READ: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/dogs-and-fireworks for good basic advice
Further information by East Barnet Training School
Young dogs experiencing their first fireworks, and dogs slightly anxious about fireworks: Bear in mind all the points in the link above and additional information below, but also have a bowl of really tasty treats ready for the first few bangs the dog notices this year. Food the dog really likes, maybe cut up chicken or hotdogs? Have all the family ready and waiting. As soon as the dog notices the bangs throw some treats in front of him/her immediately. Repeat with every noticeable bang. If you are on the ball with this you will hopefully end up with a dog who loves to hear fireworks! DO NOT worry about over feeding your dog – cut down their normal food to take into account these treats or use some of their usual food ration if they really love their meals.
Avoid walking your dog in the dark, one nasty bang could result in an ongoing fear especially if he/ she hasn’t experienced fireworks before. Have curtains closed and lights on inside the house.
Have plenty of good quality chews for your dog to keep him/her occupied during the long evenings. Tripe chews, antlers, buffalo horns are all good – nothing rawhide or containing lots of strange chemicals. Look into feeding via Kongs or snufflemats rather than in a bowl. Or conceal their food in cardboard recycling and let them rip it up? Dogs LOVE working for their food, it’s really good for occupying their brain and it will distract them from the fireworks.
Very frightened dogs:
Throwing treats as above won’t work, they will be too stressed to eat. Make a note to contact East Barnet Dog Training and pet care next summer as it takes a good 3 months to desensitise very scared dogs so they can cope better. In the meantime, follow all the Blue Cross suggestions and the info below:
As the link suggests, let your scared dog settle wherever they feel the safest. Consider making them even more comfortable with a square of comfy Vet Bed (available on Amazon), a wrapped hot water bottle and perhaps covering the area to make it into a little den, but be careful NOT to put the dog off his/her safe area by overdoing it. Music playing close to their safe place may help. Reggae and soft rock have been proven to be the most soothing for dogs in scientific experiments. Or Talksport is good as it’s generally calm, monotonous talking. Get the dog used to the sound of the radio/music NOW – BEFORE the fireworks start. Don’t have it too loud Discontinue if it bothers the dog.
Try not to leave the dog on their own in the dark. If you aren’t going to be home before dark ENSURE the dog has access to their safe place. Leave the house as open as possible so the dog doesn’t feel trapped. Lights on curtains closed as mentioned above. Ask a neighbour or temporary dog walker/carer* to walk the dog or let the dog out for a toilet break before it gets dark?
Thundershirts/Anxiety jackets: These are designed to ‘cuddle’ and comfort the dog. They work well for some dogs but have little or no effect on others. Three important points regarding these:
- You must get your dog used to the jacket slowly, over the course of at least a week. Merely eating a few treats off it at first. Then feed treats with the jacket loosely draped over the dog. Then the same but with the jacket fastened for a few seconds. etc.
- Use the jacket randomly not just when fireworks are expected, you DON’T want the dog to think “Jacket? NO!!! FIREWORKS!!! PANIC!!”
- If the dog doesn’t like the jacket don’t use it and don’t leave it on for long periods either
You can try emulating a Thundershirt with a scarf, but exercise caution and follow 1/2/3 above.
‘T Touch’ massage: If your dog finds comfort in cuddling up to you, try slow, very gentle, tiny circles (one and a quarter times round each time on the SKIN of his/her chest using the tips of four fingers of one hand. Massage randomly, all over the chest, not on one spot. Or gently stroke their ears from halfway down to the tip between a finger and thumb – but all of this is potentially useful ONLY if the dog clearly likes the attention.
Adaptil products can be purchased at pet stores or via the internet not just at the Vet – collars, plug-ins, sprays etc. These mimic the pheromones produced by Mum’s nursing their puppies and can have a calming effect on some dogs. Harmless and worth a try. The spray is usually the cheapest – try that first? Spray wherever the dog lays in his/her safe place. I have received more positive feedback regarding Adaptil than cheaper products e.g. Pet Remedy.
Don’t hesitate to ask your Vet about prescription medication if the dog is really scared. There are several drugs which can really help. Legally and ethically I can’t suggest specific drugs but I will say most modern Vets and Behaviourists are against the use of Acepromazine – this incapacitates the body leaving the mind fully active therefore acting like a chemical strait jacket. It is very unlikely this would be suggested in this day and age, but I’d never allow my dog to have it L
I cannot stress enough how important it is not to force your dog into anything, not to tell him/her off for anxious weeing/pooing/chewing. Doing that will make the dog even more stressed. The whole “the owner must be the Alpha leader and show they are boss” idea has been completely discredited by modern research. Be nice to your poor scared pooch!
I’m very happy to answer any questions. Don’t forget to contact me next June/July to discuss desensitising your dog if he/she is very nervous – and please check out East Barnet Dog Training & Pet Care on Facebook for the other services I offer, prices quoted are approximate, I create bespoke packages.
* I have some availability for temporary walking/toilet breaks over the firework season although unfortunately, I do not offer a fulltime dog walking service.
07919 261 834
IMDT accredited dog trainer (reward-based training)
Canine Behaviourist qualifications to OCN level 4/5
CPD level 3 Higher Distinction in Pet Care/Dog Walking
K9 first aid certificate
References supplied with pleasure
Here at Finchley Dog Walker we recommend Jacky from East Barnet Dog Training and Pet care