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.

Snoozing in the City – Arthur’s Adventures


Those of you that know me well, know that as well as Arthur I have 3 other dogs. Of these 3, 2 are reactive to other dogs, and one also reactive to people. One of the bigger priorities I have with Arthur is simple, in theory, allow him to become a confident puppy who can handle whatever life throws at him! Essentially, socialise, socialise, socialise!

 


So what is socialisation? The term has become muddied with people seeming to take extremes in approaches. Either frustrating the dog and taking every experience incredibly slowly or pushing a dog into every situation regardless of how they feel. For me socialisation is simple, Arthur should remain confident about whatever the situation was following it. If it challenges him slightly, this is less of a concern while he is a young puppy. Puppies tend to bounce back from situations and if we handle it appropriately we can turn small signs of uncertainty into ones of confidence and joy.

Arthur relaxing around Lincoln Cathedral


So from the very get go Arthur went out in so many different places. Not driving and not wanting to over walk him I either carried him or popped him in a specialised puppy backpack and then popped him on the floor the places where I wanted him to potter. Arthur was quite a bit barky from the moment he had his first walk, this was a worry but not something worth making a massive deal about for me. He was barking from joy and excitement. Not ideal but with every person and dog he saw he got less interested. Walks were about socialising, seeing sights, hearing new sounds and watching the world go by. Less about walking time more about quality time.


Loose lead walking and focus wasn’t of huge importance to me, he was only a baby- it is crazy to expect him to have the self-control of an adult dog. Arthur, being the strange little creature he is, was much more fond of the hustle and bustle of the city than walking down boring roads. His tail wagged furiously when taken to Castle Square in Lincoln. A busy day there was so much to take in, the only thing that caused a slight degree of anxiety was a horse and carriage, but a laugh from me and dropping down with him and he was fine (and has been since!) He settled by my feet often and just because content with everything to see. On more than one occasion he would happily sleep in the middle of the busy City! Always happy to greet new people and dogs, never once attempting to jump up people I ensured I reinforced this behaviour by treating him and this is something that was never an issue.

We didn’t just visit the City though, it was important to go different places every day. So he got used to new roads, dogs, people, sounds and environments. Places that were empty, supermarket car parks, Pets at Home, fun dog shows, large open fields, small playing fields everywhere you can think of! He took a while to adjust to traffic, so we went on walks specifically to address this, finding a busy road with a large path and empty car park and field nearby we went there regularly to play with toys, sometimes even just to chew on a chew or kong. Now traffic is not a concern of his. I didn’t stand and make him look at traffic or reward him for staring at it. Instead, traffic was the background noise to fun things, games with toys and excitement. It wasn’t something to be forced to be near, the sound just became background noise to him.

Arthur enjoying himself at Greetwell Quarry Lincoln

Sleeping around such busy settings and also regularly checking in with me was exactly what I was looking for, and he achieved it so easily. He loved every moment of this and the only quirk he had on walks was a refusal to walk in certain places. Something he no longer does at 7 months (I will write on this in a later blog!) He is now beginning his teenage phase, things are a touch different now, he is more excited about people but he rarely barks at dogs now. He will focus more and perform behaviours on walks as well as enjoying walks with one of his best friends Django! Socialisation is certainly not over yet though- not even slightly!