Fireworks and dog anxiety
Helping dogs with fireworks
Dogs who are scared of fireworks (almost identical for the fear of thunder and many other noises) is a topic that I am passionate about, as I hate to see any animals in fear, especially dogs. True fear, which is what many dogs are experiencing becomes very hard to handle when firstly, you do not understand why your dog is behaving in such a way, and secondly when you do not know what to do to help.
A dog that is scared may pee in the house, run away or hide under a bed, drool, shake uncontrollably, run around barking, whine, escape the property or become destructive. All these behaviors are simply signs of a dog that is stressed. And this can be stopped without force, fear or aggression when you know what to do.
What to do
- Take your dog out for a walk early on so that they are relaxed and tired before the fireworks start up.
- Close all the curtains as the visual stimulation of the fireworks is just one of the things that can make it worse for your dog.
- Turn up the TV, music or radio. This simply deadens the sound so your dog will hear less of the noise
- Close the doors to the rest of the house so your dog is unable to charge around and become more stressed.
- Be ready for an evening in, maybe pour a glass of wine, have a good book or movie ready – If you have a very stressed dog then you will most likely feel you need to be with them.
- If you are leaving your dog alone then be aware that it can be very stressful for them and leaving them outside can be scary.
- Prepare your dog a nice safe place that your dog can go to rest if they chose to relax. Do not try to force them; you can’t force dogs to relax. Dogs with no clear bed will often pace around much more than ones with an obvious bed to go to. Many dogs will love a simple den shaped cardboard box with a soft blanket inside, it does not have to be flash.
- You will need a collar on your dog and may need a leash (it is not essential and do not use one if the leash makes your dog really excited!)
The calm freeze – using actions rather than words
The calm freeze is a very simple but very powerful technique that I use in many situations for calming dogs down. It can be used at the park if they are getting over excited, if they are barking at something and you wish them to stop or in this case when you want to show them another way to behave.
The secret is to show them with your actions rather than your words. Here is the simply summary of the steps to managing fireworks and dog anxiety with a calm freeze. Alternatively you can watch the video.
- Take your dog under the collar using an underhand grips, so your palm should be facing upwards to the sky.
- Hold them as gently as possible. You may only need one finger. It is best if you can find a seat that you are comfy on as it may take a while.
- Stay very calm yourself. Focus on anything other than your dog or the fireworks. Think about the movie, your magazine, friends or your next holiday.
- Ignore your dear lovely dog. No speaking to them, touching them or looking at them. This part is crucial.
- Eventually your dog will sit, but keep hold of them gently under the collar.
- It’s now time for you to transfer your calm energy by BEING CALM. No words are necessary at this point.
- Eventually your dog will lie down, keep hold of them for a while until they are settled and relaxed.
- When they are really relaxed you can let go of them.
- If they seem calm and want to go to their beds let them go.
Monitor your own energy
- Make sure that you are relaxed and focussing on something else other than your dog or the fireworks.
- Check that your hold on your dog is as loose as possible.
- If you can try to encourage others in the house to act as calm as possible with as little screaming, shouting and running as possible!
The two biggest mistakes people make is that when the first few fireworks go off people look at their dogs to see their reaction and the dog looks at them to see if there is a problem and the spiral begins…
The other mistake is that people will try to comfort their nervous or fearful dog who comes up to them wanting a cuddle. Patting them and stroking them and talking to them in your nervous “its okay, baby” sort of voice will make it worse. If they are only a little unsure just move them off you gently and ignore them (make sure they know where their nice safe bed is). If they are becoming really scared then perform the calm freeze.
Become the Pack Leader
Dogs are pack animals and the more your dog respects you and trusts your decisions as the leader of their pack then the more they will watch your behavior and follow suit. So if you remain calm they will simply look at you and be calm. If you really feel like this is part of the problem then you can learn how to do this at www.theonlinedogtrainer.com (read more about it on the blog here). This will undoubtedly have an impact in every area of your life.
Treating the cause of the problem
Other tools such as herbal drops, drugs from the vets and body wraps may also assist your dog to calm down however they do not address the real cause of the problem – instead they treat only the symptoms. For a long term, drug free solution to the fear of fireworks, thunder and much more, then take a look at the above method and become the pack leader.
Love your dog and all the best, oh and please feel free to print this off and read it when you are sitting calmly in your chair..
- Find out more here: The Online Dog Trainer (for over 300 detailed, step-by-step videos covering every issue of dog training, including The 5 Golden Rules of being the Pack Leader).
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