"All-Positive Monday 15" - Dealing With Fireworks | Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition

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Monday, July 4, 2011

"All-Positive Monday 15" - Dealing With Fireworks

*sigh* It's that time of year again. While I love a good fireworks show as much as anyone, especially on the Fourth like today, it drives Wally mad. This is one of the few real major fears he's got left and every year, it just brings back too many memories.

Fortunately, he's still more stable but today I focused on making him as happy as possible during everything going on.

Basically, what we did is described as the "Look At That" game mentioned in the book Control Unleashed.

Since we where working with fireworks sounds, every time he looked in the direction of the sounds, I clicked and treated him. I definitely made sure to use a very high value treats, in this case some cornbread chunks.

I made sure to use the clicker since he's going to be key on sounds so it would likely "break through" the noise and capture his attention.

One thing this accomplished was get him more focused on me. He started looking at me as we walked, though he was still skittish and had a hard time staying in position because of all the nervous energy inside him.

I started branching out what I would click for, this time clicking for looking at me. I didn't care about position, just if he was focusing on me as that's effort in itself if he's scared/anxious.

Even then, there were still signs that he was too anxious. He didn't want to do much in the way of relieving himself. He did only what he couldn't hold and that was it. That's a clear sign since he usually loves to mark and sniff on walks. His tail stayed low and he was lower to the ground as he moved.

He was also doing behaviors I usually like. This is something he often does when he's anxious, and sometimes I wonder is it because it makes him feel safe ("I'm sitting at his side so I know nothing will happen to me.") or if he is trying to get me to help him feel better ("If I do this, he'll be happy and then something good can happen for me.") It's one of those times I wish I knew what he was thinking.

I also wonder if there's something I can do to further desensitize him to fireworks. Perhaps I can turn to youtube again like I did with dogs. Hmm...