End of October marks Autumn in full swing with evenings drawing in, temperatures dropping and trees becoming bare.
It also brings on the start of Fireworks season; no longer are fireworks focused around 5th November but often start in October and run through to Christmas and New Year, as well as being more available all year for bank holidays, birthdays and weddings.
If you are the owner of a dog who is fearful of reactive to fireworks this makes for a really scary and stressful time for your dog and a tough time for owners as there’s rarely a break from fireworks each evening for a number of weeks so a fearful dog has no chance to recover in between exposure.
October and November are not times where we can easily work on solving fireworks fears with dogs due to the lack of break from the noise, smells and vibrations, but there are many things that owners can do to help their dogs to cope better, not become worse and in some cases can help them be a little less fearful. The best times to work on fireworks fears is March through to June so dogs can work gradually on the methods without risk of constant exposure to fireworks.
Management for Fireworks Fears involved several areas and here is my foundation guide for you – people who have attended our Noise and Fireworks Fears Seminar or Practical Workshops have been given in depth guidance and help more specific to their dogs but this guide is to give you something to focus on to help your fearful dog and prepare you for starting more individual work next year if you would like to help your dog fully!
Guide for Firework Fear Management:
– Start helping your dog by preparing an area for them to go to to feel secure such as their crate with a cover on in a quiet place (not by a window or outer door!!), adjust a table or sofa so they can go behind or under, open a cupboard door and prop open and have a cosy blanket there to create a safe zone. It can even be a play tent or washing basket if that’s where your dog feels safe!. This area needs to be accessible to your dog as much as possible at this time starting immediately and let your dog know it’s there by sitting with them, giving treats or playing with toys to make it appealing and somewhere they want to be.
Having this safe area means your dog can take themselves off to their cosy space to cope better. A cosy space naturally makes dogs feel secure when it’s somewhere they like and gives them space to cope.
– Give your dog a boost by looking into something to help nerves and stress. There are many products available and there isn’t one specific on that I would recommend to all dogs specifically but there are several that have helped different dogs;
* Bach Rescue Remedy – in your dogs water bowl each time you refresh
* Individual Remedies created for your dog, including essences by Bach, Bailey etc
* DAP Diffuser – plugged in 24/7 in the room your dog spends most time in
* Skullcap and Valerian – many places sell this but Dorwest Herbs do a variety of types
* Oil burners with essence in used each afternoon / evening
* Massage therapy
– Try to continue routines as normally as possible without becoming tense or worried yourselves. If your dog sees their family running about closing curtains, turning up the TV or commenting on each firework being heard they are going to believe that everyone is bothered and this increases their own fear or weariness
– Be accessible to your dog. If they need to have some interaction then sit somewhere they can reach you – sitting by your feet, curled up by you on the sofa, laying on your lap – this can provide enough comfort and familiarity to help many dogs cope to get through without getting worse. Ideally just be there without going overboard with your praise and fuss as this is acting out of the ordinary for a cuddle (unless you usually fussy your dog hugely for sitting near you!) and can cause suspicion leading to more apprehension!
Every dog is different, with varying levels of fear and location makes a difference to as fireworks taking place next to your home will affect a noise fearful dog more then fireworks many miles away so the guide here is simply to give you some help for now to see your dog through but isn’t intended to remove the fear long term or cure for this firework season. For next year look at working with your dog on specific training work and for now try these to help.
If this is your puppies first firework session try acting perfectly normal or even grabbing a toy and having a game with your puppy to get them having fun and showing you are not fussed about the new noises, Windows rattling or smells in the air and this will help prevent fireworks fears.
There are many methods to help dogs fearful of fireworks and each dog requires methods to suit them best and a programme of work that fits in with each family individually and cannot be identified as a general guide but start with this foundation list to manage for now.
Wishing you all a safe and stress free fireworks season 🐾
KCAI (CD), CTDI, CPCFT