Fireworks may be an exciting time for some people but it is a very different story for our pets and their owners.
It is horrible feeling, watching our pets be so scared of something that we have no control over.
I am happy to admit that I am a scrooge when it comes to fireworks.
Basically, you know where you can stick your bonfire invitation.
Finn is 9 months old, he has never heard fireworks before. I have been very worried about how he will react to it.
For the past few weeks, while he has been sleeping. I have been playing him firework sounds from Sound Proof Puppy training app.
I only become aware of this Puppy app after reading Dominic Hodgson’s Perfect Puppy Project book.
Day one of using it, he did lift his head up and that’s about it. He hasn’t been bothered.
Every week, I have increased the volume and playing it while we play together.
It hasn’t reacted to it.
I won’t know if this preparation has worked.
The problem is not only does fireworks create a loud banging sound but also they produce a smell that dogs may be sensitive to. They have up to 300 million scent receptors in their noses compared to our 5 million.
Sadly, this is something I can’t prepare him for.
But I can do a few things to calm him, if he does react.
I decided to get some help from an expert dog trainer Holly Toad who runs Paws up dogs in Bromley.
Paws up dogs teaches positive dog training techniques to build a strong and dynamic relationship between dogs and their owners.
I asked Holly about how to calm dogs during fireworks.
1) How can tell if your dog is scared of fireworks?
Fear of fireworks is usually similar to how fear looks in other situations too. Although every dog will act a little differently, behavioural signs include things like a change in body language (tail tucked under, ears back against the head, licking lips, yawning, in more serious cases even shaking) Change in behaviour (vocalising, seeking comfort or hiding, not wanting to eat), skittish behaviour.
2) What is the best way to prepare your dog?
For a dog with an established fear of fireworks seek professional help from a force free trainer. If that is not an option or you have a younger dog think about not walking in the evening or doing an earlier walk. It is very possible to de-sensitise dogs to unexpected noises but this would require guidance and a few weeks of prep
3) how do you calm your dog during fireworks?
Long lasting chews, stuffed frozen kongs, lickimatts are all great for reducing the stress hormone in the blood. Save up some of your dog’s daily food allowance to use in these. TV or radio up loud, curtains drawn, training games as a distraction. Avoid high arousal play as this jacks up the stress levels. Doggie massage is good too and some dogs get on well with a thunder shirt (or other tight body wrap) and adaptil sprayed on a bandana. Valerian extract is also a natural and good way to promote calmness. If you know your dog is very frightened pop to the vet and see if they recommend a sedative
4) Is there anything that owners should never do during fireworks?
Never take your dog for a walk when lots of fireworks are going off (and certainly not off lead as a loud bang could cause a dog to bolt). Don’t ignore fear – dogs need to feel safe with us and protected. Fear is an emotion, ignoring it will not reinforce the fear but comforting them may help.
5) Are there any remedies that you would recommend?
See above re valerian extract (amazon), adaptil sprays on bandanas, vet for something stronger
6) Any top tips that would help?
Some scent work and other mental stimulation games will keep your dog’s mind engaged and may help dogs without an existing fear ignore what is going on outside. If you have a dog with an extreme fear consider a weekend in the country – there are far fewer fireworks outside of towns.
Great advice here from Holly.
I hope this has been helpful.
I hope all your pets have a non-stressful November.
If you would like to follow Finn’s progress then get on my email list
If you want to know more about Holly at Paws up dogs then go to http://www.pawsupdogs.com/
You can want to purchase Sound proof Puppy training app you can find it on itunes. If you would like to purchase Dominic Hodgson’s Perfect Puppy Project book link below.
I will receive a small fee if you purchase this product, but it won’t affect the price.
I’m off to put a lead on it