Tuesday, July 6, 2010

We made it through another Fourth!

I remember writing last year that I had started using “treat therapy” to rehabilitate my dog’s horrible reaction to fireworks.
Fireworks are particularly popular in my neighborhood. Across the street, all our neighbors live on the lake. Behind us are parks and other places that host fireworks for the Fourth. All combined, that’s a lot of fireworks.
This year, our neighbors starting letting off fireworks probably in the first couple of weeks of June. They’ll continue through the rest of the summer but thankfully, not with the frequency we had over the Fourth of July weekend.
Saturday and Sunday nights were an almost continuous drone of loud bangs and pops after the sun went down.
We don’t mind the fireworks — my husband really loves them, actually — but the dog minds.
Fireworks make Sensi entirely neurotic. One year, we put him our bedroom during some particularly close fireworks. Bad idea. He completely ruined one of our windows, biting and clawing at the wood frame and causing damage that was beyond repair. We replaced the window.
He barks like a mad dog and I mean that literally. His barks just sound crazy. In the past, we were completely unable to calm him down or grab his attention in any form.
Last year, I began using “treat therapy” whenever fireworks would go off. I carried around treats to keep them literally in hand for when a firework went off, then called Sensi and rewarded him for sitting nicely.
He showed progress, but not great progress.
A year later, the progress is much, much more visible. The smaller, quieter fireworks don’t even bother him anymore. If my timing is bad when a really loud firework goes off, we still have issues. But, we can always get his attention and calm him down now.
The trick, obviously, is not to reward the bad behaviors. So, he must come to us and sit down, then he gets rewarded.
On Friday, there was a really long period of fireworks. I got to time the treats with each bang and I think that really helped.
On Saturday and Sunday, he did really well. It was actually surprising how well he did. He barked only a couple times and even then, we were able to get his attention and calm him down. One time, he was even on the leash outside when it happened and he barely reacted. We’re very proud!
Of course, he’ll never be the type of dog you’d take to watch a fireworks display. But if we can at least get him to be comfortable inside the house when fireworks go off, that’s all we really need.

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