ANXIOUS DOGS DON’T MIX WELL WITH FIREWORKS
It’s that time of year again, Christmas crackers, popping champagne bottles and fireworks!! If you are like me and have an anxious dog, you may not be looking forward to it. But stress less, we are here to help. Read on to find out how to calm your dog and make the silly season as stress-free as possible for you both.
If you live right near the source of the noise, maybe you can take your dog to a family member or friends house for the night. The best action when it comes to an anxious dog is avoiding the stimulus that makes them anxious or fearful in the first place. However, I understand this is not an option for everyone, so read on for some survival tips.
- Take your dog away from the cause of their anxiety and fear
IT’S ALL ABOUT CHOICE!
Allow your dog to choose their safe place. You will most likely have noticed your dog will go to a particular spot when there are loud noises or storms. It’s good to be aware of where this is, so you can get it ready for the NY countdown.
My bub’s safe place is in the walk-in closet, it’s dark, small and away from windows. Safety permitted, leave the doors to bedrooms, bathrooms or Harry Potter cupboards under the stairs open and allow your dog to choose where they feel the safest.
Choice is so important for an anxious dog because it allows them to control the situation (as best they can) – an essential step when you’re learning how to calm your dog. This might mean your dog may have more than one safe place, BONUS!!
If you have an outside dog, make sure they have somewhere safe, maybe even let them inside. Fireworks don’t last long, and it will keep them safe and reduce the likeliness of them injuring themselves or your property by trying to escape.
- Let your dog choose a space where they can hide during the fireworks.
- If possible let outside dogs in, this will reduce the likeliness of them escaping, injuring themselves or damaging your property.
GIVE THEIR SAFE PLACE SOME STYLE
Once your dog has chosen their safe place or places, give it some style. Let your imagination run wild, you can make the space comfy by adding their favourite blankets, cushions, pillows, beds and toys. (We do this at our doggy day care in Wollongong too).
Add a radio or speaker so you can play calming music (easily found on YOUTUBE for free), music will help drown out the sound. An anxious dog is likely to experience a rise in body temperature so you can put a fan in their safe space (as long as this doesn’t scare them) or turn the aircon on.
If possible block out any visuals of the fireworks. My dog likes a dark room, but yours might be scared of the dark. Just test it and see how they react.
- Make the space comfortable, you can add blankets, pillows and toys.
- Play calming music, this helps to calm and drown out the scary sounds.
- Your dogs body temp may rise, keep it cool with a fan or aircon.
SCENT: Use their superpower
Dog’s use their sense of smell, like we use sight. There are many scents that can have a calming effect on dogs such as, lavender, chamomile and coconut. You can use essential oils in a diffuser or spray the scent on their blankets or a bandana on their collar.
Adaptil® is a popular choice and recommended by many professionals. It is a synthetic recreation of a calming pheromone and comes in many forms. We use the spray and diffuser at BEBT in our fear-free grooming area to help calm nervous pups.
Remember each dog is an individual so will react differently, some may even have an allergic reaction. Make sure you monitor your dog when applying any new scent or substance to their environment.
- Use calming scents such as lavender or coconut, as a spray or in a diffuser
- Adaptil® is a synthetic calming pheromone, it is known to calm anxious dogs
GIVE THEM A CONSTANT HUG….
You may have heard of weighted blankets to help with anxiety in humans. Well, you guessed it, dogs have them too. I don’t have much experience with the blankets and since new years happens in summer here in Australia, I use the ThunderShirt.
The idea is to create a constant comforting pressure, like a hug. It is similar to swaddling an infant. You can purchase them or make your own. If you are in a hotter climate, just be sure to monitor your dog as they may overheat.
- ThunderShirts provide constant comforting pressure, like swaddling an infant
There is some old-school of thought that comforting your dog when they are anxious will reinforce it. I would like to put this to rest right now. If you will indulge me, think of something that gives you the heebie jeebies, mine is spiders. Now, imagine you are locked in a room full of your worst nightmare, are you thinking straight? The answer is no!
When animals (including humans) are in a stressed state, they are not taking information in. This means by comforting your dog, you are not reinforcing the anxiety or fear, you are just comforting them. I know I like it when someone comforts me when I’m frightened because it’s comforting. It is OK to comfort your dog when they are stressed or scared, be the best damn paw-rent you can be and hug your dog.
- Comforting your dog will not reinforce the fear.
- It is ok to comfort your dog when they are scared.
- Your dog is not in state of learning when beyond a certain level of stress/anxiety/fear
MAKE IT POSITIVE
This one depends on the stress level of your dog. If they are too stressed to eat then don’t worry, just stick to the above tips and do your best. If your dog is still taking food from you, then you can try and take some control over the situation and desensitise.
To desensitise your dogs fear of loud noises such as fireworks: Keep a really good treat, something they only get on very special occasions (like storms or fireworks) and either slowly feed it to them (you might want to give a piece per bang) or put it in a food toy.
What this does is it lets them associate the scary noise with these awesome treats. Which will hopefully after some repetition change their relationship to the sounds. Instead of scary sound I’m stressed, it will begin to mean, loud sound, heck yes I get my super special loud noise treats.
You can even do this step with dogs that aren’t affected by the noise of fireworks. We often take for granted when our dog isn’t scared of things, but as dogs age, their fears and anxieties can change.
So if we take the time when they are younger and create positive associations with storms and fireworks it means they’ll be looking forward to new years just as much as you. Just follow the desensitisation info above and watch your dog get excited about the loud noise.
Why not get them to enjoy fireworks instead of just tolerating them, this will be valuable for you in the long run.
- If your dog is too stressed to eat, leave this tip
- If your dog is taking food, do some desensitisation training
- Give your dog a special treat for each bang
- For dogs that aren’t scared by the noise, turn it into a game. Make them love fireworks instead of just tolerating them.
Good luck, remember to think ahead, plan a safe space and some treats and get ready to do your best. If your dog is super stressed by fireworks you might want to consult your vet, there are medications to help take the edge off.
Wishing you luck and a happy new year!!!
🙂 The BEBT team