Is your dog afraid of fireworks? So are mine, and every year is a battle!
Every year is the same – despite bans and regulated dates on when you are allowed to shoot of your fireworks, people seem to go into this frenzy and store up on anything they can find that goes BANG which then causes them to become so excited that they have to shoot it off right away, in the middle of the street where other people and dogs are walking!
The other day my mum and I took an afternoon walk with the dogs – we had to get my fiances x-mas present in a nearby post office and was making our way towards that. As we turn the corner of the little mall where the post office is located we were met with a massive explosion right in front of us. Some idiotic BANG addicts (there are no nicer words!) had decided to lit their newly bought fireworks right in front of the entrance to the mall. Fireworks was flying all around and everyone in the near proximity had to flee. The dogs freaked out – Belga desperately trying to flee from the situation and Chester barking and lunching at the fireworks, two completely different reactions but both based on massive fear!!! I had to hold Belga in order for her not to escape her leash as we hurried away, Chester still barking as my mum maneuvered him with us, backing away from the fireworks. Belga was shaking all over, tale between her legs, ears down, covering up to me as I tried to calm her down – an impossible task ending with her almost pulling my arm off as we half ran home, where she would finally calm down and stop shaking.
These following days Belga has started shaking every time we prepare to go on our afternoon walk despite there not being any fireworks. Now she has never liked fireworks, I don’t think any dog does, but we were coping with it with treats and praises as we walked and she managed fine, but this incident has pushed back years of training and adaptation and we now have to start all over again, all because some stupid boys had the need to shoot off their stupid fireworks!
I know I am not alone with this issue as I have heard from many dog owners how their dogs feel around this time of year, very few are positive! It makes me sad that people do not care about the effects that fireworks has – not only does it scare our pets, it also pollutes massively ( Climate change people!) and scares our wildlife, not to mention the massive rise in human injuries and accidents you see in the ER on New Years Eve.
Our training now has to start over again, and as you might have understood already we are starting from scratch! So I thought I would share some training tips that might help your dog cope better with the fireworks.
1. Treat every time there is a bang outside, upping the yumminess by only giving high value treats (in our case that would be cheese).
2. Create a safe spot they can go to. My fiance tried to build a cave for the dogs that they could go to in order to feel safe – we let them chose when they want to use it. If your dog likes to hide under things this might be an idea, and hey you get to build a cave, which is always fun!
3. In previous years I have tried using the wrapping method (see below) and I have also heard positive reviews of the Thundershirts you can get at your local pet shop or online.
4. We also find calming music for dogs online (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51LrVgWKTQE), and have both used it for when they are home alone and during New Years – it’s calming for both us and them. Start using it when there is no fireworks so your dog associates it with something calm to begin with.
5. You can also download or find firework music online. Use this as practice during the year to acclimatize your dog to the firework sounds – first starting with the volume very low, giving lots of treats, then as your dog stops reacting to it, increase the volume while still giving treats – making a continuous positive association with fireworks, helping your dog be calmer when the real deal goes off. Stay consistent with this training throughout the year as starting right before New Years will not help your dog.
6. Don’t leave your pet alone on New Years – they might be fine when you leave, but when you are not there you cannot control what happens, and they might get scared and then have no one to comfort them. If you are going somewhere, bring your dog, and only bring them to places where they feel safe and where they have a chance to have their own personal spot that they can go to and relax.
7. Take your dog on a long walk in the morning of New Years Eve, giving them plenty of time to play and sniff to tire them out.
8. Feed your dog with activity toys – a frozen Kong is gold here, as it lets them focus on something else than what is going on outside, as well as making another positive association – when the outside world is noisy, I get yummy things to eat – win win 😉
8. If your dog suffers from severe anxiety and fear visit the vet and get some calming tablets for your dog. We have fortunately never had to do that as the other methods has been sufficient.
I wish you and your pet a Happy New Year and thank you for following our blog <3