Published on Petsway.com – Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Did spring break and Easter sneak up on you? How about tax day?… Well, guess what? Summer is just around the corner, so consider yourself duly warned. That means time to start that swimsuit diet, planning those summer BBQs and finding plenty of activities for the kids to keep them busy.
With all the craziness of planning for the human family members of the home, don’t forget to prep your dog for those classic summer activities, too! Summer is all about family-time, and your dog definitely qualifies as family. You want his summer to be as fun and stress-free as possible, too, don’t you?
So here are some things to think about as you’re planning for summer fun with your dog:
- Vacation – Does your dog get to travel with you on your road trip? Awesome, unless your dog refuses to get in the car. Use small, high-value treats, or even real unseasoned chicken to get your dog used to being around the car. That could mean hiding treats in and around the car (when it’s not moving), behind the wheels, and on the floorboard of the car to encourage your dog to explore. This helps create a positive association with the car before you even ask your dog to get inside. If he associates the car with something engaging and tasty, he’ll be more likely to get in. Of course, once your dog is willingly hopping up into the car, be sure that he’s comfortable with being in a crate or in a seatbelt harness before hitting the road. Sometimes dogs experience car-sickness, just like humans. If that’s the case, be sure to talk to your vet about anti-nausea options.
- Summer Parties – What’s a party without your furry BFF hanging out with you poolside? There’s so much to do outside in the summer, and pool parties and BBQs definitely top the list of favorites. But here are some things to consider for your dog:
– Do large groups of people or a high level of activity in the home make your dog nervous? If not, you’re in great shape. But if your dog is a little timid, slowly introduce him to higher levels of activity in the home paired with small, high-value treats. This might mean family members walking faster around the home, asking one or two friends to come over, or training with some party music playing. If your dog can remain stress-free with a little bit of heightened activity happening, be sure to calmly offer your dog small food rewards frequently. You might then begin slowly introducing your dog to more and more stimulus as long as he continues exhibiting calm. Not sure how to tell is your dog is stressed? Here are some great photo examples of stress signals in dogs, presented by 4PawsU. Of course, if your dog is extremely nervous, perhaps confinement your dog to a secluded and quiet area is the most viable option for your dog. In that case, you may want to crate train your dog ahead of time.
– How is your dog around food at parties? Do you have a counter-surfer on your hands that will steal anything off of any surface at any opportunity? If so, work on your dog’s reliability around food now. Instead of punishing your dog for stealing something on the counter, train now for a behavior you’d prefer to see instead. For example, train a “Down/Stay” on a mat in the corner of the kitchen while food prep is happening. If it’s too late and you catch your dog stealing something off the counter, you might interrupt the behavior with a hand-clap, a “Hey!” or a verbal “eh.” Try to never yell your dog’s name in anger, though. And once your dog has already stolen items, it’s too late. The opportunity to prevent or redirect your dog’s unwanted behavior has passed. The only thing you can do is think ahead to the next time and what could be done differently to prevent the next inevitable thievery.
- Loud noises – April (and May, and June) showers bring… really loud noises, like thunder! Those summer parties can also bring loud noises, like firecrackers. If your dog is prone to get nervous about these things, start training ahead of time. There are apps and CDs available with thunder and fireworks sounds on them. Start by playing them at a very low volume and treating after playing the sound, if your is able to remain calm. As long as your dog is remaining calm, gradually increase the volume on your phone or the CD player. Continue to pair the loud sound with a small, high-value treat as long as your dog remains calm. If at any time your dog gets nervous, decrease the volume a bit and try again. There are also some ancillary type products that may be helpful to calm your dog, like an Adaptil collar (synthetic pheromones meant to simulate the momma dog’s pheromones), the ThunderShirt (wrapped around the torso of a dog to calm, much like swaddling a baby) and Rescue Remedy (a blend of Bach Flower Remedies that can be applied topically or in your dog’s water bowl). Click here for a coupon good for 15% off calming aids at Petsway!
These training tips are meant for dogs that might have mild trouble or anxiety in these situations. Of course, if your dog exhibits extreme panic or dangerous behaviors while traveling, in social situations, around food or with loud noises, consult with an experienced positive trainer or veterinary behaviorist in your area.
A little bit of work with your dog now will pay off in dividends when summer rolls around, making it even more fun when your dog can be included in your summer activities instead of banished to the spare bedroom. Here’s to summer fun with the entire family![/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section]