Yes the title is meant to be sung like Katy Perry’s song “Firework”. I pretty much put Teddy’s name into every song I’ve ever known, like most dog moms. With the Fourth of July holiday coming up I thought it was appropriate. Teddy and I may like the song “Firework”, but we are NOT fans of the actually fireworks this time of the year. I always thought they were fun as a kid, but now that I have a dog that is absolutely terrified of them, I could seriously do without them. Last night someone in my neighborhood was already setting off fireworks, then it started raining and thundering. All in all, not a great night for little Ted. Such is the life of a fearful dog, and that is what I wanted to talk about today.
The Canine Enrichment Team at my shelter is in charge of all of the training and mental well being of the dogs that we rescue. That means we keep them happy and healthy until adoption. We work with them on behaviors that might prevent them from being adopted and that affect their overall happiness. We see so many contrasting behaviors. Potential adopters might walk right by a dog that is constantly jumping and barking at their kennel door. They also might walk by a dog that is hiding in the back of a kennel too terrified to come out to the front to be seen. I have been working with these behaviors for over 12 years and have seen so many unique and different situations. Since it’s summer time and loud noises run rampant in my neighborhood, I thought I would talk about fearful dogs. The shelter is such a stressful environment for any dog, let alone one that is already terrified when they come in. When I see these dogs my heart just goes out to them. I do what I can to get them noticed by adopters and to get them out of the shelter. My greatest success story is of course Teddy.
When I got Teddy he was a typical fearful dog, shaking in his kennel and afraid of all the noises and commotion. I have told his story before, so I wont go back into too much detail. He was skinny and matted and didn’t know what grass was. I could tell there was a sweet funny little guy inside just waiting for the courage to come out. We had an immediate connection, so I brought him home and away from his past life. There were a lot of quirky little things that I noticed about his behavior. There was a laundry list of things that he was afraid of. Besides loud noises he didn’t like newspapers, brooms, my purse. It was just odd thing after odd thing that he would react too. I’m sure a lot of things were from his previous life. All I could do was try and desensitize him to these things. I would hold one of the “scary things” in one hand and have a treat in my other hand. The idea was to associate what was once scary to now be something good. He has improved so much since 8 years ago, but is is something I have to stay consistent with. He still doesn’t like brooms, or my purse for that matter. But he doesn’t loose his mind with fear like he used to.
The one thing that I can’t seem to make him feel better about are fireworks or thunder. No amount of treating and praise can compete with those loud scary sounds seeming to come from the heavens. So in that case, I just try to make it a less scary experience for him. One of the best inventions ever made is the Thundershirt (www.thundershirt.com). It’s basically a vest that helps dogs with anxiety. We use it for dogs in the shelter that are highly anxious. The vest uses pressure to calm animals. I put it on Teddy whenever there is a bad storm. Although I can tell he is still on alert, he stops shaking and usually lays down with me. Other things I try are to play calming music at a volume that drowns out the sounds, or just put the TV on at a higher level. Last year I was blessed with an extra pupper on the 4th of July. I want to give a shout out to little Rocky the Yorkshire Terrier. He was adorable and fun to hang out with while his parents were out of town. On the 4th however, Rocky and Teddy had a night of it! Rocky barked at the fireworks…Teddy must have thought this would help so he followed suit. Let’s just say this single dog mom did not get much sleep. Bottom line is please think of the other people and animals in your neighborhood. I understand people want to celebrate our independence, but I guarantee there are more animals than you think in your neighborhood that spend the whole day living in fear.
When you adopt a fearful dog, you just have to know what it is involved in caring for them. Their fearfulness will likely lessen as you work with them and they realize that they are now in a safe and loving home. But, it doesn’t ever go completely away. I have helped to make Teddy a much more confident and happy dog. There are times however, like the Fourth of July, thunderstorms, when mom accidentally wacked him with her purse (dear god that sent him back a hundred steps) that that fearfulness comes back. I hope it’s not something that would keep you from adopting a fearful dog. They need caring patient owners, and trust me they can be the most amazing loving dogs. My Teddy turned out to be a quirky and funny little guy because I gave him a chance to be himself. If you find yourself in a similar situation please reach out to me or any positivity based trainer for advice. You can truly change a life!
I hope you enjoyed reading! If there is anything you would like to know more about please DM me. Remember to follow Teddy and I on Instagram @singldogmom for behind the scenes in our lives, at the shelter, and as always training tips and tricks.
Pup of the Week:
I couldn’t resist putting this huge smile in this week’s blog. Meet lex the Bulldog mix! Click the link below for more info. If the link does not work than the Pup of the week is either on hold or adopted!
All of us at the shelter are o so excited to report that Bert finally found his furever home this past weekend. He was a true gentleman and we are so happy for him!