How to prepare your dog for fireworks with training
Many dogs are afraid of fireworks – and why wouldn’t they be! Unfortunately, firework displays aren’t limited to 5th November, so it’s best to be prepared at any time from October through New Year’s Eve. If you already know your dog is terrified of fireworks, do speak to your vet or a dog behaviourist for advice. There isn’t a quick fix, and sometimes medication may be needed.
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Dogs and fireworks: how to prepare your dog with training
There are things you can do to help an already anxious dog or to make sure a dog who hasn’t yet experienced their first fireworks season copes as well as possible.
- Safety first: keep your dog on lead, even in the garden, unless you’re absolutely certain they can’t get out. Check their collar or harness is secure, that microchip information is up to date, and that they’re wearing their ID tag. A frightened dog may scramble over a fence or tunnel through a hedge.
- Be there: your dog will find it far harder to cope alone. Ignore old-school advice that it’s wrong to comfort them. You will help by being a reassuring presence. And, just as you might with a nervous small child, be calm and comforting. If they seek your lap or a soothing hand, do offer it.
- Provide a ‘safe place’: many dogs will find it helpful to have a covered den in an area where they feel most comfortable. Where they feel safest when stressed is your dog’s choice – it might be in their crate, under a bed or behind a sofa. Wherever they are likely to choose, cover it perhaps with an old duvet to reduce the noise and flashing lights. Don’t shut them in as they may panic if they feel both scared and trapped. Close windows and draw the curtains if possible.
- Think about exercise and toileting: plan walks well before dusk in the hope of avoiding the fireworks, and try and get them to toilet before it kicks off as they may not be prepared to do so later. You may have to get up in the middle of the night or very early to take your dog out instead. It’s probably a good idea to leave newspaper or pads on the floor, just in case.
- Alternative sounds: play music or have the TV on. There are also sites where you can get music that’s specially written to calm dogs.
- Distracting your dog isn’t always possible but well worth trying. Have their favourite treats and good tasty chews available, play games, try gentle massages. But if they just want to hide away, allow them to do so.
- There are a number of products designed to calm pets. You can try Pet Remedy plug-in diffusers or sprays. Your dog may benefit from a body wrap such as a Thundershirt or hoodies designed to go over their ears – but get them used to these well in advance.
Remember, only your dog can decide what’s helpful! With a little preparation, hopefully your dog will get through it all relatively calmly.
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This article was written by Vicky Carne, founder of The Dog Coach. Contact Vicky via the website for more information or to book an appointment.
Following a career in publishing and technology, Vicky’s lifelong interest in animal behaviour led her to the study of modern dog training methods, and she has now spent over a decade as a dog trainer. She has run puppy classes, had many puppies to stay for board and training, and worked one-to-one with hundreds of dogs and their owners. Her focus has always been on helping owners quickly learn what they need to know when they bring a new puppy or older dog into their home.
With that in mind, a couple of years ago, she published her first online courses for new puppy owners. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the greater need for online training, she is now also publishing courses by other leading dog trainers, supported by her through online groups. Her mission is to help busy families become trained, happy owners enjoying life with their happy, trained dogs.
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