This post is the 2nd in a series about training your dog for an emergency. For Part One, Click HERE.
Introduce your dogs to as many different people that you can. Some examples are: children, people of different ethnic origins, people who wear uniforms, people who wear caps or glasses, people with beards, young people, older people, and people in wheelchairs, using a cane, or walker. And don’t forget about people engaging in activities such as walking, running, jumping, crawling, swimming, bathing, carrying things, exercising, etc. Many dogs are startled or worried by people riding bicycles, skateboards, scooters, go carts, wagons, etc., so the earlier you can expose your dog to these things and teach them these things are safe, the better. Showing your dog that even people that look different, act different, or move differently than what they see on a daily basis can help him to accept a man with a crazy hat and a scary looking coat pulling him to safety.
Places that Offer Training Opportunities:
Vet’s office – not only when he has an appt.
Pet store and any other pet friendly locations you can find
Strip malls and shopping centers and their parking lots
Your friend’s and family’s houses and their pets if applicable
Your car, friend’s and family’s car, if allowed (don’t ever force your dog on anyone either…..you have to face that not all people are dog people)
Puppy Kindergarten and Basic Obedience Class, at the least
Parks, beaches, lakes, any outdoor dog friendly place you can find
Exposing your dog to unfamiliar places properly will allow her to understand that every new portion of our human world is not so scary. Even if it is, she should be able to handle her stress more easily than if she never left her immediate environment.
*Do your research on these areas – find out if and when your dog is allowed in the park or beach, what the leash rules are, and if your dog is required to be licensed or have a permit.
*Alligators populate most fresh and brackish water lakes and rivers in the Southern Region of the US – please don’t allow your dog to swim in these areas. If you are not sure, or don’t know…..don’t risk it.
Expose your dog to rain, water, waves, tall grass, short grass, wet grass, bushes, flowers, sand, dirt, concrete, rocks, gravel, asphalt, stairs, floor, carpet, snow, mud, puddles and anything different you can think of. Once again, if your dog is in a predicament and needs assistance of either you or another person, this is already stressful for them. If they are acclimated to these things, or at least acclimated to change or unfamiliar territory, it won’t perpetuate the anxiety.
Jocelyn Augustino / FEMA Photo 17680
“New Orleans, LA, September 5, 2005–FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force members and local rescue workers and US Coast Guard, search for residents in neighborhoods impactd by Hurricane Katrina.”
Your dog should be exposed to as many sounds as you can think of, but this doesn’t mean that you take the stereo that he’s never seen or heard before, set it in front of him and then blast it away……take it slow. For sounds in which you can control the volume, start with low volume and slowly increase the volume. For those items you cannot control the volume, and it is too loud for your dog to handle, use distance in the beginning and then slowly decrease the distance. Examples of sounds to introduce your dog to are: the TV, stereo or radio (let them see you dance too!), a doorbell, any bell, the vacuum cleaner, clapping hands, stomping your feet, a whistle, sirens, a car horn and a car that backfires, balloons popping, electric tools, kitchen appliances, a stainless steel bowl falling to the floor, pots and pans clanging together, singing, laughing, other dogs barking, and a knock at the door. If your dog seems a little stressed, but not overwhelmed, you can do things with your body to calm her down. Try yawning, licking your lips and/or blinking your eyes. Try eating something. If your dog sees you doing these things, it can help to make her more comfortable as they are calming signals to dogs. Whatever you do, don’t make a big deal about these noises. If you accidentally drop something and it scares the puppy, don’t go running over to her to hover and make sure she is ok. Just act nonchalantly as if it were no big deal at all. Your dog will usually follow your lead and your body language. If you are calm, your dog is more likely to be calm just as if you are frantic, your dog is more likely to be frantic. If your dog learns that loud or different sounds are just a part of life, they don’t become so reactive to it. Dogs are creatures of habit – if they continue to practice to be reactive or anxious when hearing loud or different sounds, they just build the habit even stronger. If they practice being calm around these things, they in turn make that habit stronger – which could also carry over to helping your dog to stay calm during an emergency.
Finally, teach your dog to be to be handled by and to respond to other people. Start with family and friends who are willing to help and then try to incorporate new people and strangers into the training and handling your dog. You may have to take a group class for this, but it is well worth it. If your dog is used to being handled by lots of different people, along with all the above mentioned examples, if and when he is need of rescue, he may be able to cope much better than if not exposed at all.
Emergency situations don’t always apply to the dog being rescued away from home. What if there was a natural disaster or if you were in an accident……. If you could not get home and you had to send someone to assist your dog – would she allow a stranger into her “den” to leash her, put her in the car, and care for her while you are unable to? If your answer is yes, then great job! Now let’s get her ready for the helicopter ride! If your answer is no, or I don’t know, it’s time to get to work!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, Bite Inhibition, and the discussion of how this skill can possibly even save your dog’s life!
Kristie Allen is a graduate of Animal Behavior College where she earned a certification as an ABC Certified Dog Trainer. Animal Behavior College (ABC) is approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education and is an internationally recognized school. Her year long commitment to this program has provided her with a formal education in canine obedience training and understanding behavior and its motives. Kristie’s certification, education and experience provide her with the skills required to effectively and humanely train your dog while keeping alive the spark that makes your dog so special to you. To learn more about Kristie Allen and The Learning Canine click to her website HERE.