Fireworks season for dogs can be terrifying, and also distressing for their owners. It is a very common fear but can affect different dogs in different ways. Some show many outward signs while others suffer in relative silence.
Things to look out for in your dog and puppy:
• Tense face, wide eyes and/or ears back
• Alerting to every sound, sometimes with excessive barking
• Trying to get into dark spaces
• Seeking reassurance from owners
• Wanting to be very close or not wanting to be touched
• Ignoring offers of treats or games
• Rapid (panicky) panting
• Digging in corners or under stairs
• Shaking and/or whining
• Very quiet or very excitable
• Loss of toilet control if left alone or too frightened to go outside
1 – Plan ahead – prevention is better than cure
Desensitise your dog as much as possible to loud noises and from as early an age as possible.
Use a soundproofing CD or app to get your dog used to loud bangs and firework noises as far in advance as possible.
Start with a low volume and reassure and reward the dog during this process so that a positive connection is made between loud noises and treats, play and praise.
Think about using an Adaptil plugin in your home (Adaptil produces synthetic calming pheromones and is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety). I recommend plugging in an Adaptil diffuser a couple of weeks before Firework night to make sure all the calming pheromones are circulating around the house. You can also use Doorwest skullcap and valerian herbal remedies to reduce anxiety too.
2 – During the day of the fireworks
Your dog should be taken for a walk earlier than usual and before it gets dark. Feed your dog the evening meal before the fireworks start as your dog may be too stressed to eat otherwise.
Prepare a ‘den’ where your dog can retreat to if he becomes worried – perhaps move his bed near to where you’ll be or cover his crate with a blanket (if he’s used to a crate). Make sure that you secure your garden in case your dog is startled whilst outdoors. Also, make sure all ID tags are attached to your dog and microchip information is up to date.
3 – On the night of the fireworks
Draw the curtains, switch on the lights and turn up the TV or sound system.
Act as normally as possible and use distractions – play games indoors and have chews or a stuffed Kong ready to occupy your dog.
If your dog is showing signs of fear it’s really important to reassure them, but make sure you do so with a happy, jolly manner and in a matter of fact way. Remember you can’t reinforce fear, as fear is an emotion and not a behaviour.
For more help and advice on navigating fireworks season for dogs, get in contact with Ella at www.kirbydogservices.com to learn more about the advantages of habituating your dog to Firework season through 121 training.