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BLOG POSTS BY Lisa Spector

10 Safety and Calming Tips for Dogs During Fireworks

The fireworks show last week celebrating the Queen's six decades on the throne was reported to be the most amazing show London has ever seen. Fireworks can be fun for humans, but dogs don't have the same reaction.

In the United States, July 4th is around the corner, along with the fireworks that inevitably come with this holiday. Almost all humans with canines in the U.S. declare this day the worst day of the year for their dogs. Veterinarians say that July 3rd is usually the most trafficked day in their offices, with clients coming in to get drugs for their dogs.

A few years ago, I found a lost dog on the 4th of July. He was obviously a well fed, groomed, and trained dog that escaped his yard when he heard the fireworks. When I called our local Humane Society, I was informed that it is the busiest time of the year for them, as more dogs are found wandering loose on July 4th than any other day of the year in the U.S.

10 Tips for providing a safe July 4th for your Canine Household:

  1. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day.
  2. Keep your dogs inside during fireworks, preferably with human companionship. If it’s hot, air conditioning will help. Bringing your dogs to a fireworks display is never a good idea.
  3. Provide a safe place inside for your dogs to retreat. When scared of sounds they can’t orient, dogs often prefer small enclosed areas. (I once had a dog who climbed in the bathtub during windstorms.) If your dog is comfortable in a crate, that is a good option.
  4. If possible, keep the windows and curtains closed. Covering the crate or lowering the blinds can also be helpful. Removing visual stimulation can also help calm dogs.
  5. Make sure all your dogs are wearing ID tags with a properly fitting collar. Dogs have been known to become Houdini around the 4th of July.
  6. Leave your dog something fun to do – like a frozen Kong filled with his favorite treats.

Using sensory enrichment to calm dogs:

  1. Sound Therapy: The psychoacoustically designed music of Through a Dog's Ear has been specifically designed to reduce canine anxiety and has been successfully utilized by dog lovers world-wide. It is most effective when you first play the music well before the fireworks start, at a time the dog is already feeling peaceful and relaxed. He will begin to associate the music with being calm and content. Then play the music a couple of hours before the fireworks start and continue to play through bedtime. The music doesn’t need to be loud to be effective as it has been clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system. Listen to free sound samples.
  2. Sound Therapy combined with Desensitization: The Canine Noise Phobia series (CNP) consists of four CD's that can be used individually or as a set: Fireworks, Thunderstorms, City Sounds, and Calming. CNP is an innovative desensitization training tool that combines three distinctive elements for the treatment and prevention of sound-sensitivities and noise-phobias:
    • progressive sound effects (distant/close)
    • specially-designed psychoacoustic music (Through a Dog’s Ear)
    • reward-based reinforcement protocols (Victoria Stilwell)

Here's what Nancy Weller said after using CNP Fireworks:

"I am preparing for New Years Eve. The most skittish of the greyhounds already went to bed. My boy is just game for everything. Tonight, we are relaxing to the Phobia Series Fireworks. He fights hard to stay awake. The subtle fireworks make him stare at the speaker. Then not. 75+ lb brindle boy, sleeping like a baby. Mom might have to curl up too."

  1. Tactile: There are two canine wraps on the market that reportedly help sound phobic dogs. The original Anxiety Wrap was invented by professional dog trainer Susan Sharpe, CPDT-KA. The patented design uses acupressure and maintained pressure to reduce stress. The thundershirt is also a wrap for your dog that provides gentle, constant pressure. Their website reports that over 85% of Thundershirt users see significant improvement in noise anxiety symptoms. Most dogs respond with the very first usage; some need 2-3 usages before showing significant improvement.
  2. Scent: Canine Calm, an all-natural mist from Earth Heart™ Inc., can help dogs relax and cope more effectively with loud noises and other stressful situations. Directions on their website say to spray Canine Calm onto your hands and massage the dog’s outer ears or abdomen. Or lightly mist the air behind your dog’s head, inside the travel crate or car, or directly onto bedding or clothing.

Do you have any additional tips for helping keep dogs calm and safe on this noisy holiday? Thanks for clicking comment below and sharing your suggestions. Also, feel free to share how your dogs have acted during previous July 4th holidays.

Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from the Calm your Canine Companion Music Series by Through a Dog’s Ear.

Simply click here and enter your email address. A link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

Get 15% off all individual Canine Noise Phobia Series products (not including 4-disc bundles) through July 4, 2012 by using promo code SUMMER15 in the Positively Store.

