3:16 am   
Fear Factor: Calming Canines

By Robin Tierney

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Worried about Fido's reactions to holiday guests and hubbub? Wondering how to travel with Lucky when she's terrified of car rides? Frazzled by Fluffy's separate anxiety fits?

Canine fears require intervention for the animal's well-being, for our own sanity and for safety's sake. Since dogs can't say, "Please don't approach me, I'm scared", canine responses have the potential to escalate to growling and biting. Even if the aggression is defensive and not offensive, it's still not acceptable in human society.

So what do you do? Turn to Nicole Wilde's new Help For Your Fearful Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Your Dog Conquer his Fears. The California-based certified pet dog trainer shares insights, management and behavior modification techniques drawn from her own experience, which ranges from working with shelter dogs to wolf-dog hybrids who are characteristically shy and afraid of people. She also incorporates tips and techniques from an all-star cadre of canine experts.

The well-organized guide doubles as a concise course on understanding, managing and shaping canine behavior. Topics include distinguishing fear aggression from other types of aggression; reading face and body language signals; identifying individual fear "triggers"; managing fear, anxiety and phobias (thunderstorms included); and tailoring behavior modification programs to your dog.

Holiday-timely tips range from controlling exposure to fear triggers to teaching guests Wilde's smart "Bore and Ignore" technique.

Wilde nicely articulates the key owner responsibility: becoming a benevolent leader who instills calmness and elicits trust. So often, people telegraph their own anxieties, fueling doggie freakouts.

Diet, exercise and mental stimulation immensely affect behavior. Wilde explains why it's good to remove corn and artificial coloring from fearful Flopsy's food, and instead add veggies, brown rice and B-complex vitamins.

She writes: "A dog whose mind is under-stimulated is more likely to be anxious and to display that anxiety by chewing on inappropriate objects, pacing, whining, barking or exhibiting relentlessness or hyperactivity."

The Santa's bag of practical calming strategies include teaching the "settle" command ... Valerian root and other herbs ... touch therapy ... and DAP (dog appeasing pheromones). Wilde illustrates how, in minutes, "the deep, uniform sensation of pressure" of a body wrap calms a dog.

The lend-worthy book's thick with insight; thankfully, it's easy to flip to the most relevant chapters and return to others later. The payoff: A dog who trusts you, and a dog you can trust.

DETAILS about topics you'll find covered in the book:

* Distinguishing fear aggression from other forms of aggression.

* Signals of fear - face and body language. An example: With offensive aggression, the dog moves towards you or stand her ground. The fearful dog moves back; she wants to create distance.

* Identifying triggers.

* How to manage fear responses of various kinds, from anxieties to phobias, and in specific encounters.

* LEADERSHIP! Wilde's sections on leadership and training apply to all dog guardians: Leadership transcends training. Gain attention and trust; let your dog know that you will protect and take care of him. This interrupts the cycle of fear.

* "Permission please": The author explains how your dog must earn the things she values.

* Owner behavior, from how to instill calmness and trust in your dog to preventing yourself from telegraphing your own anxieties to your dog when in public or having visitors.

* The impact of nutrition, exercise and mental stimulation - which is more than most people would guess. And how to fit solutions in to your busy day.

* A nutrition secret involves serotonin, a natural, vital brain chemical nicknamed "the happy messenger." "[I]ncreasing its levels in the dog's brain may significantly reduce stress, anxiety, and aggression.... Because corn makes it harder for the amino acids necessary for the production of serotonin to pass through the blood-brain barrier, it is not conducive to a calm state of mind." Avoid artificial colorings and preservatives, which affect not only health but also behavior. A smart alternative: Feed brown rice and vegetables and B complex vitamins an hour after a small meal of kibble.

* Exercise and exercises to build confidence.

* Provide mental stimulation daily. "A dog whose mind is under-stimulated is more likely to be anxious and to display that anxiety by chewing on inappropriate objects, pacing, whining, barking or exhibiting relentlessness or hyperactivity."

* Relaxation. Yes, sometimes it doesn't come naturally and needs to be taught.

* Pinpointing triggers for your individual canine. Wilde suggests keeping a chart is worth the time. Train yourself in when to watch, prevent, respond to/intervene in all situations involving fear or other undesirable behavior.

* How to help dogs generalize a training technique to a new place or situation or person.

* Clear presentation of types of psychological techniques: Desensitization, counter-conditioning, and more.

* Timing is critical. Be sure, for example, that when giving a treat, you're rewarding the precise behavior you'd like repeated.

* How to teach the "Settle" cue. Settle focuses the dog and helps her relax, a vital first step for training sessions.

* When to schedule training sessions to maximize attention and effect.

* Specific fears: Wilde details them.

She deals with fears of family members, vet office visits, car rides, crates, stairs, thunder and lightening storms. Plus oversensitivity to sounds, sights, motion, touch ... brushing and nail clipping ... and that biggie, separation anxiety! She covers causes, graduated departures, pharmacological intervention.

* An example of her advice: For sound-related fears, identify indoor sounds like doorbell ringing or chairs scraping, or outdoor sounds such as garbage bins being rolled, delivery truck engines, shouting kids or thunder.

Another technique for dealing with noise fear: Make an endless loop tape or CD, play low not trigger grad increase volume so learns to tolerate, nothing bad happens.

* Door greetings. Why one should not pick up a dog who is showing or expected to display fear of people.

* Specific ways to teach dogs to behave with guests, from the proper welcome to the vital step of teaching visitors about "permission to pet."

