Fire Alarm Fiasco

The other weekend we had quite the fire alarm fiasco. As many of you know, loud noises can bother fearful dogs immensely. Fear of loud noises usually worsen over time, can be learned, or have a deeper cause like genetics. Oreo is definitely genetically predisposed to being fearful, but she was not always so fearful of the fire alarm.

It all began one Saturday evening. My husband and I were running around doing chores and cleaning up the house. We finally ate and sat down to watch a nice movie until…BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, goes our fire alarm. We live in a newer home, so the fire alarms seem to be unusually LOUD. The first time the alarm went off Oreo followed my husband to where the fire alarm is, jumped up, and checked it out.

We sat back down to enjoy the movie, and literally we just got through the previews…BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. This time Oreo whines and follows my husband to the fire alarm while he turns it off.

Again, we sit down and start the movie. By the way, this is a movie that I’ve been waiting to watch for quite a while. BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. This time Oreo barks and follows my husband.

You can understand the pattern, each time the fire alarm goes off Oreo gets more upset. Meanwhile, we don’t understand why they are going off, but know that the fire alarms have a history of acting up in the neighborhood.

The next time it goes off Oreo now barks and whines, walks in circles and runs around.

The final time Oreo can’t take it, barks, whines, follows us upstairs, and pees.

I know it’s bad when she pees. She doesn’t pee in the house. She use to do that a long time ago when we first got her-she would pee whenever we turned on a hair dryer or anything else that sounded like it-but she isn’t afraid of that sound anymore.

However, with the large amount of loud fire alarms going off in such a short time, Oreo was exposed to the sound too much. I did treat her, do tricks, and try “having a party”, but she was too anxious after the second fire alarm.

You may wonder why we didn’t just shut them off. We tried, they are like SUPER fire alarms, made so no one can take them off! We did eventually get them off, wrapped them in a towel, and threw them in the car. Not the safest decision, but for our sanity, and Oreo’s we did it. Later we found out the batteries were dying, which should have just triggered a one beep, not a full fire alarm, but who knows.

Signs your dog may be afraid of loud noises:

panting, whining, pacing, urinating, circling, trembling, running away/jumping to avoid

There are much more serious signs where your dog may actually injure themselves because they can not handle how anxious they are. Many dogs try to hide, especially in the tub. Oreo is not afraid of thunderstorms…yet, so I do different things during thunderstorms. I make sure I play games and do tricks for treats during thunderstorms. Some other things you can do are play soothing music, put a fan or something on that will hide some of the noise, have a treat party (throw high value treats around your dog to make a positive associate between the storm and good things), try to desensitize your dog, or see your vet about medications if it is severe.

We are happy the fire alarms are fixed. Coincidently as I was just finishing writing this, the show my husband was watching had fire alarms going off. Oreo raised her head from her sleep and looked, but luckily the alarms only lasted about 2 seconds!

Like a Walk in the Park

When I arrived home my husband and I went for a long walk. We walked around neighborhoods and into a nice open park. It was amazing how calm Oreo was when a dog across the street barked its head off as we passed. Not only was that dog barking, but a dog on our side of the street in a house started barking. Oreo didn’t lunge, didn’t bark back, just kept on walking. Was she bothered? Yeah, I’m sure she was…but instead of resorting to her old tactics of handling stress she looked at us for treats and scooted ahead…like a walk in the park.

One Happy Hound

Yay!!! Oreo had a FANTASTIC day at training! We woke up early this morning and Oreo was NOT feeling well. We were outside at 6:30am, and she was eating grass. Everyone in the neighborhood must know what my pajamas look like by now (lol)! She did take treats though, which meant we were okay. I should have figured she wouldn’t be feeling well since she didn’t eat her food last night. She needs to eat in the evening, otherwise the bile builds up and she’s sick in the morning.

Anywhoooo….onto the good news. We went to training and first we did calming curves. I was a little nervous because Oreo was doing this with a new dog. I had her sit next to me, the trainer called out “5 steps.” I proceeded 5 steps and Oreo was looking in my eyes the entire time! I felt like we understood each other and we were working together like a team. I took my five steps, saw the other dog and owner take their five steps, and called out Oreo’s name. She IMMEDIATELY turned and walked happily with me back to where we started as I clicked, praised, and treated her. We got up to 19 steps (about 10 feet away from the other dog), and Oreo did wonderful each time! She didn’t hesitate when turning around. She didn’t get nervous or stare down at the other dog…nothing! We might have even greeted the dog, except that the other dog is new to the class and is highly reactive.

I threw a “party” when we got in the car. This means that I praised her, pet her, and gave her treats while telling her what a good dog she was. This is a great reward when you get the dog back in the car after training. I also put some high value treats in her kong so that she LIKES being in the car and doesn’t get seperation anxiety.

