Preparing your dog for Fireworks Night

Preparing your dog for Fireworks Night

by Mike on November 1, 2012

in Articles, Dog Blog

Bonfire night and the fireworks events in the run up (and after) the 5th November can be a distressing time for dogs who suffer from noise anxiety. According to the RSPCA, up to 45% of dogs in the UK show fearful behaviour when they hear fireworks – potentially affecting up to three million dogs across the United Kingdom this Guy Fawkes night.

There are many ways to help dogs, physically and using equipment. I have included a few suggestion to help calm your dog, but you could also play them the More Than Pet Insurance’s bedtime story of Teddy and Stanley’s Tall Tale! More Than Pet Insurance has released the world’s first bedtime story for dogs. The audiobook, narrated by actor Simon Callow, has been scientifically developed to calm and relax dogs ahead of and during Bonfire Night celebrations.

Top 3 tips to calm your dog

Dogs who have noise anxiety may demonstrate many symptoms of stress and fear including yawning, shaking, panting, drooling, barking, whining, hyperactivity, clawing, digging, hiding, and generally being a bit “clingy”.

1. Lots of fresh air

Take a hike, literally! Plenty of physical and mental exercise will tire out you, your dog (and any children!). If you work your dog with games like hiding toys, and obedience training like walking to heel, recalls and playing fetch will help you and your pet get a good night’s sleep. When the fireworks and loud bangs start, then your dog may cope more easily.

2. Use appropriate Positive Reinforcement

When your stressed dog ignores the bangs and crashes praise them highly. The trick to this is great timing, and plenty of treats. Whenever your dog stops the negative behaviour (barking, whining etc.) that is the moment to heap on the praise. This also goes the other way. Don’t say “good boy” when your dog is whining, just to reassure them. That isn’t behaviour you should be praising, and would be really confusing to the dog. They will start to think that they get rewarded when they react to the noises. Focus on the positive, and be consistent. This takes patience, and I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to get the timing right. When we first started training Theo, I would verbally say “good boy” and then spend a minute searching my pockets for kibble to reward him. In that minute, Theo would have lost the connection between the good behaviour and the reward. If you reward instantly and present the reward instantly, then your dog will soon catch on. It is worth mentioning at this point that small titbits are enough for training.. before you have an overweight puppy on your hands!

3. Create a safe zone

Chances are, if your dog is scared of fireworks they will want to hide. It is common behaviour to run, freeze or even become aggressive when loud noises are going off. If you can help them feel safe by creating a “safe zone”, such as a crate filled with bedding, or under a table. You can enhance this feeling of safety by placing their favourite toys in there – or even a Kong filled with treats (a little peanut butter works well for Theo). You could also think about “sound proofing”, closing doors, shutting curtains, turn the tv on to distract your furry friend.

 

Well, I hope that helps. Good luck and wrap up warm!

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