This is the tale of my “Tasmanian devil dog” and what I learned about helping her to “find her focus.” You know her as Tessa. She appears in a lot of my blog posts along with some endearing photographs of her.
Here’s what she looked like when she was in Indiana waiting to be transported to New York … two years ago in a not-so-endearing photo.
If you REALLY squint your eyes, you can see how long her nails were, never mind how much rib and backbone she showed; looks like she had puppies too.
Tessa had been a part of my family for less than three months. She and I were enrolled in what I have to assume was her very first formal obedience class.
Her first day was a doggie-disaster. Tessa had the biggest meltdown I’d ever watched a dog have.
You’d think that the main character of the story I wrote (back then) would be Tessa. But, for once, she wasn’t the star. She took a back seat to something called an Anxiety Wrap. And, I wrote my story for all of the dogs like Tessa who might benefit from such a thing.
PS You’re gonna love my surprise ending.
Got A Tasmanian Devil Dog? Have I Got Something For You!
Let’s be clear. Tasmanian devil dogs are manageable and pose absolutely no threat to people. What they have are behaviors that can be harmful to themselves or are frowned upon in polite society. Separation anxiety, in extreme forms, can be harmful to the dog that suffers from it. Uncontrollable barking, snapping, and flailing of body parts as a dog enters its first obedience class while on leash is behavior that is definitely frowned upon in polite society.
I know these things to be true. I’ve described what I would call Tasmanian devil dog behavior in two of the dogs that I’ve had in a lifetime of living with dogs. Felix, my rescue whippet, suffered from one of the worst cases of separation anxiety my vet had ever come across. At it’s worst, I wondered if we were doing Felix a favor by keeping him alive. Not quite ready to step over that line, I did what turned out to be the best kind of fix. I got him a girlfriend.
Once we brought a female whippet into the house, Felix settled down and lived with us quite happily. For the most part. (A story for another time.)
I often wonder if I could have spared Felix some of his doggie hell if I’d known about this one thing that I believe every dog owner must do as soon as they find themselves confronting their own Tasmanian devil dog.
If you discover that your dog predicts thunder storms 45 minutes before they roll in because their body starts to shake uncontrollably, you might want to do this one thing.
If your dog exhibits the same kind of out-of-control behavior that my newest dog did walking into its first obedience class, you definitely want to do this one thing. I’ll tell you first and then I’ll tell you why.
What you want to do immediately after acknowledging that your dog needs a way to be calm is to buy an anxiety wrap.
I had no idea what this “thing” was for. But, the trainer who watched me walk into her obedience class with Tessa, a 20 pound, out-of-control, dog, didn’t hesitate to recommend one as she quickly hurried over to us to calmly re-direct my dog’s behavior.
“Doesn’t get out much, does she?” the trainer commented dryly. “You’re going to want to get her an anxiety wrap. You can buy one online.”
After an exhausting hour of class during which time Tessa spent most of it between my legs in a sit or a down, we went home. Tessa flopped onto her dog bed and I went online. Much to my astonishment, when I put the phrase ‘anxiety wrap’ into the search box, quite a few web sites popped up.
I trusted the trainer who had sent me off to buy one. After doing some online research, what I found out was that this product holistically reduces or can completely stop fear, shyness, thunderstorm phobias and other dog behavioral problems.
True confession time? I was dumbfounded. Would this really work? I did some more reading on a web site that really provided an in-depth explanation for why this product was effective. And then all that remained was to decide what size to buy. Rather than guess, I called the company and after speaking with someone, I ordered the smallest size anxiety wrap they had.
The anxiety wrap by itself isn’t going to entirely erase a dog’s behavioral problems. However, when it’s used alongside of positive training methods, it’s amazing to see how much improved a dog’s behavior can become.
Fast forward to 2012: Tessa doesn’t wear her Anxiety Wrap as much as she used to in those early days of her (our) getting used to each other. But, she does wear it when it occurs to me that she’s going to need an artificial (safe) means to help her focus.
When more than treats are called for. And, sometimes, it’s used as an extra layer of warmth on those days when it’s really cold out. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s a small help.
Do you think if we wrapped the planet in one LARGE anxiety wrap we’d be any closer to world peace?