After a break, we did the “vet office” exercise. I would bring Oreo into a door in the barn, call her name, and she needed to turn and respond to me (click, treat). She did wonderful! I do some focusing exercises (tricks such as touch, here, and high five) to get her ready to greet other people and focused on me and working together to conquer her fear. We then continued and greeted a woman sitting who asked her for tricks. Oreo was OVERLY excited, her tail was wagging a million miles a minute…she was SO HAPPY!

Next we greeted a stranger (a woman) she never met. She went right up to her, tail wagging, smiling and performed tricks for treats! Yay! At this point I was on the other side of the barn and another dog would come through the door on the opposite side and follow the pattern I just did. I would stay in the corner and do tricks to have Oreo once again focus on me. She didn’t even care another dog was there! She didn’t hesitate when I called her to come with me either, which is a great improvement. The previous classes I was having difficulty getting her to leave with me. Over the next week the trainer is going to discuss what I would like to do. I could continue with reactive classes and add on a new class (re-socialization) or switch classes altogether. The trainer is trying a new private class to re-socialize dogs who WANT to play. Oreo definitely wants to play with other dogs, but is still a bit unsure and fearful, as am I. When we were working on exercises she was whining and play bowing…she really wants some doggy friends but is unsure! Great job today! We are a happy bunch. Seems like she needs to have regression every once in a while to make a great leap!

Flower Design

Yesterday, we had another lesson. This time we did calming curves again with a larger dog. She did very well walking towards the other dog. She did okay with turning around and going the other day when I called her name. She did much better than last week, but she still will freeze sometimes when looking at the other dog or person. I don’t think this is necessarily because of fear freezing. It is because she WANTS so badly to see the other dog or person. You many wonder how I know this.

I know this because she whines and wags her tail, sometimes she even play bows. Still haven’t gotten her a playmate. A little apprehensive like her I guess. I know someone from her puppy class, and she got along very well with this dalmation, but I’m not quite ready. I will have to work my way up to it. I’m still afraid that if the dog bites her in the back or jumps on her that she will react to it, because that is where she was attacked before. I have seen her before get snappy and defensive if a dog tangles in her leash (they shouldn’t really be playing with the leash on for this reason-they get scared).

Anyways, she did well with the flower design. The other parents of fellow doggies formed a circle and everyone looked in toward each other, talking. I approached with Oreo walking on my side. She would have to walk towards the people, and before reaching them I would call her name. When she turned, I would click and throw treats a few feet in front of us. She got the reward of distance and treats-DOUBLE! But really, she doesn’t need distance too much from these people-she used to be afraid of them, but now she LOVES them! So really, we were working on her and I working as a team. If she wants treats or to greet someone, she needs to perform the desired behavior. After the first few rounds of this we did so much better! Next time we will be doing the flower design, but people from the circle will be greeting her, asking for a sit, treating, then sending off to me where I will click and treat her for returning to me.

By the way, the only thing to do when something bad happens is LAUGH. These 2 women came to observe the class. Of COURSE they parked right in front of my car where Oreo was getting all nervous. I went to feed her treats so she wouldn’t get over the threshold. These 2 women were old, slow moving women. They started getting out of their car, meanwhile I’m in the back with the dog feeding her treats making her target my hand to keep her attention. Otherwise, she would be barking, lunging and losing it completely. So these ladies take their time, put their jackets on, then FINALLY they look like they are going to get walking. OOPS! Forgot the coffee, so they go back. Then they start walking RIGHT BY THE CAR (come on ladies, this is a REACTIVE class, dogs are going to REACT to you, think about it-I’m not in the car feeding the dog for fun!). Then of course again they turn back to the car to get something else. What seemed like forever was probably 5 minutes, but finally they realized they should walk AROUND the car in a large arc after the trainer told them to. DUH!!! All I could do was laugh at how people do not think!

Not Your Normal Dog Class…

Went to my first reactive dog class! It’s not your normal dog class. For one thing, the dogs aren’t all out at the same time. You drive there. Strategically park your car somewhere around the “farm” and walk them around, then make sure they are comfortable, set, and they can’t see out the windows to other dogs. People take turns working on their dogs specific needs.

For instance, a dog that is people reactive was taken out of the car and walked along a path, while a person volunteered to walk next to the dog and owner, feeding him treats. I was told this dog was super people reactive, and actually bit the trainer once. But now, he has made so much progress, and even wagged his tail!! YAY!!

Everyone else watches and discusses. We also sat in a circle for a super shy dog and let her eat from our hands/toss treats without eye contact. This gave the dog some confidence and get them used to people. Another dog walked on the leash while a man walked along with them 10 feet away. The owner gave treats to the dog.

