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Is your dog afraid of fireworks? Do you struggle to get your dog through the new year? In this blog you will get tips and tricks on how to help your dog get through the New Year.
Every year is the same. Despite bans and regulated dates, people seem to go into a frenzy and store up on anything they can find that goes BANG. Preferably they like the BANG to happen all the time, and all bans are literally shot to the ground.
I would wish that a complete ban would come on fireworks in general, but until that day hopefully comes, we as dog owners must take our own precautions and prepare our dogs in the best way possible.
I know I am not alone with this issue as I have heard from many dog owners how their dogs feel around New year, very few are positive!
It is not only for our pets sake. Firework is a massive polluter. If we have paid attention to anything every scientist has said for the last 10 years it is that we have to change our ways in order to save our planet. Furthermore, it scares our wildlife, not to mention the massive rise in human injuries and accidents you see in the ER on New Years Eve.
Tips on how to get your dog through New Year’s eve
Have treats around the house. Every time there is a bang outside your dog gets a treat. This is to turn the negative association with fireworks into a positive association (read more about positive associations here). Use high value treats (=something your dog LOVES) if your dog is very scared.
2. Safe spot/hide out
Create a safe spot your dog can go to. This can be their basket, or anywhere they feel safe. My husband tried to build a cave for our dogs. 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. The wrap
In previous years I have tried using the wrapping method (see below, drawings from Lili Chin), which has seemed to have some effect. I have also heard positive reviews of the Thundershirts you can get at your local pet shop or online.
We have found that music really makes a huge difference and it really calms our dogs down. You can find calming music for dogs online (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51LrVgWKTQE).
We use it both for when they are home alone and of course during New Years and the weeks up to it. It’s calming for both us and them. Start using it when there is no fireworks so your dog associates it with something positive. If you will use it for when your dog is home alone, also first play it while you are still home.
5. Train with firework sounds
You can download or find firework music online (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AINzMizjDvw). Use this as practice during the year to acclimatize your dog to the firework sounds. Start with very low volume and give lots of treats and praise. As your dog stays calm, try to increase the volume more and more, still giving treats if your dog stays calm. If your dog starts to react, turn the volume down again and reward when he/she is calm again.
Remember to only do short sessions and always end with success. You are making a continuous positive association with fireworks, and this will help your dog stay more calm 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. Stay with me
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. They might get scared and then have no one to comfort them. If you are going somewhere, bring your dog. Make sure to only bring your dog to places where he/she feels safe and where they have a chance to have their own personal spot that they can go to and relax.
Take your dog on a long walk in the morning of New Years Eve. Give them plenty of time to play and sniff so they get tired out. Do not try to walk your dog in the evening when bangs are going off. Your dog might get spooked and all your training goes out the window.
8. Mental stimuli
Feed your dog in activity toys. A frozen Kong is gold here, as it lets your dog focus on something else than what is going on outside (Here is how to make it). It is also making another positive association – when the outside world is noisy, I get yummy things to eat – win win!
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.
Let me know which method worked for you and your dog, or if you have any other ideas share it with the rest of us in the comments.
Happy New Year!