Tonight and throughout this weekend we are more than likely going to be having more fireworks to contend with. There are steps you can take to try to make the evening all round a saver and less stressful event for your pets.
1) Ensure your pets are walked throughout the daylight hours, so they’re more tired & relaxed.
2) Take them into the garden for a pee/poop BEFORE the festivities start.
3) Make sure they are microchipped/tattooed AND wearing their collar.
4) Have them on a long lead so that if a firework DOES take you by surprise, they cannot bolt from you.
5) Leave the door open while you are in the garden so that if they need to get in quickly, they can.
6) Ensure your garden is escape-proof. Even if they’ve never tried to jump a fence or gate before, a terrified dog is an irrational dog and they can easily tear off in a blind panic (hence the lead).
7) Turn up the TV or radio to muffle the sounds (a bit of serious Rock Music does the trick beautiful – a bit of ACDC or Guns n Roses never comes in wrong).
8) Shut the curtains and keep the lights on full – this will disguise any bright flashes from outside. Sitting in the dark will only intensify how bright the explosions appear an will be counter productive.
9) Provide a safe area where they can retreat to hide if necessary but stay with them.
10) Comfort them if they appear afraid and reassure them that all is well – your comfort will NOT reinforce their belief that something is wrong.
11) Use calming scents and smells such as Lavender and the DAP machines and perhaps consider using a collar with such fragrances embedded in it.
12) Use calming herbal remedies such as Serene-um which do not “drug” your dog, but will hopefully take the edge off the level of anxiety.
13) Thundershirts – specially designed dog vests that wrap them up tightly, giving a sense of security to help them cope with many things including, as the name implies, thunder and many other stressful situations.
13) Perhaps try something like these “Mutt Muffs” to keep the noise down and protect those precious ears. https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FMutt-Muffs-DDR337-Hearing-Protection%2Fdp%2FB002CZQ1TA&h=qAQHgSmD3 (I would suggest getting these well in advance if you intend to use something like this as they will need to be introduced gently so that your dog doesn’t mind wearing them).
There is also a company called HappyHoodies.com who make soft expandable, fabric bands with gentle compression that relieve anxiety and calm dogs during stressful situations such as force drying, thunderstorms, fireworks, toenail clipping etc. http://www.happyhoodie.com/
You could, of course, fashion something similar with a scarf or snood but please be careful NOT to restrict the windpipe.
Another thing to look into is an app called “The Soundproof Puppy” training app. It comes very highly recommended by force free trainers who use positive techniques in their training methods so why not check this one out too? https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/sound-proof-puppy-training/id700513321?mt=8
All the advice above applies for then and there and really, so far as helping your dog to cope with the stresses, this year is a lost cause. But, WHAT ABOUT NEXT YEAR OR THE YEAR AFTER?
Getting to the week before November 5th and then complaining about fireworks and demanding a petition to ban their sale to members of the public is not going to help – you’re just too late!
You need to work on desensitizing them gently, ALL YEAR, so that when the time comes, they are able to cope with it. There are some great techniques you can use right down to watching the History channel so they get used to hearing cannon and gun fire – you have to think outside the box. Initially, we would be talking about exposure to low level noises with a “prize” for every time the noise happens so they get used to hearing the noise, looking at you for reassurance and getting a reward for checking in with you. Eventually, the noise can be increased and varied until it becomes “oh great, there’s a loud noise, that means treat time”. Its a long, LONG process that needs to be conditioned throughout the year so it can be used at any time in the future be that thunder, lightening, gunshots on a shoot or the dreaded fireworks themselves.
You need to be shown correctly, from the start, how best to introduce the noises in an positive way, without making the situation and their phobia worse. “Flooding” the dog with bangs and crashes and whooshes is not the way to go and will have a completely negative effect. I would seriously consider having a consultation with a good FORCE FREE behavioural trainer as soon as you can so that next year, your dog has a less stressful time.
Its very tough, and I think its fair to say there are very few dogs who actively “like” fireworks, but with the guidance of a good trainer and positive techniques, I’m sure you’d both be much happier. The main thing is, there is NO instant fix unfortunately, so put in the work NOW, for a better result next year.
This was two of my guys this year … think we can safely say they had a pretty stress-free evening!