Does your pet also suffer on New Year’s Eve? Do the unfortunate noise, the light stimuli and the stench trigger strong fear reactions in him? I have repeatedly read on Facebook about fatal colic or injuries at the turn of the year.
The good news is that this does not have to happen! You have a good deal of control over preparing your beloved four-legged friend for this event with its terrifying effects. Back in 2019, I launched the New Year’s Eve Challenge. Through the training of at least thirty different acoustic, visual and also olfactory stimuli, our animals learn that it is not so bad after all. On the contrary, through so-called operant conditioning, your pet may even have pleasant feelings when it hisses and bangs. This is because, unlike methods such as “pooping out”, the reactions of the animals are taken into account.
The procedure is as simple as it is captivating: You wave a balloon, for example. When your dog, horse or cat stays relaxed on the spot or lies down, you click and give him a little bit of food. Through the number of repetitions, the idea of “Wow, that’s worth it!” builds up in the brain. The perceived stimulus becomes an announcer of something good.
Now, of course, your pet may immediately flee at the sight of a wildly wiggling balloon and you may not even get around to rewarding holding still. Then the key is to reduce the stimulus. You can do this by putting more distance between you and him or, in this example, simply holding the balloon up. Believe me, there is always a distance at which your animal can control its impulse to move away from the stimulus. You can find out exactly how to do this in the Challenge webinar.
You don’t have to set off fireworks to train fireworks either. The Challenge process leads to generalisation. With sufficient variability and quantity of stimuli, your animal will put the firecracker in a drawer with everything that you have linked as pleasant in the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve through targeted training.
It is said that behaviour is driven by its consequences. In the wild, our animals would move as far away as possible from fireworks because the consequence of flight is relief. And it is more than understandable that they want that relief so badly. As a self-confessed country bumpkin, I can only confirm this. But what if the relief cannot come because a fence or the walls of the home prevent escape? Faintness and fear are the result, the impulse to flee looks for another way, the animal is helplessly at the mercy of its fear and does not know what to do with itself.
Through intensive training, you offer alternatives to escape and help your animal to see the “civilised” world differently. Create pleasant consequences for relaxed reactions to a variety of stimuli. Always increase them so that your animal can still say “yes!” and accompany it on the path to self-efficacy.
Register here for the Steigerwald.T New Year’s Eve Challenge and receive valuable tips for your training and the support you need to give your pet a relaxed start to the new year.