Steps include Phase I "Bore and Ignore". It's easy, more a matter of managing your guests who are often too quick to say "It's OK, I'll win him over!" and fail to read signs of fear. Don't let them pet the dog even when he approaches. Instead, completely ignore. Don't look at the dog, Don't talk to the dog, Don't reach for the dog. If the dog approaches to sniff, allow this, but don't look at him, talk to him, or reach for him.

Phase II: Toss a treat,. Phase II: Reach out and touch someone. The steps are described in the book.

* The Glove of Love trick: Put on a clean gardening or work glove and feed your dog some yummy treats. Wear the glove to feed your dog's meal, a few bits of kibble at a time. After a week, have a visitor put on the same glove and feed your dog treats. Because the glove has become associated with a safe person and treats, it might just be enough to help you transfer that warm, fuzzy feeling to the visitor.

* Another visitor acclimation trick: Have a visitor don one of your coats; or wear your scent if you wear one. Borrow a friend's friendly dog to model happy interaction with visitors. The dog might convince you that people are not so scary after all.

* Controlling exposure, a first step for safety.

* Why retractable leashes aggravate fear and diminish your control.

* How to introduce and use a head halter - something that many folks do wrong.

* Complementary and alternative therapies include: Rescue Remedy. Herbs such as Valerian root for storms and anxiety-inducing situations. Essences. Acupuncture and acupressure

T-touch ear slides, tail work and touches around the hindquarters. Paw touches that help accept nail clip and relax.

DAP Dog Appeasing Pheromone - are the effects for real? Wilde interprets the scientific evidence, which she believes point to DAP's effectiveness. DAP is often delivered in a room diffuser plugged into an outlet. You can also spray DAP on a bandana and place it on your dog when you do touch therapy. The dog can also wear the bandana in situations he finds stressful.

* Body wraps: "The deep, uniform sensation of pressure created by being encased in a body wrap can help to calm a fearful dog" can work in just a few minutes. And it need not be an expensive endeavor. She shows you how to make your own using a T-shirt. She also illustrates how to wrap a dog in an "anxiety wrap."

* How to use a calming cap, which acts to dim the lights. It's soft fabric held in place by elastic and velcro strips that wrap around dog's collar. The panel covering the eyes is sheer, allowing filtered vision - the dog is able to make out forms. By dimming the lights, you help the dog settle own. Then you can proceed more easily with behavior modification exercises The calming cap was designed by Trish King, animal behavior director for the Marin Humane Society in California.

* How to custom-design a behavior modification program for your individual dog, with the right variables, intervals, targeted to triggers that set off your dog.

* Why you don't want to subject your dog to Acepromazine. Although many vets have prescribed this drug for fear, it scrambles perceptions, and it's just a band-aid that wears out. It does not help in teaching a dog to cope.

* Nice touches include "Tail End" chapter wrap-ups and tips and techniques for canine behavior all-stars.

* Yes, it's thick, but consider that you get a textbook and guidebook in one. Also, the contents make it easy to navigate, and you do not have to read it cover to cover - although that of course would be helpful.

(box) Help For Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde Phantom Publishing, 2006, 414 pages, $24.95 phantompub.com

http://dcpaper.examiner.com/content/e-edition/2006/11/25/2/19.pdf

http://bapaper.examiner.com/content/e-edition/2006/11/25/7/32.pdf

367 words

Fear Factor: Calming Canines

Worried about Fido's reactions to holiday guests and hubbub? Wondering how to travel with Lucky when she's terrified of car rides? Frazzled by Fluffy's separate anxiety fits?

Canine fears require intervention for the animal's well-being, for our own sanity and for safety's sake. Since dogs can't say, "Please don't approach me, I'm scared", canine responses have the potential to escalate to growling and biting. Even if the aggression is defensive and not offensive, it's still not acceptable in human society.

So what do you do? Turn to Nicole Wilde's new Help For Your Fearful Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Your Dog Conquer his Fears. The California-based certified pet dog trainer share insights, management and behavior modification techniques drawn from her own experience and that of an all-star cadre of canine experts.

The well-organized guide doubles as a concise course on understanding, managing and shaping canine behavior. Topics include distinguishing fear aggression from other types of aggression; reading face and body language signals; identifying individual fear "triggers"; managing fear, anxiety and phobias (thunderstorms included); and tailoring behavior modification programs to your dog.

Holiday-timely tips range from controlling exposure to fear triggers to teaching guests Wilde's smart "Bore and Ignore" technique.

Wilde nicely articulates the key owner responsibility: becoming a benevolent leader who instills calmness and elicits trust. So often, people telegraph their own anxieties, fueling doggie freakouts.

Diet, exercise and mental stimulation immensely affect behavior. Wilde explains why it's good to remove corn and artificial coloring from fearful Flopsy's food, and instead add veggies, brown rice and B-complex vitamins.

She writes: "A dog whose mind is under-stimulated is more likely to be anxious and to display that anxiety by chewing on inappropriate objects, pacing, whining, barking or exhibiting relentlessness or hyperactivity."

The Santa's bag of practical calming strategies include teaching the "settle" command ... Valerian root and other herbs ... touch therapy ... and DAP (dog appeasing pheromones). Wilde illustrates how, in minutes, "the deep, uniform sensation of pressure" of a body wrap calms a dog.

The lend-worthy book's thick with insight; thankfully, it's easy to flip to the most relevant chapters and return to others later. The payoff: A dog who trusts you, and a dog you can trust.

The book:

Help For Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde Phantom Publishing, 2006, 414 pages, $24.95 http://www.phantompub.com

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Last Updated: June 23, 2013 (LET) PawSupport