Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fahrenheit and Fear

There are two big things in this world that Marge does not like.

Heat is one of them.
Noise is the other.

Heat produces a sluggish, unenthusiastic, not-so-food-driven Marge.
Noise produces the same.

How, then, do I tell a hot Marge from a scared Marge when we're out walking?

In the wake of our recurring summer troubles (thanks mostly to 4 PM fireworks one afternoon), it's really been difficult to tell the difference.  She is always somewhat hot - either it's the sun beating down on her black coat or the oppressive humidity that gets her panting.  I'd walk at night, but the risk of fireworks is just too great.  So, when does Marge cross the line from being just hot, to hot and scared at the same time?

I have been trying to wake up earlier in the morning to beat the sun and the sounds in my neighborhood.  This morning - an overcast, rainy morning - was perhaps the best walk we've had all week.  I wanted to keep walking her, but I cut it short after about 10 minutes because I really didn't want to end the walk with Marge getting scared of something.  There was some noise, but it didn't really affect her much.  Head down, tail up.  That's the Marge I like to see.

Yesterday afternoon, we walked across the field.  It was HOT. She was on her long line.  Her tongue was hanging out the side of her mouth, but her tail was down (droopy, really).  She was taking bits of string cheese, and was more than happy to go sniff the trees on the other side of the park.  When we turned for home, she was sluggish, somewhat responsive to me, but definitely not happy and definitely looking to get inside.

Of course, there is no doubt about what a panicky Marge is feeling.  We have had a couple of panicky walks, too.  But could it be that her reaction to what ever bothered her was brought on by the fact that she was hot - in other words, that her fear threshold was somehow lowered by being uncomfortable in the heat?

Her summer noise fears are definitely intertwined with the temperature.  On a cold day, she reacts a whole lot less to her triggers.  The question is how they're intertwined, and to what degree.  Is she reacting simply because the summer is noisier?  Or, does the heat itself play a role in her behavior?

Interesting questions, for sure.  If any one has any thoughts or similar experiences, I'd like to hear about them.

In the mean time, here's Marge this morning lounging on her spot on the couch.  I wish we could have walked more, but quality time bumming around with each other does have its perks, too.

24 comments:

Sugar the Golden Retriever July 29, 2010 at 12:02 PM  

Woof! Woof! I can totally relate. We have a little break from the hot n Humid weather ... which I am thankful for. In regards to noise ... it is interesting that I'm born in a hunting stable n I think the noise did bothered me ... no matter what my peeps do I just want to be left alone. Woof! Woof! to you Marge. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

Kathy July 29, 2010 at 12:19 PM  

Humm, I wonder if keeping a log would help narrow what triggers the fears even more, with you being so sensitive to Marge and recognizing all these triggers, she is lucky to have a human that cares so much and is really watching... it would be neat to have them sort of written to look at, maybe refine even more what the actual triggers are, and it would be neat like this time next year to pull that out and see how it changes year to year. As far as the heat they say the crime rate goes up if it gets super hot and some people react way more then they normally would, so makes sense heat could lower the thresholds, or like you said maybe with the heat there is less activity which would mean less chances to burn off the energy produced by stressors, hummmm

Josie July 29, 2010 at 12:32 PM  

Hi Sam,

Thanks for visiting my blog after my long absence. Marge is not alone in her fear of noise. Josie hates fireworks and thunderstorms. She shakes violently. Weird thing is, she only started doing that when she was about 1 1/2 years old. Blues so far hasn't noticed. Luck for us we have a huge full basement, so during the 4th of July, we hang out down there, with the music loud to drown out the fireworks. As for the heat, they both lay in the sun soaking it up. Panting away. Josie even come out on our sailboat. She loves it. Looking forward to catching up on Marge's adventures. Much Love and Woof! MB, Josie and Blues

Sara July 29, 2010 at 12:35 PM  

Kathy's idea of keeping a log is a great idea. As a special ed teacher, we do that a lot when we are keeping records of certain behaviors for students. It is amazing what you can learn when you write things down.

Miley July 29, 2010 at 1:05 PM  

That's too bad about Marge, poor thing. Wish I could help you out, nothing really seems to bother our pups even this heat we are having.

Thank you for your comments on my blog, we live in MA so I do know there are rehab places we can take her within a reasonable distance. I have contacted the breeder and she wasn't very cooperative and accused me of walking her too often when we brought her home. Keep in mind we brought her home in the dead of winter.She actually offered me another puppy as if I am going to dump Maggie by the way side! UGH! Just didn't want to discuss it on my blog, trying to keep it positive.
Thanks again and I apologize for the mixup!! lol

Kristy

Life with 5 dogs July 29, 2010 at 1:33 PM  

This heat is killing us all. My dogs are all black, and they do not want to be outside during the day, but It down blame them. I notice as soon as the sun goes down they have so much energy, that is about the time I like to be crawling into bed. We can't wait for fall and snow.

♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥ July 29, 2010 at 2:41 PM  

Hi Sam and Marge,

We wanted to thank you for stopping by our blog and sending your good wishes to Phantom. He has a lot of fears too, mainly thunderstorms. He doesn't seem to mind the heat as much as Ciara and Thunder - he would stay out in the sun all day if it were his choice - silly boy.

