Operation Thundershirt has officially begun at Casa del Mel. On Saturday evening the first real barrage of fireworks mayhem began. Unlike many of the ones I usually hear at this time of year, these were pretty mild, but it didn’t matter because Daisy was already in full fear overload. It was time to bring out the Thundershirt.
This time of year can be very frustrating for me and very stressful for Daisy. As a fourth of July baby, you would think I would be a lover of all things fireworks. Um no. Not so much really.Even as a baby my mother said I would cry when fireworks began. Like Daisy, the noise hurt my ears.
I am not opposed to people having fun with fireworks, but the constant barrage over the days and weeks before and after the 4th of July can be a bit much. On top of that is the randomness in which they occur. Day or night, I never know when someone will set off the odd bottle rocket or the humongously loud firework that booms with such intensity one has to wonder if they wouldn’t be better suited for a city’s firework’s display than a small cozy little neighborhood.
I feel fortunate that I only have one dog who is inconsolable this time of year (instead of three), but it doesn’t lessen the stress we all feel as Daisy deals with her fears. The Thundershirt helps, but it isn’t a cure-all. Unlike thunderstorms, where the Thundershirt will calm Daisy so much she will go back to her kennel and fall asleep, fireworks are much more nerve-wracking for her. At best, I can hope it will take the edge off and make her less jumpy and less unsettled. Often, I just have to settle for cuddling with her and soothing her with my touch or voice. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Last night was one of little success. Even with her Thundershirt on, Daisy was displaying all of the signs of a dog with a sound phobia:
- Excessively panting
- Curling up into a tiny little ball
- Getting as close to me as possible and hiding her head in my lap
- Refusing to go outside as soon as the sun started to go down
- Unable to leave my side when she does get outside
- Jumped at the slightest noise or movement (often unrelated to fireworks)
- Inability to sleep or relax
It was only when the noises stopped that she fell asleep. Thank goodness they stopped fairly early. I cannot not hope that this will be the case as we get closer to the 4th.
Operation Thundershirt is underway, but Operation Melatonin may have to be implemented as a supplementary action. How are you and your dogs faring out there? Are you having much success calming your dogs this time of year?
The weather has been a little crazy here in Minnesota this past week. Thunderstorms, crazy lightning, high winds, downed trees and power lines, and flooding – you name it, we’ve had it (well except maybe for tornadoes, and trust me, I’m good with that).
As a result, we’ve been a little sleep-deprived here at Casa del Mel. All the storms hit in the middle of the night or in the very early morning hours which meant every deep sleep was interrupted by a dog jumping up on the bed and shaking like a leaf. Daisy.
There are two things that terrify Daisy ore than anything – thunderstorms and fireworks. Usually her Thundershirt calms her and allows all of us to get some sleep, but these storms have been so violent and loud that even it didn’t seem to make a difference. The only other way to calm her was to lie down next to her and rub her belly, but of course that meant I had to be awake to do so. No sleep for me. No sleep for Daisy and no sleep for Cupcake and Jasper either. Their nightly sleep patterns were interrupted so they were out of sorts too.
As it turns out, the sleep deprivation had an effect on all of us. Usually my dogs like to keep to a schedule (up at 5 AM), but this time they slept in. I wasn’t the only one moving slowly the past few mornings. They were too.
Maybe that’s why this piece I saw in Psychology Today (“Do Animals Worry and Lose Sleep When They’re Troubled?”) resonated with me so much. As it turns out, we humans aren’t the only ones who lose sleep when we are worried or stressed. Animals do too.
“There’s plenty of research that shows clearly that nonhuman animals (animals) worry about various events that are happening in their lives and that they lose sleep when they are uneasy, anxious, distressed, troubled, or on edge.”
Dogs who lose sleep can appear to be more groggy in the morning.Certainly, my dogs seemed to demonstrate that. I just thought they appeared so because they were reacting to me. (Watching me stumble around the house in the morning could very easily have exhausted them. It’s not a pretty sight to see.) But, as it turns out, they were just as tired as I was and this became more evident on Sunday when I realized that they were less motivated to go outside every few hours. In fact, they spent a majority of their Sunday just lying around the house, sleeping. Go figure.
This article has me kind of curious if anyone else has witnessed this behavior in their own dogs. Have you ever noticed your dog losing sleep over a stressful or worrying situation? If so, what was the situation and how did you know? And while I am at it, have you noticed your dogs acting more tired the day after a bad storm rolls through town?
As we face another round of storms coming up this weekend, I thought I would share some great tools, tips and links that were recently shared by Minnesota Sheltie Rescue. If you have a dog who suffers and shakes in fear during thunderstorms (and fireworks), you may want to check these out.
Create a safe place – The safe place should preferably be sound insulated (soundproof wallboard is an option) and have small or no windows, or covered windows.
