If your house looks anything like mine, you have a few boxes stacked in the corner of the room, the fruits of your internet holiday shopping. (Thank you Al Gore for inventing the internet so I never have to brave the mall. Ever.) And in those stacks of cardboard, you’ve probably got some bubble wrap. Those fun little bubbles, along with those industrial sized bubbles that are about the size of a hot dog bun.
Why do I mention bubble wrap? Here’s my training tip of the week, courtesy of my Boxer, Angus. You see, Angus loves bubble wrap. If he even sees the stuff, he gets all excited and drools (because Anguses drool when they’re excited) and starts jumping up and down. Mind you, Angus weighs about 95 pounds, so when something of his size starts imitating a pogo stick, the little dogs scatter. Me, too. The Pogo Stick sometimes crashes into things. Anyway, bubble wrap. His favorite are the silver dollar sized bubbles. He’ll take off with a sheet of those reminding me of the fish from Finding Nemo…”bubbles…MY bubbles!” and chomps them into oblivion, each pop further punctuating his joy.
Des watched Angus, then rocketed my way and latched onto a wad of the little bubble wrap I had in my hand. He was a maniac, tugging harder than he ever has, towing me around the room. It’s definitely not stuff you want to leave the pups alone with, but supervised, you just can’t beat bubble wrap for entertainment. Or so I thought…
I know several dogs that are afraid of loud noises; fireworks and gunshots being the worst offenders. Given that I live in the sticks, gunfire isn’t an odd thing to hear in the neighborhood, especially right after the fall bird season opens. Most of the places we practice agility around the valley are close enough to fields or the river to have lots of random banging going on. And most of us find out that our dogs have a problem with it when it’s too late…when we find a cowering, shivering, terrified little furball hiding under the bed. At that point, things like Thundershirts and cranking the TV volume can help, but with my puppies, I really try to desensitize them to banging early in life.
Usually, that means I ask my husband to take his shotgun for a hike with the new baby, something he’s more than happy to do. He’ll walk a fair distance away and bang a couple of times while I feed and praise the pup. Then he keeps walking back towards us, intermittently shooting every fifty yards or so. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but we’ve never had a dog react badly to noise after the shotgun/puppy hike.
Well, with Des, we just haven’t had the opportunity to take that hike in the desert. Oddly enough, the reason is because my husband is off banging away at the range most weekends doing his sport, generally returning with a big grin of his own. So I’ve improvised. I walked Des all around while my husband was using the nail gun on our shed. That worked well, because the air compressor would also unexpectedly go off with a whoosh. But how often can you bank on someone nailing something when you need it most?
And so I return to the bubble wrap. I was going to cut the big hot dog bun sized wrap to let the air out so I could get rid of it, when Angus made off with his own bubbles, and it gave me an idea. I got a handful of kibble, took my wrap to the hardwood floor, and started stomping. At first, Des skittered off, barking. But the other dogs were dancing around, so he came back out and got PAID for it! It took about three more stomps, before he was barking with glee, waiting for the next bang for the party that followed. Take that, big loud, scary noises. We have bubble wrap and small nuclear devices. I guess I’d better order something else so I havemore training materials.
Now that we have that sorted…on to the next training challenge…