Monday, 11 October 2010

Firework Fear!

It is about this time of year in Britain that dog owners begin to worry about how their pets will cope with fireworks. In an ideal world a dog breeder could do so much to accustom a litter of puppies to firework noise. Breeders of gundogs will do this at an early stage in a puppy's development, ensuring that they are used to the sound of gunshots while they are still very small. Most dogs, however do not acquire this ease with loud noises and will get upset to a certain degree. Last year I remember our neighbours must have used a grenade launcher to set their industrial strength fireworks up into the air! The foundations of the house shook!

There are some things you can start to do now in order to try to calm your dog a little, but a serious desensitising programme should usually take months. You can go and have a look at a brilliant website here you can play or download a film clip of a short firework display. Start fairly quietly and praise and treat and stroke your dog calmly for listening to the bangs. If he reacts to the noise then just ignore him, and don't cuddle, talk, reassure this behaviour. Just act as if nothing is wrong. This exercise needs to be repeated over and over again, for several months.
Make sure your dog has a safe place to go if he feels scared, a cubby hole, a bed, crate or behind the sofa. Don't follow him in there, that's his safe place. Don't cuddle, pat or talk to your dog while he is scared. Make sure your dog has been out to the toilet during daytime hours so he won't need to go again. If your dog does want to get under the duvet with you, or jump on your lap for reassurance, then let them but don't make a fuss of them.
If you are a fan of alternative remedies, then some people have found the Bach Rescue Remedies helpful, or scullcap and valerian. You might also talk to your vet about a DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) diffuser or collar.
Of course the obvious things to do are to close all the curtains in the house, turn the lights on and turn the TV volume up high! Make sure all the doors and windows are closed, and just in case, make sure your dog has an ID tag and microchip (because some dogs might be frantic to escape!). Avoid leaving your dog alone during fireworks, he will feel safer if you are around.
Something else you might like to try is a tight Tshirt or jumper. make a specially designed doggy body wrap which has been found to calm anxious dogs.
Hope this helps!