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Help! My dog is a Fearful Fido, Anxious Annie, Grumpy Genghis.

Actually my boy IS Grumpy Genghis! He is also a fearful Fido and Anxious Annie, all these apply to him at different times. He has been called REACTIVE or I label him with the term “Having reactive behaviours”. This is not really very useful, everyone has a different vision of what reactive means, looks like, why it occurs, what should be done to “stop it” .

His behaviour is actually an expression of an emotional state. An emotion in that moment, or linked to past emotional responses which build and have become anxiety and stress.

The why is less important than the how can we help him. It is however useful to know, as it can explain the nuances of his specific responses. His very strong fear of black dogs, of Labradors. This is likely to be the type of dog which he had a one off encounter with and which began his journey from happy friendly young dog, to a dog who is fearful of the world.

So how can we help dogs like Genghis who have struggled to come to terms with an event which made him fearful and anxious ? Who look from the outside aggressive, angry, dangerous.

Getting some professional help is key. As is finding like minded skilled and knowledgeable friends. Supporting a fearful dog  is isolating and emotionally draining. It is embarrassing being at the other end of a lead to a snarling, shouting, lunging dog or one who is cowering , too scared to move, or barking and backing away, as people TUT and suggest you muzzle or don’t go to places nice dogs go, who suggest you take control and show him who is boss. None of this is supportive or helpful, but luckily many of those comments are borne of the ignorance of what is actually happening, I was once that person.

What  does the term “Reactive Behaviour mean? It is simply a response to something that is out of proportion to the level of threat or excitement. This can include lunging barking growling snapping biting, it can include freezing or rolling over, it can include super excitement or frustration.

How can we help ? Help our own fearful anxious and grumpy, over responsive  dogs , but also help those who encounter us to understand the everyday struggles we have?

The Yellow Dog Scheme can get the message out, dogs wearing yellow ribbons or leads indicate a give me space. Space is the most important every dogs space need is different, so when asked to STOP or you see someone gently but quickly moving their dog away, please keep your dog away so we can keep ours emotionally safe.

For those of us supporting a grumpy  fearful, anxious dog  or their people, there are a huge range of ways to help.

  • Behaviour support from a knowledgeable skilled positive focused trainer or behaviour consultant. to assess your partnership and tweak some handling skills, offer ideas for helping the emotional response, offer you some emotional support too.
  • Learning about the biology of the emotional and physical responses. the neurology of reactive behaviours
  • Understanding THIS dog, Be your dogs GEEK.
  • Understand the nuances of Canine Communication and Body Language so you can hear rhe dogs messages but also, most importantly, read the communication of other dogs you encounter, to make that decision to move away fast or to ask for the owners support.
  • Advocate for the dog.
  • Offer masses of chances to have calmness (see the blog Calm Dogs are Happy Dogs) . Did you know it can take 72 hours for a dog to recover from an event? Us too!
  • Learn some games and activities at home , in a safe place, to play in tricky situations.
  • Offer alternatives to walks regularly, have fun at home, play games, do some fitness fun, have some forage and snuffle time, learn some scenting techniques, learn some more cues or tricks. 15 mins fun or sniffing or foraging is as tiring as an hours walk, add in some fitness activities and you will have a less worried and fit dog, without adding to their anxiety bucket.
  • Find your local Secure Field for safe off lead fun.
  • Find out and use some of the many holistic therapies and practices that can ease anxiety and tension, such as TTouch, K9 Massage, Herbal Support, Bach Flower remedies, Botanical Self Selection.

If you would like to know more and are local or can travel to Somerset I will be offering a whole day workshop to help you understand more about all I have summarised. This will be especially helpful for professionals in all dog services to learn more about Scaredy dogs so they can help them and their families to be safe.

Please contact me for more information.

If you would like specialist , experienced 1-1 support or just a chat  with someone who understands, about your dog or one you work with, then I offer face to face meetings or a skype or electronic session then have a look at the Services. I am happy to have an initial chat and offer some general help too.

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Firework and Seasonal Celebration Support


fireworks

My dog is scared of fireworks (and other noises) and help for other seasonal events

Why do some dogs feel firework fear?

