Fear of fireworks is an issue a lot of dog owners come up against. This time of year can be very difficult for our dogs however, with the help of a qualified behaviourist, you can teach your dog that fireworks aren’t so bad. This is done through a course of desensitisation & counter conditioning training. The process can take a while so needs to be done plenty of time in advance.
So, until the training has taken place, here are some other ways to manage your dogs fear and anxiety that can be used right now:
Create a Safe Space
You can make your dogs refuge somewhere they usually hide. Provide them with lots of blankets to burrow into and close the windows and curtains. If your dog has a crate and is happy to go in it you can cover it with a dark blanket to make it feel more secure. You can also give your dog an item of clothing which smells of you for that extra comforting smell.
Recent studies show that Reggae and Soft Rock are the best types of music to reduce anxiety in dogs. Remember that your dogs hearing is much more sensitive than our own, so although it is tempting to turn up the volume to drown out the fireworks, music that is too loud can cause more harm than good, and could be just as stressful for them.
This is a plug in diffuser which releases pheromones that can help your dog feel calmer. Plug the diffuser in at least 48hrs prior to firework season, and close to your pets safe place.
Comfort Your Dog
If your dog is scared and seeks you out, comfort and reassure them. Don’t worry; this will not reinforce fear behaviour. However, if your dog hears the bangs and looks at you to check for your reaction, just act normal so they know its nothing to worry about. It’s a bit like when a kid falls over, isn’t badly hurt, and looks to their parent to see their reaction. If the parent rushes over and makes a big deal of it they start to cry. If the parent can see they aren’t hurt and keeps their reaction small the kid usually gets up, brushes themselves off and carries on. On the other hand, if the kid falls over and has hurt themselves they will cry straight away, so a parent will rush over and comfort them. Comforting a dog that is already upset will not make them more scared, but it will make them feel more secure.
Aromatherapy – dogs have very sensitive noses so only a very small amount of oil is needed. Pet calming blends are available.
Provide a Distraction
Through canine enrichment games you can give your dog something else to focus on. Kongs are great as they can help your dog self soothe. Some fab recipes can be found here.
Apply Gentle Pressure
Using a Thundershirt or a bandage wrap to apply gentle pressure on the body can help your dog feel more secure. If your dog is touch sensitive they may not like to wear thundershirts or bandages so I recommend trying these in advance. Take your time, and have lots of treats handy to reward your dog as you put the shirt/wrap on.
Seek Vet Advice
For more server fear and anxiety vet prescribed medication can be used.
Avoid walking your dog in the evening.
Make sure tags and microchip details are correct incase your dog escapes.
Using a small amount of aromatherapy oil can help your dog relax, special dog blends are available.