We ask a lot from our pets on a daily basis. They are expected to live in our noisy, hectic world—without the understanding we have of what’s going on in their surroundings. Loud noises, new people, strange environments, exotic scents. All of these things can contribute to feelings of fear and anxiety. Stefani Fortney discusses how to deal with anxiety and your pet.
Since we expect our dogs to live and function within the construct of our lives, it’s our responsibility to provide them with the emotional tools necessary to live with as little fear and anxiety as possible. [Tweet “Desensitization & Counter- conditioning: Loud noises, new people, strange environments, exotic scents. “]
The idea of desensitizing our dogs to stimuli that cause fear and anxiety is founded on establishing your dog’s fear threshold. To do this, you must identify the exact trigger of your dog’s fear. Once that trigger is known, you can work on slowly desensitizing him to that trigger by slowly and gradually reintroducing him to it from a distance where he isn’t overcome by his fear. This must happen in a controlled environment and at a pace where your pup is comfortable enough to maintain his cool.
If Fido is afraid of women wearing sunglasses, you would have to discover at what distance he could see a shaded lady and not react fearfully. By exposing him slowly to his fear trigger—moving one step closer only when he is ready—he is slowly desensitized to it.
In conjunction with desensitization, Counter-Conditioning can help your pup learn to associate previously frightening situations with pleasurable reinforcement. Simply put, when he sees the scary thing, he gets a top-notch, delicious bit of food, verbal praise, and a favorite toy. By consistently pairing desensitization through distance with the reinforcement of the concept that the fear trigger is a precursor to wonderful things, we can help our dogs to gain confidence and overcome anxiety.
Stefani Fortney has loved dogs for as long as long as she can remember. At the age of nine, she and her little Beagle mix, Puppy, learned obedience together for the first time in 4-H. As an adult, Stefani became a professional groomer, then later earned her accreditation (ABCDT) as a dog trainer from Animal Behavior College. She uses Positive Reinforcement training techniques exclusively. Stefani currently shares her home with her wife (Melissa), six dogs (Phaedra, Spectre, Mani, Fritter, Poppy, and Opus), and one cat (Pudge).
Guthrie veterinarians reveal how to stop barking.
Barking is a natural instinct that dogs exhibit for many reasons. Unfortunately, it also one of the most common complaints of dog owners and their neighbors. Territorial protection, separation anxiety, anxiety, frustration and exposure to new or unusual sounds, sights or odors are the main reasons why dogs bark. The question is how do you get your dog to stop barking?
Guthrie veterinarians state that the key to prevent barking is to properly socialize your puppy to as many new people, animals, situations and noises as possible during their socialization period (8-16 weeks of age). Proper crate training will also aid in reducing anxiety when left alone. Barking should only be allowed to alert owners and then be controlled and stopped. Unfortunately, if you have an adult dog it’s going to take some behavior training and possibly some training devices to get your dog’s barking under control.
The key to training your dog to stop barking is to reward the behavior that you want (quiet) and not to give them any kind of attention when they are barking. Most people unintentionally reward and reinforce their dog’s bad behavior by allowing the dog indoors, feeding, petting, praising, playing, giving a toy or yelling at the dog to quiet down.
Guthrie veterinarians recommend you teach your dog a “quiet” command by waiting until your dog is barking. Place a tasty food treat by his nose which will cause most dogs to stop barking and sniff the treat. Once they stop barking immediately say “quiet”, give the dog the treat and praise your dog.
There are some anti-barking devices available that work well for most dogs. Guthrie veterinarians recommend these products if you dog is barking primarily when you are not at home. These device ensure immediate and accurate timing by emitting a sound or smell that is unpleasant to the dog. Barker breakers are battery operated devices which you can use inside your house or out in your yard that emit an ultrasonic sound when the dog barks. There are also collars that emit citronella spray or air every time the dog barks. If the underlying cause of the barking is anxiety these products are usually ineffective and the dog will bark until the battery is dead or the citronella can is empty. Thundershirts or DAP collars would be more helpful for dogs with anxiety issues and can be purchased from Guthrie veterinarians.
Dr. Anna was born and raised in Guthrie, Oklahoma. As a teenager, Dr. Anna found her beloved pet dead on the side of the road left to die without any help. That was the moment she decided to become a vet and vowed to help other people and their pets. After a few years of practicing in New Hampshire, Dr. Anna became homesick and decided to return to Guthrie to be with her parents and five other siblings. Family and friends are a major part of our lives which is why we treat our clients as family. Dr. Anna and her husband do not have children but our very proud pet parents and therefore, treat every four legged friend as part of the family.