  • For some the noise and also the concussivness of modern fireworks is scary, initiating a biological fear response.
  • This can happen any time with any dog, even if they have been ok before.
  • The “ noise” can physically cause discomfort as the dog is sensitive to the air waves, the ground conclusiveness as well as the sound . Dogs hear 4x the distance we do. They pick up higher frequencies than us and the pitch can be excruciating.
  • They are erratic and unpredictable, both within a specific display and between displays ( which now happen from October to January . They seem to stop and then start up .. often louder or a different sound . it is the unpredictability which is so scary.
  • Dogs who are easily sound spooked are more likely to become firework fearful.
  • Managed Exposure and a programme can help young dogs and puppies manage the range of novel sound better.
  • NEVER “flood” by forcing them to watch
  • The more confident the dog is in the first exposure or in subsequent ones the more “bombroof” they will be. This is true of subsequent events, the happier the dog is the easier they will cope.
  • Dogs who are generally anxious or fearful will cope less well with novel sounds.
  • Dogs with any pain or who are unwell will cope less well .
  • The emotional state in the household around this time also impacts, try to be calm and jolly, if others are responding to the noise fearfully or if there has been stress and anxiety generally could add to the anxiety.
  • What does fear look like ?
    A dogs trust survey found 72% of dogs were adversely affected with 10 % seriously impacted.

What does canine fear and anxiety ( stress) look like?

  •  Lip licking, yawning
  • Panting when no exercise or not over heated
  • Refusing food
  • Being “naughty” or “stubborn” (refusing to listen or obey)
  • Very flighty or over excited, easily goes “over the top”
  • Trembling , shaking or drooling
  • Barking whining howling
  • Clingy, or wanting to hide away
  • Seeking touch when usually not keen to be handled or refusing touch when usually snugly
  • Cowering
  • Being destructive
  • Urinating defecating or vomiting for no obvious cause

Learn to read what is usual for your dog. What is their normal behaviour or response to the environment, what is their default like? Learn to read body language .

How can we help?

You cannot reinforce fear by offering appropriate support, If your dog seeks comfort give it, if they seek solitude enable it with your support .

  • Make sure all health conditions are under control, both physical and emotional , pain can impact fear thresholds . Get a vet check , especially ears.
  • Make a Plan
  • Get the whole family and any friends and neighbours involved. Share the plan so everyone knows .
  • Check up on local displays and note the times and days. Local FB groups can be helpful here. If you know local neighbours always have a party or use them on other winter occasions visit and explain if possible and ask for some warning so you can put your plan into action.
  • Change your walk plan if you usually walk in the evening in the winter. Go during the daylight hours (before 16:00 ) or early morning. If this is not possible then miss walks for a few days around this time – don’t be caught out it could have a detrimental impact.
  • If you have to go out use a double lead on collar and harness in case dogs slips out in their fear and flight. Do not let off lead at all.
  • If you have low gates and fences make sure you go into the garden on a lead … try and get the after dinner poo and pee done early, feed early (or use in games … see below)
  • Try not to leave your dog home alone, if this is not possible then make sure your plan includes how you will enable them to be safe without your support. Or arrange for a sitter who knows the plan
  • Plan for being engaged with your dog on the main display days (this is usually between 17:00 and 23:00 )

What to include in your plan

calm games snuffle box

 

Some music –

Consider a therapeutic option – remember there will be a range of what your dogs may respond to, what works for one will not for another, this is because their emotion is different in each case.

I RECOMMEND A  CHECK WITH A VET: ESPECIALLY  IF YOUR DOG HAS OTHER MEDICATIONS OR CONDITIONS

 

  • Bach rescue remedy – very effective for most animals (including us) it is not necessary to have the more extensive dog version. It works with fear of both known and unknown origin and shock.
    Botanical selections, specifically oils.
  • BE CAREFUL – do not vaporise, do not add to the dog, or its bedding (use a separate cloth the dog can choose to engage with
  • make sure there is an exit.
  • Do not use with children under 3 or pups under 6 months.

G self selection powders

 

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Other options

  • consult a vet for clinical support
  • zyclene is often recommended by vets as is nutricalm. ask your vet for information.
  • Tranquil Blend by Hedgerow hounds can help if given a loading  dose usually several weeks
  • skullcap and valerian and st johns wort from Dorwest can also be useful, needing a loading  time of several weeks.