We’re Certified Humane

Certified Humane

By Lisa Spector, Canine Music Expert, Juilliard Graduate, and co-creator of Through a Dog’s Ear.

I noticed the top of the Brown Cow yogurt I recently purchased. It read "We're Certified Humane". I continued to read, "Our farmers have always treated their cows with kindness. But, now that we're certified humane, you can be certain the ladies enjoy ample space, shelter, gentle handling, healthy food, clean water, and a safe living environment."

I reflected on those words and wondered if that phrase could also be used with dog trainers. Just imagine, if a trainer uses science based, positive-reinforcement training, everything associated them would say, "I'm certified humane." A further expanded explanation could read, "My dogs and the dogs in my training classes and lessons have always been treated with kindness. But, now that we're certified humane, you can be certain that they are treated gently, are encouraged to make good choices and are rewarded well for those choices, are not seen as something to dominate,  are taught very patiently, while their people are supported in building bonding relationships with their dogs."

Of course, if you are a Victoria Stilwell licensed trainer (VSPDT), you will likely have the Positively sign to the right (or something similar) on your website, so it will be obvious. Otherwise, it's not always so clear. I try and be very selective in who I follow on Twitter, and often can't tell what training methods a professional trainer uses by looking at their website. Trainers who use dominate based training methods often use deceptive words that could misguide potential clients. And dog lovers in search of a trainer may not know what science based/ reward based/positive reinforcement training really is all about. And the initials KPA, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, CDBC, CDAC might as well be in Greek to some of them.

What do you think? What words could be used to make it clear what kind of training method a trainer uses? Should a trainer that uses dominate based training methods be required to say so? And should there be a certification that would allow trainers to post a sign that says "We're Certified Humane", if they use positive reinforcement training? If you are a trainer, I'd love to hear what words you use to describe your training methods. Thanks for sharing your comments below.

As co-founder of Through a Dog’s Ear, I am offering my readers a free download from our latest release, Music to Calm your Canine Companion, Vol. 3. Simply click here and enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy.

Do Companies Teach Reward Based Dog Training to People?

Because I am a concert pianist, the delightful video above has arrived in my inbox dozens of times. No matter how many times I watch it, it always brings a smile to my face. It is part of the  Volkswagen “Fun Theory,” based on the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better. I chuckled when I read those words and watched a few more of the winning videos in their contest, as I realized that is what positive reinforcement dog training is all about.

In summary, instead of correcting dogs for the behavior you don’t want, you reward them for behavior you do want. What naturally happens when you reward the behaviors you want? You get more behaviors you want, of the dog’s own free will, and consequently it’s a lot more fun for both canine and their human counterpart.

But, how does that relate to Volkswagen and their Fun Theory? Well, it’s exactly the same thing, but applied to people. Before the stairs were turned into a musical keyboard, a hidden camera revealed that almost everyone took the escalator. But, when the musical keyboard was installed, people were curious and it became so much more fun to take the stairs than the escalator. They were benefiting from the exercise without even realizing it, because they were just having fun making music while climbing stairs. Most adults are aware that it’s better for their health to take the stairs instead of the elevator, but previously the reward for taking the stairs just wasn’t very enticing without a fun factor. With the musical addition, they are rewarded with music making and fun!


The video above, that won first place in the Volkswagen Fun Theory contest, demonstrates my point even clearer. Kevin Richardson won 1st place with The Speed Camera Lottery video. He knows that the number of people speeding isn’t reduced by giving more speeding tickets. In dog training language that would be the equivalent of expecting a dog’s unwanted behaviors to decrease by punishing those behaviors. It may work in the short term, but rarely in the long haul and often escalates into additional undesired behaviors.

Similarly, when people receive a speeding ticket, they are more apt to pay attention to their speedometers short term, but it’s not sustainable behavior. However, when they are rewarded for their good behavior by being entered in a lottery for keeping the speed limit, they are more likely to continue driving under the speed limit, by their own free choice. And they have fun in the process, because they are being rewarded for their good driving behavior. Where do their lottery winnings come from? The people who were caught speeding! Brilliant!

Can you think of any areas in your life where you’ve been more apt to change a behavior because you were rewarded for your desired behavior rather than corrected for your unwanted behavior? Thanks for leaving your reply below.

As co-founder of Through a Dog's Ear, I am offering my Positively readers a free download from our latest release, Music to Calm your Canine Companion, Vol. 3. Simply click here and enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy.



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