Fear of Fireworks in Dogs
Fear of Fireworks
Every year around Bonfire Night and New Year's Eve, there are lots of dogs that suffer from a fear of fireworks. Although every dog reacts differently, the many loud bangs can cause enormous amounts of stress for your four-legged friend, as they interpret the noise to be a threat. Fear of fireworks or even (thunder)storms can lead to your dog howling, barking or trying to run away.
Fortunately, there are ways to teach your dog how to deal with his fear of fireworks. You should start this training as early as possible, preferably when they are still a puppy, to get them used to loud sounds and prevent the development of fear at a later time. The owner's behaviour is a very important part of this training; if you show signs of fear or anxiety, these feelings will be reinforced in your dog, so stay calm and show them that there is nothing to fear. To start the training, create soft noises while you are playing with your dog and, provided this goes well, you can start increasing the level of noise. Some say that anxious or fearful dogs should be ignored, however, the opposite is true as this only heightens their insecurities. It is important to make sure that your dog feels supported but make sure that you do not become overbearing.
Safe Zone at Home
It is important for your dog to have a 'safe' zone at home; an area without any windows (or at least closed curtains) and as little noise as possible. Leave the television or radio on to allow those noises and lights to mask the sounds coming from outside. In the meantime, you can distract your dog with a toy or a tasty treat. Another method that will help your dog to feel relaxed is warm, soft bedding or a comfortable bed. If you take the dog for a walk, do this at the beginning of the evening when it's still quiet out and make sure you keep them on a leash, so that they cannot run away if a sudden, loud noise frightens them. Finally, make sure you do not light any firework around the house that could startle your dog.
If your dog or puppy has already developed anxiety or fear of loud noises or fireworks, it is possible to take them to an obedience class or a behavioural therapist to train their fear of fireworks. During these classes they will teach the dog that they do not need to fear fireworks and give you, as the owner, useful tips for the best way to respond during certain situations. Furthermore, there are behavioural CDs that will allow your dog to get used to the sounds of fireworks and thunder. You can train your dog not to react anxiously to the sounds by slowly turning up the volume once they get used to it, starting at the lowest volume.
There are different types of sedatives that you can give your dog to calm them down, such as Zylkene, PrimeVal StressLess for Dogs and ThunderShirts for Dogs. Another option could include Royal Canin Calm Diet Dog that has been proven to lower dog's stress levels. You should start the special food approximately three weeks before the event (Bonfire Night, New Year's Eve or other event) and slowly reduce the given amount after the event has passed. If your dog has a really high level of fear or anxiety, please consult your veterinarian.