For any further help please contact me:
peacefulpawstherapy@gmail.com @peacefulpawstherapy (FB)
https://peacefulpawstherapy.com

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Virtual Consultations

NEW SERVICE

After a many requests and a good deal of successful voluntary electronic support across the UK and indeed globe I have decided to offer a virtual service.

The Electronic Consultation  can cover Training, Therapy or Integrated  Training and Bach/Distance Reiki and Healing).

Following  an in depth written consultation from the Guardian, there will be a discussion around the issues raised. This can be done in a format chosen by the Client, including: email, Skype, Personal Message, WhatsApp or phone.

The initial Consultation will take around and hour for planning and up to an hour discussion at an agreed time. Following this we will put a plan together to initiate the Training and or Therapy.

There will be an open contact via email or PM throughout the following week where the client can share success and further challenge, including video and photos.

There will be 3 following formal  weekly checki-ns; at each the progress will be assessed and the plan modified as needed.

There will be an option for booking further ongoing support.

In some cases (within 1 hour drive of Taunton) it may be useful for a meet up in person. Travel expenses will be charged .

PLEASE NOTE:

  • This service is not suitable for deep behaviour issues and any that seem outside the remit of this service will be referred to a Behaviourist.
  • Common training issues can be covered.
  • Without the personal input , in line with the agreed plan,  progress will be limited.
  • Some needs can not be supported electronically in some cases,.

 

llw focus meme

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Calm Dogs are Happy and Healthy Dogs – Something you dream of ?

Being Calm is a much overlooked emotional state for our modern dogs. We have hurried lives ourselves often and this can impact upon them. They can have a quiet , but often not always calm , day and then everyone comes home, it is noisy or busy , anxieties of our day are shed in a cuppa or a glass  of wine as we relax, we may walk the dog to relax ourselves and give them the exercise they need but are we engaging? Are we watching for THEIR needs on the walk? Often I see walkers on phones or for a 20 mins not engaging once with their dog.

For an anxious or unsettled dog, or a dog with medical issues, being naturally calm is not their default.

As for Puppies!! Well we all know what happens when they don’t get enough calm time. They  become demanding, shouting, attention seeking and bitey. This can soon become a learned way, develop a behaviour to access attention or “feel better” and sometimes develop into a dog for whom THIS is a default.

So What can we do ? How can we get this? Just a few images of how my dogs are encouraged to get some rest in between fun (and that is the key).

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I am privileged to be working with a range of colleagues to support dogs to gain this calmness. Currently I am working with the Absolute Dogs Team to become a ProTrainer. Their view is that Calm is essential.

“Calmness s a concept that cant be overrated”

“Arousal levels is made up of lots of little exciting, anxiety inducing or worrying events until their [stress]  bucket is full”. [and their behaviour becomes “Hyper” or over the top]

“Teaching Calm default, a calm existence, a generally calm way of being keeps the [stress] bucket empty”

[by using a calm protocol, having more happy fun events than excitable ones  and complementary support] “When something arousing/challenging happens the bucket doesn’t overflow – it tops up a bit because the dogs brain has learned to calm to empty it”

(quotes from Tom Mitchell from the Absolute Dogs Programme.)

So how do we know if our dogs arousal (excitement, anxious) bucket is overflowing or close to doing so?

What are the signs? Do you recognise any of these? 

Lunging and barking     Destructive    Barking at the slightest thing   

separation anxiety    Not listening (or hearing) what you say   mouthing or biting  

attention seeking with any of the other behaviours, not giving up

humping – toys, people, cushions, air …           zoomies      not eating 

What can we do?

There are 3 types of calm according to the Absolute Dogs Team.

Passive calming – using snuffle mats, Kongs , Treat Balls, scent puzzles

Encouraging Calm (we call it “settle”) catch them genuinely settled and offer a little treat or a calm touch eventually adding a cue helps to get them settled in an environment they find arousing. I love to add music to this time, adding a sensory memory that can be invoked . This is a great way to help calm whilst you are absent or during the night or  in another room. Our favourites are Islands by Ludovico Einaudi ,  The Essence Deva by Premal, The Music Within by  Sat Darshan Singh,  Anand Bliss Snatam Kaur.

