Posted On Monday, November 05, 2012 at 09:15:57 AM
Spike is distinguished looking as any purebred Indian mongrel and a prince on the leash to boot. He’s even an angel when he goes to church with his parent Candice Martin-Lewis, but hates having to cross the road to get there.
Traffic has become his mortal enemy ever since he came under a car as a puppy. And so honking, the sound of engines and cars speeding make the Vashi resident run helter-skelter. The festive season, with its accompanying revelry, is particularly tough on his delicate ears. It’s a time many pet parents are dreading for their nervous wards.
“Acclimatisation to loud sounds should begin in puppyhood,” says canine behaviourist Shivani Mathur. “Puppies look towards the pack leader for reactions. If you start or jump when a car backfires or a cracker bursts, the pup learns to react accordingly.
Mathur’s own companion, a British bulldog named Dr Watson, is also scared of crackers and loud noises and always looks to Mathur when something startles him. “I look away and just yawn dramatically and continue doing what I’m doing,” says Mathur. Talking to them or reassuring them through petting translates into ‘It’s okay to react this way’ so avoid doing it.
As pups, being exposed to various sounds of traffic, TV, music, parties and household appliances (mixers/grinders, vacuum cleaners, popping soda cans, etc.) will help them sleep through visarjans.
But what do you do with an adult dog that burrows into the kitchen with the sound of the first cracker? Let him burrow, for one. Fashion designer Nachiket Barve ties a towel turban over Theo’s ears to buffer him from the Diwali pandemonium and ensures that access to his safe place under the kitchen counter is not restricted. There’s still time to ease a pet into festivals.
Mathur suggests this route: Record the noise that startles him or her and keep it playing around the house (especially in the room (s)he sleeps/sits in), even when it’s home alone. Start by playing it for four hours continuously at a volume (s)he notices but is not worried by. Do this for a few days.
Next, raise the volume to the level that bothers him/her. Leave it at that for a few more hours, over the next few days. After three or four days, raise the volume and repeat the process. Eventually, play the track randomly at various points in the day at varying volumes.
Here’s a checklist of things to mind during festivals:
• Don’t force your pet to be where it doesn’t want to be.
• Don’t tie it up; it should be able to go to its safe place when it wants to.
• Don’t block access to safe places.
• Be mindful if they are around crackers. While most dogs will not go near things that emanate light, sparks and heat, others (we’re looking at you, Labbies) will try a bite of a sizzling chakri. As for Spike, he’s relaxing to the sonata of trucks in the security of his room to become a slick city dog.