Like most dogs my two-year old Havanese Rory was no fan of fireworks or loud percussive noises. Last year I elected to forgo the local July 4th fireworks show to alleviate Rory’s stress.
I had planned to stay in for this year’s show as well until on the afternoon of July 4th, fellow Havanese lover Ellen Whitehouse-Vaux mentioned to me in a Facebook message that her trainer used ‘spray cheese’ such as Kraft Easy Cheese into her dog’s mouth to train it to accept the noise without barking or distress.
It brought to mind some early training I’d done to teach Rory not to bark when there is a knock on my front door. I used methods taught by trainer Emily Larlham on her YouTube training channel called “Kikopup”, which I’ve embedded below.
As it happens I had a can of Cheddar ‘n Bacon Easy Cheese on the kitchen counter. It’s a guilty pleasure on top of a ‘Chicken in a Biskit’ cracker, I admit it. So as darkness fell Rory and I (and our can of Easy Cheese) joined my grandsons and daughter and headed to the shore of Lake Washington where we’d watch fireworks set off from a barge 1200 feet out.
Rory sat on my lap and was excited as always to see all the people, particularly the kids. She reacted with a predictable start at the first loud boom.
I put a smidge of the Easy Cheese on my fingertip and gave it to her when the next boom followed, and again with each successive boom.
Emily teaches the Pavlovian respondent conditioning method of changing a dog’s emotional response to stimuli. In a stressful situation like a fireworks show a spray cheese like the Cheddar ‘n Bacon proves the perfect treat because the happy brain waves and positive association come instantly with the taste and smell. Some pet parents report their dog is too upset and distracted to chew; this solves that.
Within a few minutes Rory was seemingly enjoying the fireworks display along with everyone else. She was not trembling, barking, or worried in the least. Her heart wasn’t even beating fast.
A women next to me said, “Your little dog is a champ! Everyone at my work has their dogs home on Xanax!”
So thanks for the tip Ellen! And of course any treat your dog enjoys will do the trick, but I decided to use something Rory and I both enjoy. Here’s a pic of Rory at the parade earlier in the day with my daughter Danielle.