Have super yummy treats handy (not day-to-day treats, something exceptional, human foods work well) After every boom, offer a piece of treat. Give the treat instantly, as soon as the noise is heard, but not before. For dogs who don’t eat, just offer the treat after every boom, making a (quiet) big deal out of it (“oooh, look what mommy’s got…!”).
Thundershirt- the best solution for dog anxiety
Thunderstorm cape – A cape to help calm your dog’s anxiety
Calming Cap – worn over the eyes
Mutt Muffs – Protects your dogs ears and can drown out the sound
Comfort Zone D.A.P. plug-in diffuser/collar/spray
TTouch - Use touch to help calm your dog
Through a Dog’s Ear – calming music
Hug therapy: Yes, it’s o.k. to hold your dog if your dog seems to find comfort in that! Fear is an emotion, not a behavior. Good things as perceived by the dog lessen fear, bad things intensify fear.
Please consult your vet when using the following:
Melatonin, 1.5 mg tablets (not capsules, not time-released, not sublingual, without extra ingredients). The dose is given either at first evidence of storm or prophylactically when storms are predicted. Dose may be repeated up to 3 times daily.
Composure (also available in liquid)
Homeopathy, consult a veterinarian who practices homeopathy on animals, to make sure you are using the right remedies
Medication is NOT A LAST RESORT! Storm phobias tend to only get worse – the sooner you address your dog’s anxiety, the more successful you will be and the sooner relief is found. DO NOT use ACEPROMAZINE with herding breeds. (Update: Based on feedback from several sources, I would NOT use Acepromazine with ANY FEARFUL dogs.)
Dog Anxiety Medications – Information on various medications for dogs.
Some additional information on how to cope with your dog’s anxiety:
Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. – Thunder Phobia in Dogs
Fearfuldogs.com – Storm and Sound Phobias
As soon as the thunder started, I put Daisy in her Thundershirt so she could be more comfortable. She is absolutely terrified of thunderstorms – she pants and paces and shakes like a leaf. Wearing her Thundershirt helps her to be less nervous. It’s also the only time that she prefers to cuddle (with the exception of her morning belly rubs). She spent the evening on the couch next to me as I rubbed her head and belly. I don’t like it when Daisy is so scared, but I do love the chance to cuddle with her. She is such a sweet and precious girl. She is my heart dog. I’m so glad that she finds my presence comforting when she is stressed.
Cuddling with Daisy is one of my favorite things I get to do with her. Knowing how long it took for her to want to cuddle with makes these moments all the more precious. I call these moments with her – “Daisytime.” There is no “too busy” in Daisytime. There is no “not now” in Daisytime. When these moments come, you take them. Because you never know when you will get them again.
Do you have your own favorite moments with your own dogs or cats? If so, what are they?
It’s the howliday season – which means, your furry friend has been dreaming of that perfect gift that he/she wants! What? You didn’t know? You haven’t you heard him mumbling in his sleep or waking you up to remind you of what she wants this year? Certainly, they’ve already given you a list right? No? Oh no.
Well, luckily Jasper and Daisy have put together a list of their favorite things from this past year. We hope these will give you some ideas as you head out shopping for your furry friend.Daisy’s Favorite Things
Daisy doesn’t play much (she just started getting the hang of it this year), but she does have some favorite things! Many of them are food oriented. Did I mention she is a Lab with a bottomless pit for a stomach?
Jasper’s Favorite Things – Unlike Daisy, Jasper will pretty much play with anything. His favorite things mostly involve toys that squeak and tennis balls, but here are some of his favorites!
1. Hartz Hedgehog – People have often heard me refer to Daisy’s “woobie”. Daisy’s woobie is also known as the Hartz Hedgehog and she carries it around all of the time – when she’s nervous or excited or just wants something to hold onto. It’s a perfect fit for her Labrador mouth. My biggest issue is keeping it safe from the other dogs who love it as much as she does! It is by far her MOST favorite thing!
2. The Thundershirt – This one product has been a lifesaver for Daisy (and me!). Daisy is afraid of thunderstorms. She shakes and paces endlessly. But, once I put on the Thundershirt, Daisy becomes a calm dog. She often will go to her kennel and fall asleep! Now THAT is a great product.
>3. The Honest Kitchen: Force – I’ve tried different dogs food with both Daisy and Jasper, but by far she prefers The Honest Kitchen Force flavor. I’ve never seen a dog get so excited to eat! She jumps up and down with excitement when she knows her food is ready (I even caught her trying to steal Jasper’s portion from his dish!). What I like about The Honest Kitchen is it’s healthy – no preservatives, no additives, and filled with fruits and vegetables and chicken. Simply add water and voila!
