This information is designed to help you reduce the impact and fear of fireworks and loud noises, such as thunder and gunshot, for your dog or puppy.
When dogs are exposed to loud and unpredictable bangs, crashes and flashes of fireworks, they can get very confused and scared.
As we are all aware, the old adage: “Remember, remember, the 5th of November” no longer applies; fireworks are let off for all number of celebrations and are being manufactured to make much louder bangs and produce bigger flashes and showers of sparks. It is no wonder that our dogs become frightened and disoriented at this time.
Firstly, do not attempt to reassure/ stroke/ pat your dog when he shows signs of fear, stress and anxiety at the sound of bangs and loud noises. If you do, you will simply be rewarding/ praising him for being frightened. The reassurance tells the dog that he is RIGHT to be scared and that he should carry on being frightened and stressed! You must show that you are not concerned and carry on as though nothing is happening.
In preparation for fireworks, you could purchase a desensitisation CD. These CDs contain noises of different types of fireworks, gunshots, etc and should be played to the dog on a daily basis (probably best in the evening when the real thing is more prevalent) for a few weeks prior to the firework season.
Start playing on a low volume and gradually turn the volume up until the CD is quite loud and played for a reasonable length of time. It is important that you remember NOT to reassure your dog if he shows signs of anxiety when the CD is played. Do not begin to turn the volume up on the CD until the dog is coping with the current volume level. Have PATIENCE!
Whilst playing the CD, it would be an excellent idea to try and create a POSITIVE association with the firework noise – for example, feed the dog some tasty treats, do a titbit training session, give the dog a new and different chew or play with him and his favourite toy.
This may take a little time to encourage the dog to eat, train or play when he is nervous and anxious BUT if you begin with the volume low and don’t try to rush the dog, it will be possible. Have PATIENCE!
A Safe Place
If the dog wishes to take himself off and hide in a dark space, allow him to do so. Dogs often try to hide behind the sofa, under the bed, in the bed, under the stairs and many more places.
We get concerned or irritated and keep hauling them out, making their fear and anxiety worse. Think about what an animal in the wild would do – it would find the smallest safest and darkest space it could to hide in until the “danger” was over – this is only what your dog is trying to do. In fact, giving the dog a “safe space” or a “den” to retire to is an excellent idea.
If you use a crate, make sure it is in a place as far from the fireworks as possible, cover it with a blanket, put more blankets or bedding in the crate and let your dog settle down in there with a chew. Make sure that the crate is open so that he does not feel trapped. Otherwise, if the dog goes behind the sofa or under your bed, providing he is not doing any damage, leave him there!
Take your time to see this from your dog’s point of view and make life easier for him. Have PATIENCE!
You may also have heard of DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone). This is a plug-in device available from your vet which releases calming pheromones in to the air. It should be plugged in, in the room where the dog will likely spend his time during fireworks events and switched on all day every day for approximately two weeks before the fireworks really get underway.
These can help some dogs to settle more effectively but it is not a miracle cure. The other steps should also be followed.
Finally, once the fireworks really begin, make sure that you have walked your dog earlier in the day so that you are not caught out on a walk when the noises begin. If you are out later in the day, make sure that you keep your dog close and if necessary keep him on lead – you do not want him to bolt in fear. Check that his “safe space” is accessible to him and is covered over and comfortable.
Brief the family on how they must behave if the dog starts to show signs of anxiety – remind them that although they may think it cruel to ignore him if he looks scared, they would be doing more harm than good by reassuring him.
And remember, when dogs are stressed they can become unpredictable and behave out of character. This may involve the dog growling or snapping or panicking. Make sure that they do not have access to anything potentially dangerous and ensure that doors to the outside are shut. At no time should you scold the dog when it is feeling anxious or frightened as again, this will only serve to heighten the fear.
If you experience problems or are unsure about the steps involved, please contact us. We will be happy to help and can arrange for you to have a consultation and be personally guided through the training.
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