As the dark nights are creeping in, it won't be long until fireworks start to make an appearance. Fireworks as beautiful as they are, can be a dogs worst nightmare. Gone are the days when you'd only hear them on Bonfire Night and New Years Eve, it seems like nowadays no night post September is firework free. A lot of dogs are petrified of the sound of fireworks, many dogs go missing during the fireworks season from being scared, just look on your local Facebook groups, its full of dogs who have run away from the park or bolted out of the front door. As owners It's important to plan ahead and to help your dog feel safe and calm during fireworks season. It should be said that this is no quick fix and it can take a lot of time and patiences on our part.
It's never too early to start desensitising your dog to the sound of fireworks, I tell all of my new puppy clients the importance of this, even if we're in June. Prevention is better than a cure. Getting your dog comfortable with the noise of fireworks means slowly exposing them to the sounds of fireworks in a safe and controlled way. The aim of this exercise is for your dog to associate the sound of fireworks with something pleasurable.
To do this you'll need
* A selection of interactive food toys, Kongs, K9 Connectables, LickiMat, Snuffle mat * High value food- something you know your dog loves. * Audio of fireworks- you can find plenty on you tube. 1. Find a room that your dog is comfortable in, always make sure that your dog has somewhere that they can retreat to, keep doors open.
2. Have the audio ready to play at a low volume which you already know that your dog shows no reaction.(test this before)
3. Have your high value interactive food toy at the ready.
4. Press play on the audio and then present the interactive food toy to your dog, allow your to enjoy the food toy whilst the audio is playing.
5. As soon as your dog finishes the food or moves away then immediately stop the audio.
6. Repeat this process everyday and at different times of the day (daylight and nighttime), gradually increasing the volume of the audio.
Take your dog out for a long walk during the day, well before it gets dark. During the walk play lots of scent games, let your dog just mooch. Avoid a lot of repetitive ball chasing and frisbee throwing as you want to encourage lots of calmness through out the day. If you have an anxious dog it may be worth walking them on the lead or using a long training line, just in case any fireworks are set off early.
Stay at home with your dog, if you know that your dog is afraid of fireworks then don't leave them alone at home.
Set up the environment so that your dog has a den to retreat to, make it even better and hide some high value treats inside or a stuffed Kong.
Draw the curtains to keep out the flashes of light and help to muffle the noise.
Double and triple check that your garden is escape proof. Some dogs feel the need to run when they feel frightened. Be extra careful when opening your front door, some dogs may run out in fear.
If you live somewhere without a garden and you have to take your dog outside for toilet breaks make sure that your dog has a well fitted harness, something that they cannot back out of. Keep their collar on too with their ID tag. (Are your microchip and ID tag details correct and up to date?)
Turn on the TV loud to help to mute the sound of the fireworks outside. In the UK Classic FM have a whole evening designed for dogs, to help keep them calm.
Try to distract them during the evening, play their favourite game, give them a puzzle toy, do some training, teach them a new trick. Start this early in the evening.
Try synthetic pheromones- these come in various forms such as sprays, collars, diffusers, wipes and tablets. These need to be introduced now as some take a little time to start working. Adaptil, PetRemedy or Dorwest. Speak to your vet if you feel that your dog may need something stronger to help.
Don't punish your dog if they are frightened or mess in the house. It's also okay to offer your dog comfort and give them cuddles but remember not all dogs enjoy cuddles so only do so if you're dog is a dog who seeks it.
If you'd like anymore help or advice on this, please drop me an email.