Dogs and fireworks (30+ proven techniques to eliminate noise phobia)

Is your dog afraid of fireworks? How about thunder?

Keep reading, this blog post contains everything you need to know. This post is updated and all the links are double-checked about twice a year, last on June 29th, 2022 – look for the “revised” signs in the post to find the latest changes.

Is your dog not fearful of fireworks, thunder or other loud noise?

Keep reading anyway. That may change, and you should be prepared.

fearful dogs fireworks
It’s the combination of different techniques that produce the best effect (Crowell-Davis et al., 2003: 93%). Nobody’s tried using all the techniques suggested in this blog post, as far as I know.

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My problems with the Constructed Theory of Emotions

I finally finished reading a book.

It took me three years to read.

Three.

Years.

And it’s not because I’m a slow reader. I plowed through Brandon Sanderson’s 1100-page brick The Way of Kings in less than a day. So why, then, did this particular book take me so long?

Well, before I tell you, let me frame the context.

It’s a book that’s getting a lot of traction amongst animal trainers lately, specifically amongst the behaviour analytic crowd.

The book is called How Emotions Are Made, and it’s by Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of Psychology and a neuroscientist. In the book she makes a big, and in many peoples’ eyes, compelling, case of emotions being constructed rather than innate.
So, many behaviour analysts love the book, and I feel like a complete dissenter in that crowd, because while they’re all nodding in agreement, I shake my head thinking that some of the main conclusions in the book are seriously flawed.

Swimming against the behaviour analytical crowd

We’ll get to my objections in a minute, but let’s start with: what is the central idea behind the Constructed Theory of Emotions?

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How often should you train the animal?

In this post, I’m sharing a chapter from my extensive online course Getting Behaviour! The video below is one of the 108 similar chapters from the course.

The video discusses why training sessions should be shorter rather than longer, and why training more than once a day may in some cases actually hurt your training; sleep consolidates memory, so a second same-day training session may interfere with the consolidation of the first training session.

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The 6 foundation behaviours

I’ve recently revised my introductory animal training course, and one thing we do in the course is discuss which behaviours to start teaching an animal.

The 6 foundation behaviours.

Not only are these the behaviours that the animal learns first, so they are the ones that he’ll tend to revert back to and offer when he doesn’t know what else to do, but they also teach him about this game we’re playing together.

The foundation behaviours teach the animal what training is all about.

That it’s fun.

The foundation behaviours teach the animal what training is all about.

That the trainer is a good person to be around – interesting things happen next to that person, which builds their relationship.

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Using antecedent strategies to resolve challenging behaviour

Updated November 2022.

During the pandemic, I was crazy busy preparing a novel course, called Resolving Challenging Behaviour, all about, you guessed it, resolving challenging behaviour in animals.

I’ve had a bunch of brave and enthusiastic pilot students help me develop the course, and one course chapter that they found specifically useful was the one on Antecedent Strategies.

So I thought I’d share it.

But, before I do that, I need to give you some back story.

Behaviour occurs in context

Unwanted behaviour doesn’t appear out of the blue – it occurs in specific contexts.

Perhaps a specific location, or in the presence of specific animals, people or other stimuli.

And in this context, the animal has an emotional reaction. And, because of that emotional reaction, he performs a behaviour.

The behaviour (red) occurs in a specific emotional context (orange) when the animal is in a specific mood (yellow). This model was heavily inspired by MHERA, formerly EMRA*.
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Fact or Fake?

Why telling the difference between The True Truth and The Fake News is so difficult.

There’s lots of information out there on the internet. And sometimes it’s contradictory.

  • About the state of the climate crisis.
  • About who won the 2020 US election.
  • About how best to train animals.

In this blog post, I will not discuss these topics at any length (although if you’re insatiably curious, I’ll reveal my position on them), but rather beg the question: how do we know which information to believe?

You may think it’s by somehow recognizing truths and rejecting false information.

It’s just that we humans are not very good at doing that.

We very often reject information, even though it’s true.

And we accept information, even though it’s false.

And we all do it.

Every. Single. Person. Does this.

Me.

You.

Aunt Peggie.

Our view of the world is skewed, in some way or another. We’ve all built our personal understanding of the world on a mix of truths and falsehoods. Hopefully mostly truths, but still…

In essence, we all look at the world through partly broken glasses.  

A close-up of a chain

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The glasses may be more or less broken – but they are not perfect.

Disconcerting as that realization may be, I think that simply being aware that our glasses are partly broken will make it easier to fix them.

The purpose of this blog post is to alert you to your broken glasses, give ideas about how to fix them, and also how to go about helping others with their glasses.

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