Many of us who have dogs do not get excited about the fireworks as much as others. We know that our dog is either hiding under the table, barking for an hour or shivering in fear. Firework fear is common amongst dogs. You do not have to look for any logical or evolutionary explanation. Fear is often illogical, triggered by imaginable or real threat.
How can you prepare your dog and lessen the unpleasant experience?
First of all, if you have a puppy who hasn’t seen the fireworks yet or a dog who is not afraid, use the chance to make a positive association between loud noises and positive rewards. The fear can develop in life, especially with unpleasant experiences. Link loud sounds like thunder, pot dropping on the floor, door slamming with a positive reward. Create artificial conditions or use the naturally occurring ones to treat, praise the dog or start a game whenever loud sounds are present. Veterinary behaviourists can help your dog at dissolving this fear by counterconditioning. How does counterconditioning work? For example I am afraid of spiders but if I get 5 euros every time I see a spider, my fear will definitely lessen or I even will anticipate and wait to spot a spider. The same works for dogs. You can even buy a cd with scary noises that you can use when desensitising and making a positive association for your dog. Do not forget just buying cd does not work, you have to make a link between a scary sound and a pleasant experience. This will require time and lots of repetitions.
On the New Years eve do not leave your dog alone, if you are not able to stay, maybe your grandma, neighbour can stay with your dog. Friends in need are friends indeed. Close the windows, put some music on in order to lower the firework noise. If you decide to take your dog with you outside, even though we do not encourage that, leash him/her, no matter if you are in a village with no traffic. In the moment of fear, the dog can act as it is logical to act, run from the threat.
There is a popular myth or misunderstanding that one should not comfort a dog if he/she is afraid. This is untrue, if your dog seeks attention from you, be gentle, reassure your dog, play a game, serve a dinner or just lay your hand on your friend. If the dog does not approach you and hides, better leave him there. Everybody copes with overwhelming emotions differently. If the dog wants to hide do not force nearness, if you see your dog yawning or avoiding eye contact once you approach him, leave him. Anxiety can push your dog behave unexpectedly or even aggressively.
If your dog has grave problems, it is worth consulting your veterinary doctor to discuss other means to help your dog. There are calming collars, tablets, drops that are composed of natural, herbal ingredients or even pheromone like substances that calm dogs down in stressful situations.
So whatever it is your dog afraid of – fireworks, vacuum cleaner, umbrellas etc. be with your dog, play a game, give some tasty treats, take it away from the situation if possible. Be a good friend do not leave your dog in fear. Good associations or distractions will slowly dissolve the fear and make your dog enjoy New Years evening a bit more than a year before.
Dogo Team wishes you happy, relaxed, beautiful New Year.