Fireworks

Posted on: 26 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Remember, remember the fifth of November, well of course we will remember the fifth even here in Cyprus.

Advice from a dog trainer.

Remember, remember the fifth of November, well of course we will remember the fifth even here in Cyprus. At this time of year we get the obligatory warnings about pets and fireworks don't mix, just like "A dog is for life not just Christmas" in the festive season. Unfortunately people expect these warnings and it tends to be one of those messages that you see often enough that it has no real meaning. Well dogs can be very seriously affected during a fireworks display and these affects could be with the dog for the rest of its life. I say dogs but of course loud noises can affect any animal not just pet dogs, however I will concentrate on dogs here.

Although fireworks tend to be used one night a year the results of a dog with an aversion to loud noises can be seen at anytime. For instance if your dog has been affected by a bad experience of fireworks then any loud crack will revive this fear and can be very dangerous. You could be loose running your dog and a car backfires sending your dog into blind panic, this could easily lead to a dog running into the distance or worse onto a road. Believe me this has happened in the past with fatal consequences. I once witnessed a dog scale a 9 foot chainlink fence with barb wire on the top after a firework was set off.

If you find your dog is affected by loud noises then it is in both your interests that you take a course of action that will reduce this fear for the future. Do not fall into the trap of assuming that it is acceptable for your dog to hide under your bed, quivering from fright one night a year. I also do not believe in giving the dog sedatives as a matter of course, this does not solve the problem but just masks it for one night.

As with any form of condition there is a course of action available to you, Prevention, Treatment and Cure. Preventing a dog from developing a fear of load noises can be very easy, especially when done early on in life. It is a simple case of taking your dog into areas that are noisy as part of his daily routine, walking him along a busy main road, near building sights or even past a firing range which is being used. If the dog learns that these noises are a normal part of everyday life then they will accept loud noises so much easier.

If you find your dog is suffering from a fear of fireworks on the night the following treatment should be used in the short term. Quite often the presence of a family member in the house can reduce the anxiety, they can also prevent physical damage to the house if the fear is extreme. If you must go out then try leaving the TV or radio on to help reduce anxiety. The dog should not be over-reassured, if every time there is a loud bang you cuddle your dog and start to talk to him he may believe that this is a sign that you are scared and will compound the fear. Try to act in a matter of fact way as if these loud noises are a normal part of everyday life. It may be worth taking your dogs mind off of the noise by giving him a distraction, playing with a toy or feeding him. Ensure he does have a place to go if it all gets to much such as his bed, keep the room windows and curtains closed.

It will be so much easier for you all if you can cure this problem not only for next fireworks night but in case a loud noise is encountered at anytime. Start by exercising the dog in noisy areas as described above, always be matter of fact, try playing with a toy in such areas to give a pleasurable experience. Introduce loud noises whilst the dog is feeding. Give the dog his food and get somebody else to make a noise in the garden, if he is frightened enough to be put off his food increase the distance, once he accepts the noise at a set distance move closer so the noise gets louder. Decrease the distances slowly and always move further away the moment the dog demonstrates anxiety. This process can take a few weeks rather than days but is well worth the effort for the dog to have a happier and potentially safer life.

This article was written by Paul C Bunker, a professional dog trainer.

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