It’s the time of year with fireworks going off, sometimes randomly, which can be a source of great worry for our dogs. There are a few things we can do to help make this period a more calming and pleasant experience for our dogs.
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Here are a few handy tips to help calm your canine companions:
- Try to take your dog for a walk before it gets dark so that they are relaxed and will not need to go out to the toilet once the fireworks start.
- Feed your dog in the mid to late afternoon, as this can also help them relax and if they are really worried, they may not be able to eat once fireworks are in full swing.
- Make sure that your dog is safe indoors. If at all possible, don’t leave your dog alone if fireworks are expected.
- Provide a safe place your dog can retreat to if they wish but do not shut them in – as long as it is safe allow your dog to find the place they feel most comfortable. You can help by providing a safe “den” such as a dog crate / box covered on three sides and with blankets for them to dig into – this is best set up well in advance, and could be where they are used to sleeping. Encourage your dog to use and make positive associations with the den by putting treats in it.
- Drawing the curtains can stop your dog being startled by flashing lights and help to muffle the sound.
- Playing music or turning up the volume on the television can help to minimise the impact of the sound of the fireworks. If you have enough time, playing tapes of firework sounds as well as other sounds like traffic is a good way to de-sensitise your dog to loud sounds. Start playing them at very low volumes, then gradually increase the level every day or so. If your dog starts to react, turn the volume back down and increase it more slowly between sessions.
- If your dog has never reacted to noises before try not to react to the sound yourself or simply say in a cheerful voice “that was loud” and then try playing a game or doing some training with them to help form a positive association with the fireworks. The whole point is to make the fireworks a ‘non-event’ or even a positive event and therefore give no reason for any negative reactions.
- Do not punish your dog for showing fearful behaviour. If they are frightened then it is OK to comfort then. Contrary to what you will often hear it is not possible to reinforce an emotion such as fear.
Featured image by Jo Southway