Many people struggle to comfort their dog when he is in the throes of a firework induced panic.You may feel helpless and torn. Helpless because you feel there is nothing you can do to support him, and torn because there is a rumour going around that you can't touch, talk to or even comfort your dog in any way as it will make him worse. We'll put both those thoughts aside and check out one simple thing you can do to calm him down.
Dogs generally like their ears stoked, this is partly because we can influence how they feel physically and emotionally.By stroking the ear we can have a positive effect on his heart rate and breathing, helping both to return to normal levels which promote calmness.
How To:1. Position yourself so that both you and your dog are facing in the same direction. Gently place one hand on his chest or a light finger on the collar, but let him move away if he wishes. Begin by using the back of your free hand to stroke softly along the outside edge of one ear. 2. If your dog is happy about this, cup your hand around the ear and stroke from the base to the tip. Try to mould as much of your hand as possible around your dog's ear for maximum contact. If your dog has upright ears work in an upwards direction: if they flop downwards, work in a horizontal outwards and downwards direction. 3. Next, take the ear between the thumb and curved forefingers of one hand so that you only have one layer of ear flap between fingers and thumb. Slide them along the length of the ear, working from the base near the head, right out to the end. Move your hand slightly each time you begin a new stroke so that you cover every part of the ear. Be gentle and work slowly to help calm and relax. 4. If your dog is holding his ears in a furled, pinned or high ear carriage, very gently unfurl them as you slide along each ear, and bringing it into a more natural, relaxed position. Posture can directly affect behaviour, so if the ears are relaxed the rest of the body will tend to follow suit. 5. If your dog appears to dislike ear work and has floppy ears, try moulding your hand over one and gently holding it against his head. Very slowly and gently move your whole hand in a circular movement, so that his head supports his ear. Make the circle small so that it is a subtle movement. If this is still challenging try wearing a sheepskin mitten or glove to diffuse the sensation even further. You may find that this will help to reduce any concerns he has and to become more tolerant about ear work. If he continues to show concern, do ask your vet to check his ears as there may be an underlying physical reason for his unease. 6. Once you have worked one ear for a while, swap to the other and back again as you feel you want to. You can do ear work in preparation, leading up to the 4th of July but, if safe to do so, you can also do it while the fireworks are going off to help support your canine companion.
This simple technique is part of a brilliant method called Tellington TTouch Training, (TTouch for short).TTouch has a proven track record of helping all animals overcome fear of noises. Incorporating a few minutes of the specialised bodywork into your day in the lead up to the 4th of July, and using an elasticated bandage in a simple design or purchasing a Thundershirt, can really change how he feels about those scary bangs. For more info about Tellington TTouch, visit www.ttouch.com or for a book packed full of info on how to help your petrified pet look up "Help! My Dog's Scared of Fireworks."
Animal Behaviourist, Tellington TTouch Practitioner, Real Dog Yoga Instructor & Author
Toni has worked with domesticated and wild canids since 1989. After a long and successful career with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, she started her own business as a Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner. She is now one of the highest qualified Practitioners in the UK. In 2001 her skills in TTouch took Toni to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust were she meet a pack of socialised wolves. She went on to work with them for over a decade as a Senior Wolf Handler and Education Officer for the organisation. In more recent years, Toni has gone on to become a Real Dog Yoga Instructor, (Visit www.therealdogyoga.co.uk to find out more) and updated her qualifications in behaviour with the International School of Psychology and Behaviour, for which she is also an affiliate. She is now a full member of The Association of INTO Dogs as a certified canine behaviourist. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients' one to one, and writes. Toni lives in Oxfordshire, England with her husband and their dog MrP.
Over the last two decades, Toni has been developing her writing. She spent two years editing and writing features for Wolf Print, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust's international magazine. She went on to write for national dog magazines, rescue society newsletters and blogs. Her first and second book, The Truth about Wolves & Dogs, (Hubble and Hattie 2012) and Among the Wolves (Hubble and Hattie 2015) have been a great success. Her latest writing collaboration with co-author Karen Bush sees a series of books entitled HELP! My Dog is…. Titles include, HELP! My Dog's Scared of Fireworks, HELP! My Dog doesn't Travel Well in the Car, HELP! My Dog is Destroying the Garden and HELP! My Dog has a Canine Compulsive Disorder. All are available in paperback and eBook format on Amazon. Toni and Karen have many more titles planned under the banner of Skinny Dog Books – named as they both own sighthounds and the books are small and concise. Visit www.tonishelbourne.co.uk for more details about Toni, her work and books. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Truth-about-Wolves-Dogs-216136181810393/ Twitter: @tonishelbourneNew Book: HELP! My Dog Doesn't Travel Well in the Car | Paperback | Kindle