Monday, 6 November 2017

Squirrels and fireworks, an unexpectedly perfect combination

It’s been an odd weekend to say the least* and it wasn’t possible to get away for the weekend to hide from the fireworks. Instead Laura and I instituted a range of coping strategies to help our dogs.

Brian isn’t scared of fireworks, but he does get very angry at them invading his house. Cue lots of shouting and barking at the stupid noises.

Freya tends to shout at fireworks in a grumpy way to start with, but if they are relentless and very loud she ends up getting overwhelmed and anxious. This is a huge improvement on where we were three years ago at the height of her noise sensitivity (fearful, trying to flee, shaking constantly, panicky at loud noises on walks).

It’s not a fun weekend for either dog really, and while Bronte is mostly deaf she tends to join in with the barking just for fun….and winds the other two up!

However, both Freya and  Brian are intensely interested in walks, sniffing, bunnies and squirrels. 

They both often go completely deaf in the presence of small furries…so rather than just taking them for a walk to tire them out we used the walks as active distraction.

Our recipe for survival

  • Headtorch with fresh batteries
  • Travel mug of tea or coffee
  • Snacks or dinner plans (we opted for takeaway at a friend’s remote house on Friday, and a dog friendly pub dinner on Saturday)
  • At least one friend for company and route finding
  • Safety lights for your dog
  • Long line and gloves
  • Securely fitting harness and collar
  • Intensely interesting walk in woods or moorland away from main displays but with plenty of wildlife sniffs – no need for check-in training this time, we wanted them as distracted as possible!
  • Vast quantities of exciting treats to use for scentwork, on the spot “bang=happy voice+food” and general distraction
  • Freya also wore a close fitting jumper for added comfort

For our two dogs, the ideal would have been getting away to a remote cottage all weekend. But since we couldn’t do that this year we needed to distract as much as possible. Sitting at home even with a cosy den, noise blocking stuff and plenty of stuffed food toys just wasn’t the best option for Freya and Brian for three whole nights. 

Instead even on Sunday night when we ended up walking in a wood closer to a big display (5 miles – but so loud) than planned, our dogs carried on sniffing and exploring even though I could hardly hear Laura talking.  

I hope your weekend was less eventful than ours, and I’ll share more success strategies as I catch up with my noise fears clients this week.

SAFETY NOTE at all times when not in the house, our dogs wore collars and harnesses plus securely attached leads, ID tags, lights at night and of course they are microchipped with up to date details logged. Dogs were on lead in the garden at night, and when moving from house to cars and vans!  We made the right choice for our dogs because we knew how they feel and react to loud noises – as the Americans say “your mileage may vary”!

Have a good week

Morag and Freya & Bronte

*my darling senior collie girlie has been poorly recently so I didn’t want to go away somewhere and be too far from our vets. Farah went to sleep for the last time in my arms on Friday so any plans we did have obviously went out of the window. 

I know everyone who reads the blog, our emails and comes to our sessions will have met or heard of lovely Farah so I wanted to let you know she is gone. PLEASE don’t ask me how I am if you see me, don’t reply or message me with kind thoughts – I know you all mean very well but I am working very hard to hold things together for Freya and Bronte, and grieve in my own way.

Thank you so much for understanding and holding us in your heart.