‘Fraid of Fireworks

‘Fraid of Fireworks

As we approach Halloween and Bonfire Night, fireworks tend to play a large part in the festivities that people participate in.

Further to my Fireworks Anxiety (dogs) post from 2014, as a lot of pets are scared of fireworks, here are some tips to help them through it.


Dogs

Long Term: it is good practise to try and desensitise your dog to the loud bangs, so that thunder and fireworks are not too much of an issue.

With my two, from being small pups, I played thunder and fireworks videos on YouTube at a low volume to get them used to the noises. Over time I increased the volume (as real thunder and fireworks are loud!) to continue the desensitising. I would play with my pups or practise tricks and reward with treats – doing something positive and enjoyable to help my pups not be bothered by the noises going on.

Gradually, over time, working with your dog to desensitise them to loud noises, can help them to have a positive association to these sounds (such as thunder and fireworks) with, instead of evoking a negative and often fearful response.

A couple of relaxed dogs

During: some things you can do for your dog whilst the fireworks are going off in your neighbourhood to help them feel more relaxed…

– Use an anti-anxiety plug in diffuser or calming collar. These use calming pheromones to help calm your dog. The ones I’ve used in the past (in other circumstances) have been Adaptil products, but there are other brands on the market.

– Ensure your dog has a safe space; a quiet, secure, covered area to retreat to, should they need it. A crate (door left open) or table covered with a blanket or towel, with blankets and favourite toys inside can be a place of comfort for your dog to go to if the fireworks get too much for them.

If you are able to provide multiple safe spaces within your home, this will give your dog options – they may feel less stress and anxiety in one area of the house, so giving multiple safe spaces gives your dog the choice of where to retreat to, where they feel safest.

– Do not take your dog outside whilst fireworks are going off as this will only add to their anxiety. Ensure you have taken them for walkies and let them out for the toilet before fireworks are due to go off, which usually means taking them out before dark.

– Close your blinds/ curtains; it’s not just the noise of fireworks that can frighten your dog – the flashing lights can also upset them. Blocking out the sight of the fireworks should help.

– If your dog is content to have a chew toy/ treat or to engage in play, this is a good way to distract them from what’s going on outside.

– If your dog has severe anxiety, speak to your vet as they may require medication to help them through the firework season. Ask your vet to refer you to a behaviourist to work on this long term.

Dog walkies before dark

Cats

– As with dogs, keep cats inside whilst the fireworks are going off. If your cat is an outdoor cat, ensure to provide a litter tray whilst they are indoors.

Do not confine your cat to one room/ area as they may injure themselves trying to escape.

– Block off/ lock cat flaps and ensure your doors and windows are secure to prevent your cat from getting out.

Do create a safe hiding place for your cat; somewhere they can retreat to if they need to.

– If your cat is happy to be distracted with play, do spend time playing with your cat to ease their anxiety.

Feliway or other branded pheromone products can also be used to help relax your cat.

Kittens safe and snuggled in a box with blankets and bed

Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

– If they usually live outside in a hutch, it’s a good idea to bring the hutch inside, or put your pets in an inside enclosure, whilst fireworks are going on outside.

– Ensure windows and doors are closed. Ensure curtains and blinds are closed. This will help dampen the noise.

– Adding extra bedding in the hutch or indoor enclosure will also help to dampen to noise, and provides a safe area to snuggle in if they get scared.

– Monitor their behaviour and seek veterinary assistance if necessary. If a rabbit or guinea pig is severely anxious they may stop eating, chew their cage, freeze, pull their fur out, or perform other anxious behaviour.

Rabbit in a hutch, indoors. Hutch has extra hay and a plastic hide-away.

Summary: All Pets

– Need a safe space away from the fireworks.

– Need to be monitored. Any extreme behavioural changes should be noted and your vet contacted.

– Need to be secure, indoors with windows and doors securely closed. Curtains and blinds should also be closed.

– Avoid having your pets outside with you if you are doing or attending firework displays.

Fireworks

All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of the social media pages:

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Puppy Tails (5)

Puppy Tails (5)

Continuing “Puppy Tails” detailing the training going on with our two young doggos – Rollo and Brina.

If you’re wondering where July’s post is… Well, it isn’t I’m sad to say. We’re in the process of preparing to move and time got away from me! However, if you’re in the same situation, please check out posts done by myself and Our Dog Friends related to moving with pets – link 1 and link 2.

Our Brina has turned one year old last month!

She and Rollo have been working recently on training commands, during on lead walkies – keeping them interested and engaged, to alleviate any frustration of being restricted to lead walks (now that the local livestock are back out in the fields) and to keep their focus on their handler. This has also come in handy with Rollo being restricted to lead walks for 2 weeks after a recent foot injury.

One of the commands we have been working on is “touch” – asking them to come away from whatever they’re doing and putting their nose on my hand. Rollo picked this up almost immediately, and Brina had the hang of it after just a couple of days – although Brina does like to put her nose and tongue on you 😅.

