the fireworks period starting the sound therapy may not help and may make your dog more anxious. So it would be best to start no later than September 1st.
Using an Adaptil diffuser or Adaptil tablets may make this process easier for your dog.
9 out of 10 dogs will show less anxiety following sound therapy. Using it can make fireworks night a much more pleasant experience for both you and your dog!
· In the weeks leading up to fireworks season provide your dog with somewhere it can feel safe. This should be in a quiet room in the house and your dog should feel in control, so don’t force it into the area or interfere with it when it is in there. Train the dog to associate the area with positive experiences – provide a variety of toys which you swap regularly so they don’t become boring, and provide healthy treats and praise when your dog uses the area. Over time your dog should learn that this place is safe and a pleasant place to be. When the fireworks happen your dog can choose to go to this area where it feels safe and is more able to cope. Your dog should have access to this area at all times, even when you aren’t at home. Having a safe haven in advance of fireworks night is a really important way for your dog to cope with anxiety.
What to do on fireworks nights
· Take your dog out for a walk well before the fireworks are due to start.
· Close any windows, curtains and exterior doors.
· Don’t force your dog into its safe area but make sure there are treats and toys for it there.
· Play music or watch the television – but try to avoid music or films with bangs or explosions!
· Ignore the fireworks noises yourself. Do normal things. Don’t force your dog to play. Imagine how annoyed you might feel if you were feeling anxious and somebody kept saying, “Cheer up and play Monopoly with me!” Even if you normally like Monopoly!
· Don’t seek out your dog to comfort or reassure them, even though it’s tempting – they will feel your anxiety and so their fear will be rewarded and encouraged. However if your dog comes to you, then talking to them and reassuring them is fine – withdrawing attention from an anxious dog is likely to make them feel worse. Once the fireworks night is over you can work on helping them become more self-reliant.
· DON’T PUNISH THEM! It isn’t their fault they’re scared and telling them off just adds to their anxiety.
I was explaining to somebody yesterday about last year's attempt to get on the Great British Bake Off (which returns to our screens soon - whoop, and if I may venture it, whoop!) whilst trying to lose weight.
'Gosh!' she said, 'how on earth did you manage it?'
And so I rattled off my usual spiel about being a cheese-eating crazy who just loves the cheese.
'I love cheese too,' she said, 'I wish I could cut out cheese.'
Now at this juncture I should point out that the woman I was talking to was what I would class as being the approximate width of a stick. This is a purely subjective assessment based on not examining too closely because as a polite person one does not like to stare. But if we were to give people body condition scores like I do every day with dogs and cats...
...then at the highest she was a low 3. I should also mention that it is very judgemental going around body scoring people but if I didn't use that sort of terminology I'd be going down the route of assigning people 'ridiculously skinny' labels. Which is bad.
Because when she said that about wishing she could cut out cheese I had to restrict my natural impulse to say, 'You don't need to lose weight. Look at yourself. You've never fought against your weight.' And all those things that I think whenever I see a skinny person going on about their weight.
And what is it, apart from manners, that stop me saying these things?
It is that I know nothing about what battles other people have had with their weight and with food. All I know about is me. So I don't judge people who are fatter or thinner than me. I'm not Simon Cowell or Judge Rintour. Let them judge and I'll let people get on with having their own weird relationships with their bodies and with food.
I've been trying to maintain my weight loss and today is one of my semi-official post diet weigh-in days. I had crept up a bit to 14 stone 5 pounds so I've spent the last three days being a good calorie counting minion.
If I'm honest, it's making me a little cranky.
I may have to stuff my face for a day or two.
So I'm taking one of my enormous home made Cornish pasties for lunch.
Hi, I'm Andy, serial weight gainer. My year of dieting is over! But you can still give money to Shelter or the PDSA!