“My dog is terrified of fireworks. What can I do to help?”
Matt says: Some dogs aren’t the slightest bit bothered by the sight and sound of fireworks. For many others, it’s a very frightening experience – and it means occasions like Bonfire Night on November 5 can be highly stressful for dogs and owners alike.
To make matters worse, these days firework displays don’t just take place on one day – they can be spread across a period of about a week. The effects of this can really impact your training – and a stressed out and frightened dog is an unhappy dog. Some dogs are even known to run away from home (if they can escape) out of fear caused by fireworks.
The good news is there are steps you can take to minimise the stress caused to your dog. Here are my top tips:
- Go for an early walk. Now the darker nights have set in, many of us will be opting for earlier walks than usual and this can be a particularly good idea around Bonfire Night. It’s important that dogs are indoors where they are safe and secure before any fireworks start. If you do walk in the dark on Bonfire Night, it might be a good idea to keep your dog on a lead.
- Act normal. Your dog will react to your body language – and if you seem worried, it will make them feel worse. If your dog comes to you seeking comfort or reassurance then you should absolutely provide it – but be aware that approaching your dog for excessive cuddling and comforting can make your them feel that there is even more reason to be scared. It’s best to stay calm, behave as normally as possible and follow your dog’s lead.
- Use distraction techniques. Keep the TV or radio on in the background to drown out some of the noise and provide a sense of normality.
- Provide a den. You might find your dog will want to hide away under a bed or in a crate with a blanket draped over the top. This will help them feel secure and you shouldn’t try to coax them out before they are ready.
- Create positive associations. Helping your dog overcome its fear of loud noises like fireworks is something that takes time. Think about putting a long-term plan in place to gradually introduce loud noises to your dog in a way that builds their confidence. Noises should be introduced slowly and initially at a very low volume, and tolerating them should be matched with a calming reward. You won’t see instant results but if you put the effort in you should notice a big difference by the time Bonfire Night next year comes round.
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