The idea is that these commands can also be used when the dogs are off lead, to come back (reward motivation) when I need them to. Dogs can become fixated on things that draw their attention away from you, and make them seem like they have selective hearing! They can grow out of this, with consistent training, but being able to manage their behaviour when this happens is key. No dog behaves perfectly 100% of the time, especially when they’re in their ‘teenage’ phase, no matter what some trainers will have you believe about their own (speaking from experience). So a variety of training commands for a variety of situations will prove helpful. So far, the off lead response to “touch” has been very good!

Brina is highly motivated by food, and will immediately “focus” when I give the command, when she knows I have treats in my pocket! This has helped train new commands, like “touch” as she quickly learns what behaviour she has performed that resulted in the treat and is keen to perform the behaviour on command, for a reward of course! Low fat/ calorie treats work best if you’re giving out a fair few in training sessions – remember that food/ treats given in the day will impact their daily food intake (so adjust as necessary).

Rollo likes to change his motivation – when he was under 1 year old, he was like Brina; highly motivated by treats. When he was around 1 year old he lost his interest in treats on walks, but was highly motivated by the reward of his squeaky ball! Now, he is back to being motivated by treats – but only by the right treat… Otherwise, the squeaky ball usually does the trick. Honestly, sometimes I think he wakes up in the morning and decides what he wants to be motivated by that day, in a training session or when a command is given! So, when we go out, I’m prepared with whatever I may need to keep his attention on me when necessary.

Alongside training “touch” as a new command, I’ve been reinforcing “go on” whilst on lead walks. When I’m training on lead, the dogs need to be focused on me as their handler, until I tell them “go on” which is accompanied by me giving them the length of the lead (providing it is safe to do so) and allowing them to walk for them – sniffing, dawdling, etc. (In my mind this stemmed from “go on, do your own thing”.)

It’s important to have a break command such as “go on” so your dog knows when training is done and they’re free to do their own thing.

“Touch” was initially introduced by asking the dogs to “sit” and “focus” (or “look at me* – whichever works) and me saying the word “touch” whilst gently touching my palm to their nose. After a few times doing this, I then held my hand close to their nose, and asked them to “touch”. This was then developed to be done whilst walking, and as a way to get their attention back on me.

Let me know in the comments or on social media (see below) if you try to teach “touch” yourself and how it goes!


To read the previous”Puppy Tails” please follow the links below:

Puppy Tails (1)Puppy Tails (2)Puppy Tails (3)Puppy Tails (3A)Puppy Tails (4)


All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.



If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of the social media pages…

• Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
• Instagram (@alis.animal.answers)
• Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
• LinkedIn (Ali Lloyd)

Finding Your Best Friend: A Senior’s Guide to Pet Ownership

Owning a pet can be an absolute joy and benefit to your health. Entering your senior years doesn’t mean you have to forgo having a loving pet, but it does mean you should take some extra care and time finding your next best friend…

Puppy Tails (4)

Puppy Tails (4)

So life at the moment is very hectic (hence missing doing posts for March and April) but hey ho life goes on! Let’s talk about the pups…

Rollo turned 1yo in January and was treated to a birthday biscuit (decorated like a cake) and he shared some pupcakes with Brina! They were treated to tuna and veg pasta for dinner – as I wanted to make a bit of a fuss, even if he had no idea why!

His teenage behaviour (due to teenage hormones) was not improving after this milestone and he began to ignore known commands when he wanted – not a good advertisement for a dog trainer! Still, I persisted and had been asking my vet about neutering him, as I know from experience that this can help with getting behaviour back on track – my vet however kept telling me he needed to be 18mo before they would neuter him. I’d always been taught at uni, and been informed by vets, that a male dog can be neutered from 6mo onwards. Needless to say, I was not wanting to put up with this behaviour from him for a few more months, so I posed the question to a few other local vets who all confirmed they would neuter a male dog from 6mo onwards – he was done growing and there was no reason not to.

So, we changed vets, got him booked in and he has recovered marvelously! His behaviour post-recovery is almost back to pre-teenage behaviour and he’s a lot more responsive to training again! He’s still hyper focused on the squeaky ball, which is a walkies only toy (to avoid him getting bored of it) but he will do most commands without the prompt of toy or treat, just like before 😊

And then there is Brina. Little Brina. Not so little anymore (she was in the photos in “Puppy Tails (3A)“)… She is almost 10mo now and has just recently come into her first season. This is new for me as I’ve only ever owned male dogs, or dealt with bitches well established in their seasons (not in a home environment). So I’m dealing with all the behavioural changes that come along with this – for her and for him! She’s gotten a lot more snuggly and in need of a lot more physical contact with her humans and a lot less tolerant of Rollo’s attention.

