I wish I could have tried this with Trix. I’ll remember this next time I have a dog who freaks at thunder and fireworks, or if Shmans ever develops the fear. I don’t know who wrote this originally, I stole it off another friend’s Facebook.
“Boom Cookies” or “how to teach a dog to not hate fireworks and thunderstorms”.
The topic of helping dogs avoid or overcome fireworks phobia came up on a greyhound list again today. I thought I’d post something I have done that greatly helped my own dog. My hope is that this will help others whose dogs are afraid of the loud noises caused by fireworks or storms.
This is a simplistic explanation of the technique but it really works and doesn’t require drugs or expensive special coats.
I desensitized my boy Jack to fireworks and thunder with very simple training. This technique uses basic physiology; animals that are afraid physically cannot eat–but animals that are eating cannot be afraid at the same time. So the idea is to get them to eat something every time they hear something potentially frightening–it counter-conditions them to the noise. Like Pavlov’s dog and the bell, it makes them think of food when they hear the scary sound. Eventually you can wean them off the food when the noise occurs, and they learn to ignore the scary sound.
We had a bad fireworks problem a few years back and Jack was becoming fearful. It was starting to carry over to thunder as well, so I did some reading and discovered the technique of counter-conditioning against fear by using food.
One evening soon after my research, we were eating outside when the neighbors started blowing stuff up again. I cut up a piece of meat into tiny bits, and kept Jack close to me. Every time something exploded, I said “Boom cookie!” in a bright, cheerful voice, and shoved a piece of food in his mouth. At first he spit the food out, but once he started eating the bits of meat I could see him relax. I knew it was working when a bottle rocket blew up right above our house and Jack looked at me for his cookie rather than diving under the table.
I did this every evening for about a week. Now he sleeps through storms, fireworks, backfiring cars, etc. Every so often I pull out “boom cookies” to reinforce the conditioning, just to make sure the problem never comes back.
If your dog is already totally freaked out by the fireworks, this may not seem to work at first. But get something **really** good and strongly flavored–steak, chicken, roast beef– and cut it into *really* tiny pieces, about the size of a pea. Shove a piece into the side of their mouth to give them a taste. Or use baby food meat, or peanut butter, or anchovy paste in a tube, and wipe a tiny bit on the tip of their nose or under their upper lip. If you can get them to swallow some of it, that’s the start. Just keep shoving food into them until they’re willingly eating. Once they are eating, they will calm down. No drugs necessary, just good high-value treats.
Please feel free to copy and paste to share this anywhere that the information might be useful.
Wow. Could it have been that easy? I tried to give her a treat but she wouldn’t take it…but maybe this would have had a chance.