Remember, Remember the 5th of November...
Fear of fireworks is a fairly common phobia for dogs; they are loud, bright and can be very scary. There are ways we can try to make these noises less scary and show our dogs that there is something to be excited about rather than nervous.
Addressing the Phobia through Desensitisation
Fireworks night is a dreaded night for some pet owners, we do what we can to provide comfort to our pets during the event and then we try and forget about it until the next year's event, but there are lots of things we can do during the year to accustom them to the noises.
Youtube is a great way to slowly introduce our pets to noises, there are several firework recordings on here. What we want to do is for our pet to associate these noises with something good, rather than something scary. Always start with the noise at a very low volume and reward your pet with lots of treats and cuddles (dependent on what they prefer), also make sure to tell them that they are being a 'very good boy or girl'. This can be done regularly in short stints; for example every other day for 5-10 minutes at a time. When your pet is showing signs of being comfortable with this level of noise we can turn the volume up a little. This is not a process to be rushed, behavioural issues take a very long while to adapt; if your pet is getting very stressed at the new level of noise, go back to the quieter level and make sure they are completely comfortable with this before progressing onto the next noise level. The idea is that eventually we can play the fireworks at a fairly loud volume and your dog will become expectant of his treats, or cuddles as opposed to being scared.
What else can you Do?
- It is of course very important to comfort your dog when they are stressed; but if you are worried a dog can sense this. If you start changing your behaviour around your dog and are nervous they will react to your nervousness with their own sense of nervousness. It is very important that you stay calm and interact with your dog in the same way that is usual in your household.
- There are ways we can reduce the level of noise and protect our dogs from seeing the bright lights if this is their trigger. The radio can be very calming for dogs; studies have proven that classical music has a beneficial calming effect on dogs; it is certainly worth trying to drown out some of the noise with some music of a calming nature. If using music to calm a dog, we should use this on the weeks leading up to the event, so that the sound is not novel and unsuspected. This also allows us to condition our dogs to make the music of a calming nature, perhaps by putting it on at times we know our dog is likely to relax such as night-time; this way they will associate the music with being in a restful state. We can also close the curtains to provide both a sense of security and a block from the light emitted by the fireworks.
- If you are anticipating fireworks in your town or locality it is worthwhile taking your dog on a very long walk to ensure that they are tired and want to rest come the evening.
- Some dogs find a lot of comfort in their hiding places; if they tend to hide under your bed or behind cushions, allow them to find their comfort in these places, do not try to remove them; a dog that is feeling very fearful may respond with aggression if their comforts are taken away.
A Rural Retreat?
While of course individuals can purchase fireworks and set them off in rural areas; it is a far less common occurrence and when it does happen, the distance between houses tends to ensure that less noise and light reaches the dogs. At The Grange Retreat we are far enough away from all major towns not to be affected by public displays; we also have a dedicated team on site at all times to ensure that all dogs are safe and comfortable. So if you want to join in the celebrations this year why not consider The Grange Retreat where your dogs can rest in peace and comfort.