FIREWORKS AND DOGS
The time of year where fireworks will be prevelant in our local communities will be fast approaching, with diwali and bonfire night creeping up fast it is important for us to take a second to think about how we can help our dogs and keep them safe. With the celebrations in full swing it is no wonder over 62% of dogs in the UK are affected.
My names Dan and I own Croydon Companion Dog Club. We are a training club to help owners help their dogs through various behaviours. I have worked with numerous dogs both in the home and within the rescue setting to ensure they become well mannered and obedient members of the family. This time of year, we frequently see many dogs who are traumatised by fireworks and also owners who are traumatised witnessing their dogs in distress. It is a known fact that a number of dogs struggle around this time and I have known dogs to die because of their reaction to fireworks so it is important for us to educate ourselves with as much knowledge as possible to ensure we can help our dogs.
Dogs have a natural fight, flight or freeze reaction to situations they find difficult or distressing, as owners we most commonly see the fight or flight response. All to often I see dogs being walked whilst fireworks are going off and I can only imagine how they must be feeling.
I want everyone to think about bringing our dogs up like we do our children, with boundaries, praise and helping them to feel safe and secure.
If your dog is fearful of fireworks there is plenty you can do to support your dog during the firework season, but, better still, why not make a plan to desensitise and train your dog to cope better in the future. I'm not saying every dog can be miraculously cured but most dogs can be improved or at the very least be supported to be able to cope better.
Here is a list of things you can do to help your dogs to feel safer and help them be more settled:
Don't walk them in the evenings. Take them out earlier in the day so they are not being made to walk during the loud bangs and bright flashes going off randomly.
Avoid letting them in the garden whilst fireworks are going off. This will reduce the risk of flight through or over a fence or gate. This is one of the most common ways dogs get lost during fireworks and diwali season.
Turn the television up to drown out the sound of the bangs and draw your curtains to avoid the bright flashes shining through your windows.
Provide them with a safe space like a crate that they can go to and hide in. Alternatively, you can create a den somewhere in your home such as a dining table covered with blankets.
Give them a long lasting chew such as a baked knuckle bone or a beef marrow bone but make sure they are supervised at all times.
Avoid Reassuring our dogs with stroking and lots of fuss. Dogs often don't see things the way we see them and in instances like this we are effectively telling our dogs it's okay to be scared, or good boy/girl for being scared. Even though we believe we are helping them through it. As owners, it is far more beneficial for us to act casual and pretend that there is nothing for our beloved dogs to be worried about.
Puppies and young dogs should be getting lots of play and fun during this time. Teach them that fireworks are not something to worry about but in fact means that much more rewarding things are coming such as playtime.
If you are planning a garden display knock on your neighbours door informing them so that they can prepare, or alternatively, go to a organised display and make an evening out of it.
Natural calmers and pharmaceutical medications can also help but it is important you get your dog to be seen by a vet before administering any medication.
For more serious cases a behavioural consult will need to be sought from a behavioural trainer but try not to leave it too late.
Every dog is different and may need a slightly different programme which may include desensitisation, effective reward, rehabilitation, proofing the training, and, other supporting factors like sound therapy discs, phone Apps,
Tellington Ttouch, body wraps, thunder shirts, cranial treatment, bachs flower remedies, homeopathic remedies, pet rescue remedy to name a few. We are here to help and support dog owners. Please don't hesitate to get in touch.