Firework night- loud bangs, flashes of bright light. Fireworks season is upon us!
Keep your dog safe by preparing now!
The biggest night of fireworks is nearly upon us. While us humans are excitedly looking forward to a night of celebrations, your canine buddy is probably going to get a nasty fright. Especially if your dog has never experienced fireworks or had a bad experience in the past.
Nobody likes to see their dogs trembling with fright for hours on end. It is horrible for any owner to see their dog scared and anxious and not being able to help.
The key is to PREPARE!
Our dogs hearing is so much better than ours. The loud bangs will sound like bombs being dropped! Plus your dog will not be able to rationalize what is happening like us humans can.
Your dog will have no idea why there are suddenly loud bangs and extreme flashes of sudden light.
So let’s introduce your dogs/puppies to fireworks in a gradual way which makes them more comfortable around them! Sounds good doesn’t it?!
We recommend the Desensitizing Method to prepare for Fireworks. It is never too late to start.
So what is desensitization?
‘Desensitization is the process of exposing the animal to a stimulus beginning at a very low intensity. Counter conditioning and desensitization need to be used together to be effective and are often used to change unwanted behavior in dogs….’ (Source: Animal Humane Society)
You then gradually increase the stimuli (the fireworks sounds) all the while making sure your dog is in a calm state. The goal is to gradually expose your dog to the sounds in a safe & controlled manner keeping them comfortable and not in an anxious state while doing so.
Exposing your dog to fireworks gradually will help them manage the loud noises more effectively when the skies are lit with fireworks!
So what can you do to introduce fireworks in a positive way?
What do you need?
- Fireworks soundtrack- some good ones on google and Youtube
- Tasty treats!
- Snuffle mat
- Scent toys
Here are the steps to follow:
- Play the FIREWORK soundtrack very quietly in the background (lots of sound tracks available on YouTube)
- If your dog is calm then play same games
- Hide some treats for your dog to find
- Use a snuffle mat or fun puzzle toy to get your dogs nose working (remember scent work releases those ‘feel good’ hormones)
- Do some fun training with your dog while the soundtrack is playing the background
DO ALL OF THE ABOVE WHILE PLAYING THE SOUNDTRACK
Gradually increase the level of the sounds over a few days whilst making sure your dog is not anxious.
IT IS IMPORTANT to watch for signs of stress/anxiety:
- Excessive panting
- Dilated pupils
- Sweating paws
- Raised heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Won’t settle
- Attempts to escape the room/home
- Digging at the floor/carpet
- Pacing the room
As you increase the noise gradually and continue to do the FUN activities and provide yummy treats the noise will almost become background noise and your dog will feel more comfortable with the sudden sounds
Allow your dog to relax while the sounds are playing, let your dog concentrate on the game and the scent work which reduces the fear response.
We want to avoid a fear response to the noise. If your dog does show any of the above signs of stress/anxiety then turn the noise down again and gradually work back up.
The level of progress will depend on how your dog responds to the noise increase- remember all dogs progress at their own speed. This is not something you can rush.
It is hard to desensitize to the visual display of the fireworks and we therefore recommend keeping your dog safely inside and providing a safe area.
Should I comfort my dog during the fireworks?
We hear a lot of talk about comforting your dog and that some people say that it will make the fear worse. That is incorrect advice.
You can’t reinforce an emotion, the fear is the fear. Comforting your dog will not reinforce that fear. Your dog will not become more scared of the fireworks because you provided comfort.
During the Fireworks- create a safe space
Here are some of our top tips for making sure your dog is in the best position to cope with the fireworks:
- Create a safe space
- Introduce a crate or a safe space if your dog hasn’t used one before
- Cover the existing crate with a heavy blanket (allow for ventilation!)- this should be a safe known space for your dog so make use of it
- Utilize your basement- a lot of basements have less windows and are not so open to the elements
- Grounded areas- basements, bathtubs and enclosed internal spaces are perfect
- Bathtub- a bathtub is a safe space, put some nice comfy blankets in there (we suggest introducing your dog to the bathtub prior to a thunderstorm so they are familiar with it). It also creates some sound insulation
- Familiar items- make sure your dog has access to familiar items that might provide comfort
- Comfy beds are great too!
- Click https://tailwaggerspet.com/shop/Thundershirt-Sport-Dog-Anxiety-Jacket-p267939850 for your Local ThunderShirt products at Tailwaggers in Whitefish.
- Speak to the staff at Dee-O-Gee in Kalispell and see what products they have available to calm an anxious dog Click HERE
As always, we are happy to help.