Monday, November 7, 2011

Through a Dog's Ear

Calming the Reactive (or A.D.H.D.) Dog
in Lady McKenzie's Case

Any time there is trouble, it is because Lady McKenzie reacted inappropriately.  I live with 3 Boxers who are generally the best dogs in the world.  I know you don't get that, because I am usually telling stories about their mis-adventures.  On a normal day, we get up, eat, play and snooze without issues.  All the dogs get along very nicely together.  Nessie is quite a lot older, so she doesn't put up with overly enthusiastic advances in play, but she hangs in there and many times, she is the one to initiate the play.  Trouble begins when McKenzie reacts.  And she reacts to a lot of different stuff.  Not the common stuff that you would expect, like thunderstorms and lightening, or even the recent earthquakes we've experienced.  No.  She leaves that reacting to Nessie.  (Which is why the Thundershirt is shared between the two.)  And, Nessie is very easy to calm.  Put on the Thundershirt and open the kennel door so she can get in, .......then she's totally fine.

Young Lady McKenzie, on the other hand.........well, she's not so easy to calm.  I have noticed that she does indeed, take a lot of cues from Nessie, which is a big help.  But she is young and many times, she thinks she's got the particular situation in question covered.  For example, when a person across the street walks out of their house and into their own yard, I am alerted.  Or if they pull out of their drive or if a person walks down the street or if the school bus goes by etc, etc, etc.  Ugh.  McKenzie truly wants me to know what's going on in the neighborhood.  Trouble is, when she barks, she is communicating to the other 2 dogs to do the same.  Malcolm always falls for it.  Nessie seldom does.  In fact, yesterday, I noticed Nessie sitting with her back to them while they incessantly barked out the window.   That was a great Calming Signal she was giving, but no one was listening.  See the book 
On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals

Sometimes, I'm at my wit's end.  I have tried the squirt bottle, which stopped being a deterrent long ago.  It is now a treat.  They see it coming out and they run over to me and sit so that I will squirt them.  They try to catch the water.  That would be fine, because they've stopped barking, except when I'm done squirting, they run right back to the barking again, presumably so that I will get the squirt bottle out again and start over.  Exact same thing with the command "NO BARK" and treating for stopping the noise.  They stop barking and sit long enough to get a cookie and run right back to it again. (And no, I don't treat every time).  This time, looking back at me to see if I'll say "NO BARK" again so they can get another cookie.

But Barking is not little Miss McKenzie's only fault.  She hears an airplane overhead and she begins to cower.  She feels a bumpy road under her and she's panicked.  A shadow makes a movement and she looses it.  I've told you before about using the Thundershirt Dog Anxiety Treatment - Navy Blue Rugby (Medium) on her when we go on trips in our MotorCoach.  It actually really helps her a lot.  But not enough to keep her out of my lap.  Also, I don't know when the barking will start at home and I don't usually want to run and get it and put it on her all the time like that.

What I need is a CALMER HOUSE.

Well, I read Victoria Stilwell's Positively Blog (scroll down to find the link ).  She was talking about a new series of CD's she's put out about Canine Noise Phobias. I read about them and did a wee bit of research.  She has collaborated with Joshua Leeds and Lisa Spector.  Joshua is a psycoacoustical researcher who studies the effect of music and sound on the human nervous system.  Lisa Spector is a Juilliard trained concert pianist and is featured in the recordings.  [Joshua has found that auditory cognition in humans, as well as in dogs, is complex.  When exposed to music, the human brain methodically analyzes every interval, rhythmic nuance, instrumental density, and melodic turn.  While testing and writing the book
Through a Dog's Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Canine Companion
Joshua became acutely aware that many of the same human auditory cues affect canines, as well.  In test after test, dogs showed a preference for the slowest and simplest classical music.]**taken directly from Victoria Stilwell Positively "Calming" CD.**  So, I decided to try 3 of the CD's.

We recently had to go on a short trip to a smallish town in our State so I put the Thundershirt on McKenzie and got ready.  As we were about to leave, the CD's arrived.  Not wanting to waste a minute, I grabbed the Bose CD player and off we went.  Typically, she climbed into my lap.  She was pretty calm with the Thundershirt on, but I wanted to reinforce the feeling.  I started the 'Calming' CD.  It was beautiful and pretty soon, I was hearing sighs and yawns and deep breaths from all 3 dogs.  (It is not recommended that you listen to the CD when driving; however, the bus is huge and there was always Sirius Sattelite Radio for my husband to tune into while driving).  I have to tell you, we hit some pretty bumpy and narrow roads with the wind whipping us about quite a bit.  Wee McKenzie was never phased.  She did look up and around a few times but  that was always  followed by a sigh and her body relaxing.  I made sure to give her good massages as we went to encourage the relaxation.  It was truly quite remarkable.

When we got home, I put the music on at some point again, and got total relaxation from all dogs.  People walked by, school buses came and went, the mailman,......nothing phased them.  All was calm.  Ahh.  Silence is golden.  I have not tried the CD for Thunder or Fireworks yet, but I will.   In these, she incorporates -- very slowly-- the sound of Thunder or Fireworks into the CD.  It starts just music at first, then you begin to hear the sound off in the distance.  It gets louder and closer as the CD plays, but the music is continuous.  She has specific instructions on how to use these with your dogs.  I'm looking forward to trying them.  I have a great feeling I'm going to love them too.  In the meantime, I've found some of Joshua and Lisa's CD's on Amazon along with his book, if your interested.  To order Victoria's CD's, go to her website.  Remember, hers incorporate the sounds of either Thunder, Fireworks or City Sounds along with the music.  Joshua's CD's are for Calming alone.

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