Creating a set of uninterrupted spaces – different specific rooms or beds creates a Calmness Protocol a default multisensory quiet place.

tilly crate rest
Tilly in her day rest place

Rest Perhaps the most important of the “Calmness Triad”. A crate, or bed, a safe place. No play here, no interruptions, a place to choose to sleep. Dogs need lots of sleep to process learning and the myriad of sensory inputs during their day. Children need to respect this place and we as adults can use this for the dog to take time away from children or busy homes.

In busy homes a crate cover may help Jo Pritchard (Paws boutique Tamworth) specialises in products to help with creating calm have a look at her beautiful Crate covers

https://pawsboutiquestudio.co.uk/crate-covers

How do you create these calm places?

Calm dog only zones    

  Time outrest , boundary games (see Absolute Dogs Ebook). Value the time in these places, short at first then extend until it becomes a choice, like Tilly above.

Game on- Game off – have fun to tire the mind, managed arousal, fun, but use a start and stop cue… “1…2…3…GOOOO ” and finish with a calming stroke ” all done” .

“Ditch the Bowl” use the majority or even all their dry food allowance (or an alternative for fresh fed dogs) for the games and activities, working for your fun is satisfying and tiring.

Exercise and fitness – manange both the high arousal, fun and fast activities with the managed calm fitness Lola Loves the balance board or even an empty box !lola 2 feet steplola box 2 feetlola sit step

What about the over-aroused, anxious or dog with reactive behaviours ? How else can we help?

Complementary therapies

As an Animal Therapist and Integrated Trainer  I see the signs above of over-arousal or reactivity most days either professionally or out an about. I often suggest trying one of a range of interventions wither commercially available or as one of my modalities.

For information here are some ideas:

For a whole range of information about the following and some shared posts on a range of Canine wellness and therapies have a look at our partner FB page

https://www.facebook.com/pg/peacefulpawstherapy/posts/?ref=page_internal

Bach Flower Therapies for dogs with historical trauma or a general anxiety or fear, these gentle therapeutic essences can be combined into a personalised recipe to enable the body and soul to work with the needs, I have seen amazing results , have a look on the FB page for Bailies story ...and Genghis below – you can see his peace.

Reiki Especially combined with Bach and energy balancing can help manage the calm in over anxious dogs.

Botanical Self Selection – also known as Zoopharmacognosy.  This is very powerful to give the dog some choice about the herbs and aromatics they wish to choose for their specific needs. Every session I take part in is a joy to see and then the calm from the animal after is a joy to see.  Look at Genghis just relaxing into Jasmine and Valerian.

Crystal therapy –some dogs are amazing at being clear about the crystals they need and wearing them as an attachment to a banadana or cage attached to the collar can really help.

Jo at Paws Boutique is currently developing a Bandana to carry a crystal safely or a piece of muslin with a Bach remedy or a self selected essence. We are working with her – watch this space

https://pawsboutiquestudio.co.uk/bandanas-bows/

Offering and finding what they would like is vital …

Below Genghis is Working with Tracy from Calm Creatures

http://www.calmcreatures.co.uk/

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Commercially available Products 

I also work alongside Niki at the Norfolk Apothecary and her AniScentia range. The products are mostly Organic and all self sourced and she creates each product personally using her skills as a Master Herbalist and Aromologist/aromatherapist as well as many years experience as an Animal Therapist.

I have tried all these anxiety and calming  products with great success for my own and clients dogs.

http://www.thenorfolkapothecary.com/panic-anxiety

My Animal Matters – Rachel Windsor Knott Is also another brilliant source of not only Self Selection information but very high quality products. Aimed at both Therpaists and especially interested Pet owners her shop and website and FB pages are a great source of information.

http://www.myanimalmatters.co.uk/

Her anxiety/hyperactive  kits are very useful

http://www.myanimalmatters.co.uk/product-tag/anxiety/

http://www.myanimalmatters.co.uk/product-tag/hyperactive-behaviours/

 

Finally … If you would like some help to support calm in your puppy or your older dog. Please ask, we can offer:

Therapeutic support

Training and Games

1-1 support 

Classes

Remember – Calm Dogs are Happy and Healthy Dogs