So a bit more on Brina, our German Shepherd Dog (GSD) up to this point – she adores Rollo, she follows him everywhere and certainly has ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) if Rollo is doing something she’s not involved with, even if she’s not interested! He loves a good tug of war or game of fetch, but she was always just interested in running alongside Rollo or jumping on him whilst he’s playing tug of war with one of his humans, as opposed to actually getting involved in play. They love to play fight and I’m sure to the untrained eye they’d look/ sound like they were trying to kill each other sometimes! The key thing is the play sneeze you’ll hear throughout, meaning that they do love each other really 😊

Brina is the most vocal doggo I’ve come across (not counting working in kennels, with multiple persistent barkers) – I can’t decide if this is a GSD thing or a bitch thing or just her! She talks to her toys, in her sleep and to anyone who will listen – as well as being very loud when she can’t keep up with Rollo (his zoomies are fast!) or when her FOMO kicks in 😜

Her on-lead walking has very much improved, with the help of the Gentle Leader when necessary, as she is a puller! Training aids, such as a Gentle Leader, can be instrumental in getting the desired behaviour – which I hope to go into in more detail in the next “Puppy Tails” post. The aim is to have her walking nicely without the aid of the Gentle Leader (but with her pulling strength and my health issues, the Gentle Leader has been a major help) and I’m confident we’ll get there!

Despite them both being a bit of a handful at the moment due to her hormones affecting her and Rollo, they’re still very much snuggle buddies and friends.

I am hoping the next installment of “Puppy Tails” can be a bit more training focused relating to their individual stages of life and training levels, with some insight into the training process.

To read the previous”Puppy Tails” please follow the links below:

Puppy Tails (1)Puppy Tails (2)Puppy Tails (3)Puppy Tails (3A)


All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of the social media pages…

• Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
• Instagram (@alis.animal.answers)
• Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
• LinkedIn (Ali Lloyd)

Puppy Tails (3)

Puppy Tails (3)

So, this isn’t exactly how I hoped this third post would go – I was hoping I could focus more on updating you with Rollo’s training progress but things took a bit of a back-step after Rollo injured himself in July! Poor pup was running and playing with his friends, when we noticed red on his leg – he had a fairly sizable (although, thankfully, superficial) cut on his inner thigh, close to the upper bend in his leg. He was stitched up and confined to the house and garden – no walkies, no running, no jumping, etc. whilst he healed.

As you can imagine, for an active 6 month old lurcher like Rollo, this was tough! He spends most of his time being very active and playful! But for two weeks, he needed to try and be calm and rest, without getting too bored! He was, for the most part, very good – providing we were relaxing and not doing too much, he was happy enough to relax with us.

I’m not sure what was worse for him (aside from the injury itself) and the “cone of shame” – being restricted to on-lead toilet breaks in the garden only for the first few days after the stitches went in, or after his first follow-up appointment when he was allowed to go on very short walks (again restricted on-lead) for a week, which has meant no off-lead running and playing with his friends, or the post-stitches recovery week when he was allowed mostly back to normal but still couldn’t run off lead with his friends. Thankfully that’s all behind us and he’s fully recovered and back to his mischievous self!

His recovery, once the stitches were out, wasn’t too bad – he was confined for so long, then for a week after his stitches came out it was necessary to restrict him to lead walkies just to make sure he did t over-do it; to ensure we got him back to full health in the right way (no sense rushing things and ending up damaging the leg further).

Rollo being restricted to the lead for a while did however highlight some training areas which needed more focus – specifically his lead and heel training. Because he is more often than not taken somewhere for walkies where he can run off lead with us or with friends, it seems I’d neglected lead and heal training a bit.

With this brought to my attention, I decided now was a good a time as any to recap this training with Rollo. He was not happy about his restricted lead walks when he was healing, but had come to accept lead walkies as it is preferable to being restricted to the house and garden! So I took advantage of his new acceptance of being on lead more than he liked by doing more lead walks, focusing on heel work with the command “on heel”.

Early “on heel” lead training back in May

I started by giving him a run or a play somewhere to allow him to burn off some of that excitable energy! It’s a lot easier to train a dog who can focus on you than one who is distracted with all their pent up energy and looking for a way to release it! We would then walk with Rollo on lead; when he naturally walked at my heel I would give him the command “on heel” (with the corresponding hand signal I chose) then click my clicker (yes, the clicker came back out) and give him a small treat – this was so Rollo would associate the command with the action he was doing. Rollo picked this up very quickly whilst on-lead and we soon progressed to learning “on heel” being off-lead.

Rollo will (more often than not) come “on heel” on command whether on the lead, moseying around off-lead or from a distance off-lead (he’ll respond to my “come” whistle (yes I whistle differently for different commands) and the come “on heel” to the hand gesture and the command when I give it, when he’s within earshot.

He’s almost 9 months old now so still very much an adolescent, and by no means a perfect teenager haha! His progress has been brilliant and I’m proud of how far he’s come. Sometimes the commands he knows well, need reinforcing when he’s pushing boundaries but most of the time he’s “such a good boy!” and he knows it!

“such a good boy!”

Look out for more puppy tails!

Moving With Your Pet: A Guide For Stressed Nomads

Moving With Your Pet: A Guide For Stressed Nomads

It can sometimes be stressful moving animals from one home to the next, but there are several things you can do to make it less anxiety-inducing for everyone involved. Whether you have a dog, a cat, or even a rabbit, check out these tips for moving with your animal companions…

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