Handling Fireworks Night

Fireworks preparation!

Remember remember your dogs this November.

Fireworks are very challenging for some dogs to handle, the sound can be very overwhelming. It can cause some dogs to spiral into a panic and get into a state.

If this were one night that could be predicted, it would make everything easier for us as dog owners, but we all know that it is generally more like a few days, to a few weeks to even a few months of the noises for some of us!

Get prepared NOW. Do you not wait until the night.

Be prepared if you have:

-A puppy, you may not know how they will handle the noises.
-A recently rescued dog. Again you may not know how they will handle these sounds.
-An older dog. An older dog may develop fears as they age that they didn’t previously have in their youth.
-A generally anxious dog. Fireworks could easily be a trigger for dogs who are generally anxious.
-A dog you KNOW is already scared of fireworks.

Start your prep NOW, don’t delay it.

Search “fireworks” in youtube, and play this sound in the background frequently. Ensure its at the lowest volume possible. So as not to distress your dog. This is important.

Play this quietly at a barely audible level for a few days, then increase the volume after a few playthroughs, only increasing the volume by one “notch” each time. If your dog is reacting or showing signs of anxiety- go back a step. Over the coming few weeks increase the volume very slowly. Do not rush this.

By doing this you will help your dog become accustomed to the sounds.

Often people say to me “But my dogs KNOWS when its the computer and when its not real”
Some dogs can become more anxious when they are real, as there will be physical pressure and sounds much closer and higher. However desensitizing them to the sounds at the very least goes a long way.

My top tip for this is to buy a bluetooth speaker, rig it up to your phone or computer. Then place the speaker near a window. This will help give a more realistic effect of the sound and where it comes from.

For my dogs, I will be exposing them to the sounds at very low levels when they are relaxed, and when they are having meals. So they are getting positive associations and associations with relaxation too.


A den/crate can be a great place to let your dog relax and hide from the scary sounds the night will bring.


Top Tips:

-Ensure that your dog’s i.d and microchip details are up to date. Your dog should be safe and secure on fireworks night, but as discussed earlier you cannot always know when people might let them off nearby on other days. Having all contact details up to date will ensure your dog is quickly reunited should anything go wrong.
-Speak to your vet if you are concerned about your dog and how badly they will handle it, they will be able to advise appropriately.


-If your dog is anxious DON’T let them out in the evening on fireworks night. It is NOT worth the risk. Keep them secure.
-DO NOT take your dog out during the fireworks. This will not reduce their fear and will more than likely backfire.
-DO reassure your dog if they approach you when they are anxious. You cannot reinforce a fear in your dog. Your presence will likely provide them with more comfort.


-Try giving your dog a den, such as a crate or quiet place in the house. This will help them feel more secure. One of my dogs prefers the landing or upstairs on fireworks night so he is allowed to sleep there.
-A thundershirt or anxiety wrap can be ideal for some dogs. BUT please get your dog used to wearing it BEFORE fireworks. Some dogs can shut down and become anxious wearing one, refusing to move. Some owners may misinterpret this as a dog who is relaxed, and then when fireworks arrive the dog will be doubly stressed. Ensure your dog is used to wearing one, and being rewarded for moving around in one if they look uncomfortable.


-Sprays and plugins can be helpful, some dogs get on great with Pet Remedy while others do well with adaptil, while some dogs may appear to show no signs of reduced stress with them.
-Dorwest Valerian Drops are fast acting and provide my oldest Whippet Ollie with much relief on fireworks night.

Whatever happens, be there for your dog and prep your dogs well.

Kongs and similar items might help create positive associations and occupy young dogs throughout.

Clingy Canine – Arthur’s Adventures

As soon as Arthur was brought home I was determined he would be crate trained. There are so many benefits to this including the potential for him to come to training sessions with me when he matured. I had various kongs and chews at the ready. A massive spanner was put in the works though, as I have previously mentioned, Arthur would not eat from Kong’s, he would not eat chews, and he really didn’t entertain food for the first few weeks. So how did crate training go?

It didn’t. Arthur had a crate at his breeder’s so I assumed he would have been ok, I attempted training in the daytime. This just didn’t happen, food wasn’t very interesting. I tried placing his meals in there, he ate and left promptly. I tried popping him in his crate with the door open when he was in a deep puppy sleep, he scooted straight out. He slept with his crate directly next to my bed at night with minimal interruptions but with random whimperings throughout the night once his bladder could manage it he joined me on the bed. I assume because he was used to spending every moment he could with his littermates and minimal input from the humans in his household at the breeders it was all a lot to take in, he was 12 weeks old which was a month older than the age i had wanted to bring a puppy home at.

 

Arthur cuddling with the grown ups

 

Arthur bonded fast with everyone, in his own fashion. To the point not being in the room with us caused hysterics. I do not believe in ignoring a distressed dog. There is science to suggest this does much harm and knocks a puppies self-confidence, particularly at a young age. This meant he spent most of his time with us, and I had to watch his every waking move to interrupt him dive bombing on my oldest whippet, or chewing up the skirting boards. Toys were not very interesting either. Plastic Bottles were at least of some interest, so many of those were given to him for entertainment.

A month or so into Arthur joining us, Marley (one of my older whippets) had to go on 6 weeks of complete rest- including no play with Arthur. Including no Arthur attaching himself to his neck. So we had to put up a gate to separate them unless sleeping. Arthur did not appreciate this, neither did Marley. Arthur’s anxiety about being separated increased. There was much frustration, crying and an Arthur thinking he could chew up a metal gate (he probably could!) This was managed by increasing Arthur’s exercise and mental stimulation (sit for the plastic bottle went down well, odd little dog!)

Arthur curled up with Marley

The last 6 months have been a busy blur! But at some point, Arthur began to enjoy food and chews! I had begun leaving him with a dental stick which occupied him while I left. This helped stop him crying when I left. However, going upstairs was against the rules (Arthur’s rules!), walking the others were against the rules too. He didn’t spend time harassing me for attention, he got plenty of that so would happily settle when I was around, but he lacked any independence.

So Arthur is now almost 9 months old. Arthur will go in his crate when presented with the opportunity, but will not remain in it for long without food! Arthur cannot be left if I go in the back garden with one of the others for training. So where do we go from here? Well ignoring the issue isn’t an option, we have managed it until this point but unless we address it, it will always be managed not dealt with.

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You can see above some vague, wittering notes. These are to keep me motivated, I am very busy lately day to day. If a plan is not made, something does not get done. Having a plan prior to the session means we can see what works and what does not. Currently, we are building independence. This is NOT achieved by ignoring Arthur, this is NOT achieved by reducing exercise. This is achieved by allowing Arthur to feel that GOOD things happen when he is separate. Planning ahead I have several kongs in the fridge, a moderate level of difficulty. To keep him occupied and to challenge him enough to take his mind from me. Too easy? He does it and whines, too difficult? He quickly gives up. It must be full of high value treats, or he loses interest.

I put the toy down, on his mat that he enjoys settling on anyway, set the timer. And I leave the room, closing the gate behind me. I do nothing exciting, usually typing something up. I am out of sight, but the door is not closed, that is too much of a challenge currently. I have tended to work on this in an evening, when he is naturally more tired and likely to settle, setting him up to succeed. We are moving to morning times too. I will continue to increase time and then begin to start doing more with the others. If he begins to react, i have pushed him too far. Behaviour is always information! I hate to see it when trainers describe anxious dogs as bossy, Arthur is unhappy being alone. So he must learn it is a positive thing. Keep an eye on his blog to see how he progresses on this one! I have a feeling it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Settled in his crate