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Some dogs have no problem with the sight and sound of fireworks if they’ve been desensitized — hunting dogs, for example, grow used to the sounds and smells of hunting rifles and gun powder. Most dogs, however, are not used to these things, so Bonfire Night and the end of the year celebrations can be a particularly stressful time for dogs (and also cats).
It is natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises. The sounds trigger their nervous systems, and they can become anxious or afraid. Running away from the noise is a survival instinct.
Remember, to your dog, the experience of fireworks is different than other natural loud noises, like thunder. Fireworks are closer to the ground, more vibrant, and are accompanied by sudden booms, flashes, and burning smells.
Dogs experience the world through their senses — nose, eyes, ears so the sound of loud fireworks can be very difficult for them.
Here are some tips to help keep your dog calm, during this holiday season.
Dates such as Bonfire night and New Year’s Eve will most certainly be noisy ones. Arrange to have your dog in a place where there won’t be loud fireworks displays — a friend’s or relative’s home or friendly doggie dog kennel with which your dog is familiar.
If you cannot take your dog to a place away from fireworks, then have a travel kennel at home for them to feel safe in. if you’re not going to be home, have a friend or sitter there to keep your dog company.
The best way to prepare your dog for fireworks is to make sure they are comfortable with the sound in advance.
While this is a simple process, it can take time — possibly three or four months of playing the recorded sound of fireworks for your dog at an increasingly louder volume before he eats, before a walk, and before affection and play.
This will condition him by association to hear the sound and interpret it as something good.
While you can try this method over only a week or two, in such a short time span it should only be used in conjunction with one or more of the other tips. In any case, play the firework sounds.
If you do find it necessary to use medication to calm your dog during the fireworks, remember that you must introduce any such tool at the right time, conditioning your dog to understand that the medication is there to bring them into a calm state.
This means that you must bring your dog to that calm state first, then introduce the tool — before the fireworks and the anxiety begin. If your dog is already at an anxiety level of 8 or 9, then their mental state will overrule the medication.
A tool is an intellectual thing we use with a dog’s instincts. The challenge is knowing how and when to connect the two.
If you are going to be with your dog during the fireworks, send a calm message through your behaviour that there is nothing to worry about.
Remember, while humans communicate with words, dogs communicate with energy, and will look to their pack leader for clues on how they should behave. If you’re not making a big deal or showing excitement about the fireworks, then he will learn to be less concerned as well.
In all cases above, expend your dog’s excess energy first, before the fireworks start, by taking them on a long walk.
Perfect-Pets has a wealth of information and essential guides to help dog and cat lovers provide the best care possible. Visit: www.perfect-pets.org for further information.