Thank you for taking the first step to helping your dog during fireworks.
Treatment for noise phobic dogs is usually a fairy straightforward procedure but does require patience and understanding. It is also a gradual process and is likely to take some weeks or months. This is not a procedure to start on 1st November.
Why are dogs scared of fireworks?
There can be many reasons as to why your dog is scared of fireworks:
- Noise Sensitive
- Lacking in Confidence
- Traumatic Event or Negative Experience
- Health – there have been proven links between noise phobia’s and back, hip problems, ear infections, arthritis to name just a few
- Lack of ongoing exposure
- For no apparent reason
For some dogs, noise phobia is so extreme it starts to affect their quality of life and that of their owners. It can also lead to other issues such as Separation Anxiety.
The statistics say that around 72% of dogs are affected in some way and 1 in 10 of these dogs need veterinary intervention.
How do you know if your dog is affected?
- Trembling or Shaking
- Being clingy, sticking closely to you
- Hiding behind or under furniture
- Barking, whining, howling
- Rapid lip licking, panting, drooling
- Reluctance to go outside
- Diarrhea or vomiting
If your dog is suffering from Noise Phobia their behavior will rarely improve unaided and they are more likely to get progressively worse without help.
It is also really important to look at yourself and what you are projecting onto your dog. Often you unwittingly fuel their behavior. Are you scared, panicking, starring at your dog, or even getting angry? Is the home suddenly very loud because you have turned every radio and tv on to mask the sound outside? You need to be calm and give the impression that you are not concerned. Your dog will gain comfort from this.
Depending on how sever your dogs reaction is to the fireworks will determine how you should proceed. But all preperations need to start early enough for them to be learnt and then work.
Mild Reaction: You may be able to divert their attention with food, games, chews. By making a positive association with loud noises you can change how your dog feels.
Moderate Reaction: Desensitization training has been proven to work well, as long as the training happens well in advance to the fireworks. This training would involve the dog being exposed to the sounds at a low level and pairing it with activities that your dog enjoys.
These activities would vary depending on your dog, for example a dog who generally has a high level of arousal and who would normally struggle to be calm, we would work with games, channeling their energy and redirecting their arousal. Scent work is amazing for this and we would use toys or food depending on your dogs preference. Other games can include fetch, tug, hide and seek. Games are a great way to create a positive association with unusual sounds. These games need to be taught in advance as when your dog is anxious their ability to learn is limited.
Older or calmer dogs would benefit from Tellington Touch (see separate sheet on TTouch) or food toys such as kongs, shuffle mats or their favourite chew. For these dogs you are increasing their seritonine and dopamine levels, making them feel calm and good.
Severe Reaction: This would require medical intervention from your vet along with a behavioural modification program.
Where is the best place for my dog to be during fireworks?
Well that’s normally best for your dog to decide.
- If your dog already uses a crate, make the crate accessible. You can even cover it with a duvet to make it a little sound proof.
- If your dog hides under furniture then in October make a den for your dog and start hiding goodies in it.
- If your dog is calm and settled in a place, leave them alone.
- In some cases giving your dog access to an area of the house which they deem “high value” can be beneficial and allow them to gain comfort as well as retreat. Owner’s bedrooms often fit this category.
- Some dogs want to be with you and that’s fine. Some dogs will benefit from you just laying your hand on them or holding them. This pressure works in most mammals to calm general arousal, however it is important that your dog has the option to move away so they don’t feel trapped.
Other things to try along with the training plan:
Diet: Look at your dogs diet, yes making changes to their diet can help. Even a small change starting in October can have a positive affect. Adding carbohydrates such as pasta or rice can enhance the absorption of the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin (the happy, feel good transmitter). Other foods that are high in tryptophan are turkey, chicken and fish.
Holistic: Homeopathy, Zoopharmacognosy and Flower Essence i.e.Rescue Remedy
Equipment: Thundershirts, calming bands, head wraps or even some kind of barrier over the dogs ears to block out sound such as a snood. This however would only work on dogs with down ears and should only be used if the dog is happy to wear them.
For help with a training plan, please contact Lisa at email@example.com
TEN POINT PLAN FOR THE NIGHT
1. Toilet before dusk
Think when to walk your dog
On lead when outside so they can’t bolt away and escape
Go out into the garden with your dog for emotional support
2. Don’t leave your dog alone – this includes a separation in the house
Alter your work time
Be with your dog, be available
3. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar just incase they bolt or escape your garden
4. Stick to your normal routine. If you need to make changes do so slowly over time
5. As soon as it gets dark, shut all curtains. Turn on the tv/radio
6. Check gates, doors and fences
7. If your dog is settled and calm, leave them to it. Check your own behaviour and emotions. Be prepared so you can be relaxed.
8. Make sure your dog has access to water. Anxious dogs drink more.
If your dog stops drinking in times of stress, add more water to their meals or add a novel taste to the water such as chicken broth.
9. Be proactive and get hands-on. You can support your dog when stressed/anxious. It’s a myth that it makes it worse or encourages the fearful behaviour. Ignoring your dog will increase your dog will increase the stress hormones.
10. Be aware of your own safety. Dogs may use fight to cope.