The Aspen Ruff Life is pretty darn idyllic for both doggo and hooman, but it’s not always a walk in the dog park. The universally disliked vet visits, constant threat of wildlife run-ins, dog-on-dog—and sometimes owner-on-owner—kerfuffles, monthly fireworks (enough already) and what can seem like daily avy bomb detonations are just a few of the challenges we face as human-canine couples living in Aspen. Because it is currently mid-winter, the latter scenario seems to be the most pressing topic.
For me and Bromley, this is probably our No. 1 issue. Over the years, if we happen to be separate when the devil’s thunder starts its doom boom, my Nervous Nellie will do his damndest to reunite. His methods have included removing the headliner of my car, attempting to chew his way out of a windowpane, and, the most impressive, teaching himself to open a latch doorknob. Fireworks are also problematic, but I have advanced warning and forgone many a New Year’s Eve with my own kind to ensure my furbaby is safe. I do find the Pitkin County avalanche mitigation alerts (available by text or email) to be very helpful.
Beyond abiding religiously to the alerts, there are some tricks of the trade that are known to reduce or amend fear of loud noises—and especially when applied in tandem, according to Farrah Fry-Ettlin, owner of Aspen-based Endless Pawsibilites Dog Training & Services.
When an avy bomb scares your dog, Fry-Ettin recommends acting like it’s the most fun event in the world: Give your pup high-value treats, talk high-pitched and excited, get them to play with a toy — anything super fun. You want the avy bomb to become a predictor of really fun stuff for your dog, she says. When dogs experience a fearful event, cortisol courses through their body and can stay in their system for days. This can make them more prone to being reactive, or more easily startled, so be prepared for side effects. To help them holistically, Fry-Ettin suggests CBD, Bach Rescue Remedy, Dog Appeasing Pheromone, and/or Quiet Moments. If your dog is too freaked out to take treats or play, then it’s probably time to seek professional help. A behavior consultant can implement psychological methods to adjust your dog’s emotions to loud noises.
Also, when you receive the mitigation alerts, get your pooch on a leash, stat. When a dog is scared, they go into fight or flight mode, says Fry-Ettin. Even if the dog is very obedient, that can quickly change when a dog is spooked.
With a little technology and some expert tips, it seems a safer and happier winter is well within our paws.
Leah Fielding is, officially, the Aspen Dog Mom. She and Bromley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @thegreatbromdini (respectively).