4. Kong Wobbler – The Kong Wobbler is a great toy to keep dogs busy. It’s durable, easy to use and fun for dogs. Simply put your dog’s kibble or their favorite treat in the bottom of the Wobbler and watch your dog push it back and forth. It reminds me of the Weeble Wobble toys we had when I was a kid. It certainly keeps Daisy busy.
5. Zukes Dog Treats – Like most Labs, Daisy will eat almost anything, but she LOVES Zukes treats. I use them for my training sessions with Daisy, or I will put a few in her Kong Wobbler to keep her busy while I am away. Salmon is her favorite flavor, but chicken and peanut butter are close seconds. Daisy likes them because they smell good, I like them because they are healthy and made with natural ingredients.
1. Premier’s Kibble Nibble – By far, this has top be Jasper’s favorite. I put his kibble or treats in it and he will roll it all over the floor for a long time trying to get the treats out. Sometimes he even picks it up and drops it on the floor, hoping to knock a few out that way!
2. Premier’s Twist and Treat - A variation on the same theme as the Kibble Nibble. This one is a little more durable so both Daisy and Jasper will play with it. The top and bottom twist off and the treats go in the middle. Twist the two halves together and let your dog have a bit of fun pushing it around.
3. Kong Squeaky Balls – There’s really no mystery here. The balls area easy to catch and they squeak when a dog chews down on them. Jasper prefers these to all other tennis balls because he loves to squeak them over and over again (which is why all his Squeaker balls stay outside – I need my sanity!).
4. Crazy Critters - There is only one thing Jasper likes better than squeaky toys and that is tearing the stuffing out of a stuffed toy that squeaks. I just recently found these and I have to say they are the best! They have all the appeal of a stuffed toy without the stuffing and they have squeakers at both ends of the toy. We have both the Fox and the Raccoon and they are a hit with Jasper. One word of warning – I discovered that once I washed them, the squeakers stopped working, so if you want to keep the fun going I would avoid washing as long as possible.
5. Elk Antlers – To tell the truth, both Jasper and Daisy like this product, but since Jasper has a habit of stealing it from Daisy all of the time I decided to add it to his list. Elk Antlers are great for strong chewers, especially the dog who chews up the bones that everyone says will last a long time (has anyone met Daisy?). I have had one Elk Antler for almost 6 months now and Jasper still chews on it!
There is one last “favorite” to mention. It’s actually on my Favorite’s List and it’s a pet store. Here in Minnesota we have a lot of the usual chain pet food stores, but there is one store that, in my opinion, stands above all others. It’s called Chuck and Don’s Pet Food Outlet.
I like Chuck and Don’s for many reasons, but chief among them is there dedication to customer service. I don’t know what kind of training the Chuck and Don’s staff goes through, but they are by far the best at customer service. They welcome you, ask if they can help you, they will order something if they don’t have it in stock and they even offer to carry your dog food out to your car! I really can’t say enough good things about them. I actually called our Eagan store one time to ask them for a name of a pet toy I was planning to feature in my client newsletter and the lady was able to tell what it was called and who made it based on just a description over the phone! They are also active in supporting animal rescue organizations, pet adoptions other great organizations and events. That is why they are MY favorite thing.
My dog Daisy can be skittish at times. Loud noises, such as fireworks and thunder are frightening to her. So are new situations and places. I’ve worked with Daisy to try and help her to be less fearful, but sometimes there are things that you just cannot cure with training.
I have used it on Daisy just a few times. Once, just to try it out, twice when we went to the pet store and tonight, when we had a good sized Thunderstorm. In all cases, I noticed a difference. When outside, Daisy was less jumpy and less reactive. It didn’t make all her fears go away, but it took the edge off. She no longer jumped or skittered away when I moved suddenly. At the store, it was mixed, but that may be due to the fact that the store was busier one time and not busy the next time.
However, it was the difference it made during tonight’s thunderstorm that really made me decide to name it this week’s Wednesday Winner. As soon as the thunder started, Daisy started pacing. Even with the air conditioner on, she could hear it and began pacing back and forth between her kennel and the living room. I figured it was the perfect time to try it out. So, out came the Thundershirt!
Guess where Daisy is right now (even as I write this post)? Asleep in her kennel.
With the Thundershirt on, Daisy stopped pacing almost immediately, went into her kennel, and promptly fell asleep.
Is there thunder still going on outside? Yes. It hasn’t stopped since I put it on her, and yet, my sweet Daisy sleeps.
That’s why this week’s Wednesday Winner is the Thundershirt. I highly recommend it!
(By the way, I did not get paid for this endorsement. I paid for the shirt myself and wanted to share my experience with any other dog owners who have dogs that are afraid of Thunder or Fireworks.)
Recently a friend posted about a new product called the Thundershirt. Do you have a dog that is afraid of thunder, fireworks, other dogs, etc.? Then I encourage you to check out her post. If this shirt works as well as what she experienced, I’ll be getting one for my Daisy.