Dealing With the Firework Season

Dealing With the Firework Season

With the advent of cheaper fireworks, the 5th November is no longer the only day that brings with it the unpredictable loud bangs and flashes of fireworks. Great fun for us, but our poor dogs simply don’t understand what’s going on and for many it can be a traumatising experience.

What symptoms should I look for?

Frightened dogs can have different reactions: some tremble at their owners’ feet, others retreat to a hiding place, some try to run off, and others display other unpredictable even aggressive behaviours.

Can I desensitise my dog to the sounds?

Many dogs can benefit from a process we call desensitisation. This involves slowly acclimatising your dog to the sounds of fireworks. CDs are now available, which simulate the random and unpredictable noises of fireworks. Over a period (the sooner the better) before fireworks day, these are played a number of times a day gradually building up the volume and length of time it is played.

Your pet will then gradually become used to the noises and begin to ignore them. Whilst playing the CD, you should also take the opportunity to distract your pet. Either play with him, or give him some training lessons, or give him his favourite toy or chew. This will increase the effect of the desensitisation program by making your pet think on something else whilst the background noise is going on.

What other things can I do to help?

Create a safe, comfortable and quiet den area for him. Ideally, this should be in a place which is furthest from the fireworks, and where he is used to resting. The room should be able to be darkened to hide the firework flashes. Make sure however, that he is free to come and go to this area, taking care not to lock him in the room alone.

Feed him an hour before the event and stock up on treats like pigs ears.
Play music or turn on the TV to help drown out the sound of fireworks. Close the curtains to hide bright flashes.

If your dog does not want to settle in his den or crate, then try playing some games or have a training session with his favourite treats as rewards.

There are a number of proven natural remedies to help calm dogs during stressful periods. These usually contain Camomile and Valerian which are tried and tested aids which can help to reduce fear, stress and anxiety naturally to help keep pets calm during what can be a very frightening time without sedating them.

Are there things I should NOT be doing?

Do NOT try to pat and stroke him in an attempt to sooth him if he is showing signs of stress. This simply rewards how he is behaving and teaches him that he’s right to be scared. Don’t let him know that you’re concerned.

I have heard of DAPs, can these help?

If you already know that your dog is scared and that he needs some further help then using a DAP along with the CD will be very useful. DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone. These come in a number of forms; a plug in device, similar to an air freshener; a collar or a spray. They all release calming pheromones into the air, similar to those produced by a mother whilst rising pups.

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About Patricia Hunter

Patricia Hunter at Canine Concepts is a qualified full-time dog behaviourist and trainer. Some of the articles on our site were written by Patricia with her full permission to use the literature on our site.

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