Fireworks and helping your dog cope
Club member, Keith Jones writes about some ways to help your dog cope during the upcoming firework season.
'It’s firework season again and many of our dogs can cope with the loud bangs and flashing lights, but there are quite a few, around 40%, who find fireworks very frightening! The information below explains some of the things we can we do to help our dogs with this.
Practical things we can do:
Walk your dog at times when fireworks are less likely to be set-off - Fireworks tend to be let off at night, change your routine to walk your dog during the day.
Walk your dog on the lead or a long line in firework season - If your dog is really frightened by fireworks, it makes sense to only walk them on the lead at this time and ensure their collar and/or harness are fitted correctly, that your dog cannot get out of it if even if they panic and try to get away from the frightening bangs and flashes.
Make sure that your garden is as escape-proof as possible - Take your dog out into the garden to toilet, on the lead or a long line and at times when fireworks are less likely; sometimes this isn’t possible or a firework could be let off at unexpected times, in anticipation of this make sure that your garden is as escape-proof as possible. If your dog is panicking they can run, jump, climb or dig more than you expect. Note: if your dog does panic and tries escape out of the garden don’t chase them this is likely to make their fear even worse just be calm and use your recall.
Make sure your dog is wearing ID and your microchip details are up to date - When your dog is outside ensure that they are wearing legal ID (name tag or plate with your name and address on it). This will help your dog to get home if found by a neighbour. Make sure that their microchip details are up-to-date - the contact details for all the approved databases can be found here:
Find out when the local displays are going to be - Being forewarned is forearmed! Knowing when the local displays are going to be held will allow you to prepare and make sure that your dog has been to the toilet etc well before the display
Preparation – help your dog to feel less worried:
You can help your dog with the noise by playing noise CDs etc. This is ideally done over a long period, start by playing noises quietly and slowly increase the volume and associate the noises to nice things, play/treats etc – if your dog won’t eat or play they are too stressed and you need to take a step back in the training and reduce the volume and take more time The Kennel Club have a Spotify playlist of noises which can be found here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7jKSsXJKdj6KSNAWDxnmjY
Make a den (or safe place) for your dog Many dogs like to be in a comfortable, quiet and darkened place, such as a crate with a duvet or blanket over it (the duvet will as a sound deadening device) don’t force your dog to go in and never close the door when there are fireworks – this will make them feel trapped and will be counterproductive!
Help during fireworks:
Use music or the TV to mask firework noises - This can help hide the noise of the fireworks, however playing music very loud can be as frightening as the fireworks and if you don’t normally play music your dog may associate music with fireworks!
Let your dog find their own safe space - If your dog wants to hide under the bed or similar dark and quiet spaces let them be and don’t force them to go elsewhere.
Reassure you dog - If your dog comes to you for reassurance then give them comfort and a fuss – don’t be worried that praise will make the fear worse – that’s not how fear works!
Be calm - Dogs pick up on how we act – if you are calm and cheerful, this will help your dog with positive vibes
Reward your dog - Reward calm behaviour with treats or play!
Never tell your dog off - Don’t shout or tell your dog off for being scared – this will make their fear a whole lot worse!!!
The internet does have some useful resources about fireworks – ensure that you are happy with the advice and make sure that they follow they use kind reward based methods; the list below are a good place to start: