Dogs and Fireworks
The season is upon us when the skies are suddenly filled with random flashes of bright colours and loud noises. I used to love fireworks but having seen the effects it can have on our animals, I'm not really a fan.
Why is it so scary?
Dogs just can not understand that they are not under attack and that there is nothing to worry about. The bangs and squealing noises can be incredibly distressing for our pets, but added with the flashing lights even the most stable of dogs can have a scare. They may have been fine previously and now suddenly they don’t like the noise and get distressed. This can happen for a number of reasons but if a bang is so loud it frightens you it will most likely scare your dog too.
How to recognise fear in dogs
A scared dog can range in the level in which they are scared by an event.
· Your dog may just have twitchy ears, look a bit sad and decide to follow you everywhere instead of having their usual evening nap
· Pace about the house or move to an area they don’t usually go such as the bathroom
· Ignore you completely
· Bark excessively
· Pant heavily
· Whine or moan
· Hide under furniture
· Urinate or defecate in the house
· Not be able to eat food – even treats
· Destroy items· Jump up at you
· Excessively lick the themselves or furniture.· Ears pulled back flat to their head
This can be distressing for dogs and owners, so how can we help them?
Whether you already have a dog that is terrified or you have a puppy that hasn’t experienced that time of year yet, preparation is key
Medication and Calming
One option is to seek advice from your vet. If your dog has a mental break down every November, then you need to talk to you vet now to be prepared with some medication to help stop them going through the trauma again. This option is for when you believe you can’t help your dog further because they are so scared. You may need something to sedate them enough to be able to cope.
If your dog is unhappy but has a level of coping there is over the counter methods of helping:
· Thunder Shirts – these are tight fitting coats that are meant help sooth your dog. · Adaptil – This comes in collars, plug in and a spray. It is a pheromone-based product designed to simulated calming message like a mother would to her pups. · There are Ucalm and other calming type products. These are all dependent on your dog so worth trialing before you really need them. · Homeopathy approach – Scullcap and Valerian are natural sources of calming influence. · All of the above won't necessarily fix the problem but in conjunction with other tactics of calming your dog will help take the edge off. Desensitisation Training. You can desensitize our dog to the effect the noises has with systematic and careful training. When your dog hears a noise they don’t like we can help change the way they emotional respond to it. Pairing the noise with a "new follow on of events", using food can change their feelings to be more positive.
How to desensitise: · Find firework noises on you tube with your device on silent. · Then find a food that your dog really likes like chicken, ham their most favourite treats.· Find a nice quite place to train your dog and start by throwing some food on the floor for your dog to eat – yes that simple! · Repeat this a few times until your dog is keen for you to do it again.· Then taking your device and play the noise very carefully increasing the volume from silent until you can barely hear the noise and then throw the food and then press pause. · Repeat 10 times keeping the noise only just audible. If you up the sound too quickly you may scare your dog too much. · Continue if your dog happily hears the noise but eats the food. Repeat this daily slightly increasing the volume each day. You should be able to see your dogs response to the noise change or lessen.
Other preparation running up to November. · If you dog usually has a night walk then look to reduce this each day until they don’t expect it. Look to walk your dog in the daytime.· Change your evening walk time to evening training and play time inside. · If your dog is regular with their toilet breaks at dark hours, you can try changing food times to earlier so they go to the toilet earlier. Letting them out to urinate can be tricky but you don’t want them to be stressed because they are holding it. · Create a new safe den for your dog to hide and encourage your dog to be in there with toys, treats and chews. This could be a crate or a table with a blanket over. Ideally you are blocking out as much noise and flashing lights as possible. · If you work or need to be out at night when there is a possibility of fireworks arrange dog care. Please don’t leave your pets alone! · Create a habit of a long lasting reward like a Kong to chew at night. · Ask neighbours if they are planning on having fireworks and when so you can work round them and be prepared.
On the night · Feed early · Walk during daytime · Shut down the house – shut curtains or close doors to windows you can not cover. · Turn up the telly or music.· Make up good Kong’s that are enticing. · Have plenty of treats to hand. · Have den ready in the room you will be in.· If you have to let them out, maybe lead them just in case they have a sudden scare and bolt. · Opt-out – I know some owners who’s dog get so scared they camp out in the middle of nowhere to keep their dogs happy! That may mean charging the iPad download some movies, make the car into a giant bed and drive to the moors.
Important note – you will not enforce fear by comforting your dog when they are scared! If your child was scared you would hug them, the same goes for your dog (if they want them). On the night if the desensitisation has been working your dog will expect a reward. So when you hear the worst of the fireworks make happy noises and throw food on the floor. Keep your calm, often we are so tuned into our animals if we are stressed out or scared they will be too. The aftermath. There always a chance after all your preparation your dog still got scared.
This can carry over and affect your dog's behaviour during the following day. This can manifest its self in different ways.
Some examples; · If your dog is reactive they maybe be more reactive. · They may have a bad recall and want to hunt more. · They maybe off they food. · They may be grumpy and have a disagreement with another dog when they don’t usually act like that. · The may not want to play as much. · Maybe reluctant to leave the house· They may sleep during the day and not at night. · They may change where they sleep.· They may become destructive, especially when you leave them. · They may become "naughtier" in general. Fear and anxiety can create high adrenaline and cortisol levels which are their fight or flight responses. These levels take time to dissipate so it is worth keeping your dogs life simple during this aftermath and don’t expect too much of them during this time. Miss out walks if they find they stressful and let your dog relax as much as possible. A couple missed walk wont kill them and you might help them recover quicker. I hope you find these tips this helpful. To find out more about Happy Hounds and our training check out : www.dogtraininghexham.com or www.facebook.com/happyhoundsuk If you have a dog that you with you wish behaved a bit better or has some reactivity issues or even a brand new puppy, Happy Hounds can guide you in the right direction.
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