We agree with your other commenters that keeping a log might point to some answers for you.

Woos ~ the OP Pack

Bijou July 29, 2010 at 3:01 PM  

Hi Marge & Sam,

Me and Banjo like it to be too warm than too cold but my mom says when she is too hot she is crabby. So maybe the heat stresses you out so any extra annoyance is too much to handle. Stay cool furiend!

Waggles,
Bijou

Cinnamon July 29, 2010 at 5:41 PM  

We are lucky that it doesn't get so hot here in Auckland, New Zealand. So, although Cinnamon doesn't like the heat either, the heat rarely bothers her.

Cinnamon is sensitive to the noise too. When we practised obedience exercises in the Kennel Club's large building on Tuesday, it was raining cats and dogs, making loud, disturbing noise. Perhaps because of the noise, Cinnamon couldn't concentrate as well as she usually does, and she repeatedly ran off toward a dog passing by the ring where we were practising. What I want to say here is that the threshold does seem to become lower when there are multiple factors that influence the dog.

I think I may need to make a decision not to compete in a competition we have registered our entry for if it is raining, making loud noise, because it will only make others unhappy if Cinnamon behaves like she did on Tuesday.

Gus, Louie and Callie July 29, 2010 at 5:53 PM  

Yepper we hate the heat too. We like staying in lounging too..


Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

An English Shepherd July 29, 2010 at 7:31 PM  

No I am not keen on heat as well :-(

Wizz :-)

houndstooth July 29, 2010 at 7:45 PM  

I have had a dog who was really sensitive to noise before, but he never seemed to make a connection to the weather with anything. He made plenty of other weird connections, though! lol

AC July 29, 2010 at 7:55 PM  

Along the same lines as Kathy...There's certainly a connection between physical comfort and emotion. I know I always get grumpy when I'm tired, or have less patience if I'm working out in the heat/rain. People tend to emotional break down when they are pushed to their physical limits.

All that to say that it makes sense that Marge would be more sensitive to noise when she's hot. I feel you though, it's hard to figure out when she's just hot versus hot and scared. I had that running through my head this morning with Kona. She was looking really pitiful during our run and I couldn't figure out if she was just tired or if something was worrying her (her reaction to the two are the same).

I think Kona has a similar thing with being tired. She MUCH more fearful when we go places in the afternoon, even quiet places. I've been able to connect the lowered trigger threshold to fatigue.

Nat July 29, 2010 at 7:58 PM  

Interesting post! I bet Marge wishes she'd been born with a white coat, maybe the sun would be easier on her!

Wall-e is also very noise-sensitive and heat-sensitive. The noise is his biggest thing, though. It seems like he's scared of everything that includes noise. He's just as sensitive when it's cold as he is when it's hot, though.

Never Say Never Greyhounds July 29, 2010 at 8:42 PM  

The fear and temperature connection is interesting. I'm kind of curious about Reagan. She seems a bit high strung and quick to over heat... not sure if she is having issues or not. Curious if it will tone down in the winter time.

Khyra And Sometimes Her Mom July 29, 2010 at 8:59 PM  

Khyra is like Phantom in that she doesn't mind it -

I'm the one to look out for her and Merdie -

If we are to believe 'them' we are in for a few very nice days -

I hope you can make the most of them!

Life With Dogs July 29, 2010 at 11:01 PM  

If she fears storms as well then I would say she has a bit in common with Sola. She spooks at time in summer and never in winter.

Lorenza July 29, 2010 at 11:27 PM  

I don't like very hot temps either because I can't go out for long walkies and I feel I don't burn all the energy I need to!
I wish to you colder days too!
Kisses and hugs
Lorenza

Ricky the Sheltie July 30, 2010 at 8:13 AM  

There must be a correlation between heat and stress - I'm sorry summertime is so difficult for Marge for so many reasons. You do such an awesome job with her and maybe one day, she'll be able to relax and enjoy herself year round. I do like Kathy's log idea though. Never know what you might discover!

Dawn July 30, 2010 at 8:15 AM  

Katie my sheltie seems to like a certain amount of heat. She naps in a pool of sunshine inside and often lays down on the black asphalt! I am always looking out for her because for some reason I don't think she recognizes when stuff is too hot!

Poor Marge is probably miserable when she's hot, and miserable when she's scared and maybe she has now associated the two!

Kari in WeHo July 30, 2010 at 3:13 PM  

My girls are terrified of the buses when we walk and will literally pull me away from them. Since there are so many around us its hard to avoid them.

The Army of Four July 31, 2010 at 3:20 PM  

We're fans of the log, too.
Tail wags,
Storms

Sam July 31, 2010 at 3:36 PM  

Thanks for all of your thoughts - I've made a decision to take a hiatus from walking in the neighborhood, except in the morning or on suitable (AKA rainy) evenings, but the log might be a good idea if we resume our normal walks and still have trouble.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart August 3, 2010 at 9:32 AM  

Well, we know that Lilly tends to manifest odd fears in the summer too. We haven't ever figured it out.

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