The students in the class pick what they want to work on, and everyone usually gets 2 sets of practice, or more depending on how many people are there. Some of these dogs have made great strides which makes me hopeful, but every dog is different. Next Saturday will be our first go at it! Makes me nervous, but excited to know there are other people out there. It’s like a support group, but real life controlled situations are put into place to help the dog and owner!

In other news…I have seen some progress with Oreo. She has had dogs barking at her and she had no reaction! No running, freezing, or barking. She acted like they weren’t there. She also looks at me sometimes when she is scared, which is the goal! Additionally, when we were on the back porch a painter was next door and came out-she didn’t bark at all-was just looking curiously! She also saw a dog at the mailbox and no barking!! (which is usually common for her). Seeing some good things. Now..that painter man was outside the front door talking to my husband and Oreo didn’t like that, she barked, whinned, and was very nervous. Same man..different situation…different reaction…

Also Oreo looks forward to wearing her thundershirt (it seems that way). The other day she came right up to me wagging her tail when she saw it! Like she was saying pleassssssssssse. On another note I will be starting teaching again, so will be home less, and have less time to train with her, but intend to definitely continue!

Walking Gear

 

 

I find it cumbersome sometimes to carry  everything I need on walks. I have invested in some athletic shorts that have pockets. The following things I bring with me every time I leave for the park or a walk with the dog:

 

  • Leash
  • E Z Harness
  • Treat Bag
  • Yummy Treats
  • Clicker
  • Pepper Spray
  • Poop Bags
  • Dog of course!

Now let’s start with the thing that pops into my mind first when reading the list. Pepper Spray? You may wonder why I carry it, but you might not if you have been reading my posts. Oreo was attacked. Never thought it would happen, and in such a quiet neighborhood. Dogs can come from anywhere, and I’ve learned to always be ready. In the few months I have carried it I have never had to use it. I do have to admit, right after the attack I was much more drastic…MUCH MORE. I bought an extendable baton, that is electrified. It actually is designed to fit right over your shorts or pants to carry. I was mortified. I purchased it and even paid extra to have it shipped fast. I was desperate. If anything is attacking my baby and I can’t get it off this should do!! Why not just pepper spray?? I read that bigger dogs may not release with just pepper spray. I had to get the best.

Now don’t get me wrong, I would never use it unless a dog was attacking my dog and I couldn’t get it off. That happened to be the situation before, and it probably was on our dog for a good 5 minutes not releasing, and pulling. I thought her skin would be ripped off. I actually remember hitting the dog and looking up to the sky and thinking, “God, I can’t believe this is happening, it’s like a nightmare, help me”. This followed with screaming, my husband kicking the dog, and it refused to release. After that I thought we got lucky she wasn’t killed, next time I will be prepared.

TRUTH IS…I never have fully taken it out of the package. The baton actually scares me, and the fact I would have to use it on another dog scares me. What if it was my dog attacking? But then I think back to that day that changed everything, a fun loving dog changed into a highly fearful anxiety ridden dog. She once enjoyed the company of other dogs…okay she was obsessed with playing with other dogs. Now she freezes when she sees them, and well you know what will happen if she’s reached her threshold. Plus, her injuries could’ve been much much worse. And after the attack she seemed so normal, wagging her tail, licking the owner’s hand. Such a sweetie. I digress.

Another thing I find a MIRACLE is the E Z harness. It doesn’t have to be that brand, but a harness that connects in the front to the leash. Amazing!! Oreo use to pull pull pull. She was a tracker and loved pulling to see other dogs. We tried regular harnesses, training methods, nothing worked…until the E Z harness. I don’t know if anyone else has had success, but we definitely have. After the attack though now we have trouble encouraging her walk sometimes she is scared. Taking her to parks and avoiding crowded areas does help though. I still use the E Z harness because it doesn’t cause pressure on the neck. When a dog is nervous, pressure on the neck just exacerbates the problem. It also allows me to have more control. If she happens to get surprised and out of fear starts to lunge, I have much more control. The trainer actually said eventually I could take it off, but it doesn’t seem to bother her, or me.

I do find carrying so much stuff can be crazy, and sometimes I forget. Well…okay I don’t forget. I get up and it’s early in the morning. I go outside with Oreo and she is sniffing, but suddenly a bathroom break turns into a little walk..then AHH scary person or dog!! No treats? Yes, I can hold her attention, but not as long as I would like, we haven’t had enough experience yet and training. It always seems like when you forget the treats or the poop bag…that’s when you need it…and that’ when your dog decides to go right in someone’s front lawn as they are starring out at you from the window.