Dogs Afraid of Fireworks - Remedy
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Getting rid of your dog's fear of fireworks is not always going to be possible. When we talk about traumas or fears, performing a systematic desensitization process with a professional can be very effective. But when we talk about phobias, the process can be lengthy and may even be impossible to treat. However, there are some reassuring tips you can implement.
These tricks are very useful and simple to carry out, especially if we have not had time to go to the vet or dog trainer. AnimalWised want to give you a remedy for dogs afraid of fireworks, so keep reading!
Why are dogs afraid of fireworks?
It is quite normal for a dog to be frightened by loud noises. Their survival instinct makes them attempt to flee or hide to save their life. In the most serious cases we can also observe excessive salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, nervousness, tremors and abnormal behaviors.
There are three main causes that can make a dog afraid of fireworks, firecrackers and rockets:
- Genetics: Fear is one of the behavioral characteristics that a puppy can inherit from their parents. The propensity towards this fearful behavior can be the trigger of behaviors related to the fear.
- Trauma: A negative experience, even if not directly related to a firework, can cause a lifelong trauma to a dog.
- Socialization: if we have not correctly introduced them to loud noises in their socialization stage (between 3 weeks and 3 months of life), it is likely that our dog, in the face of fears, acts in a negative or scared way first time they hear fireworks.
Nevertheless, the fear of fireworks can also be developed without bad experiences and even if the dog was well socialized from puppyhood. Some diseases or the loss of some of their senses (deafness, blindness ...) can encourage the appearance of fears and phobias.
Remember that if your dog is afraid of everything, not only fireworks, it would be interesting to consult with a professional to know if they have suffered the sensory deprivation syndrome (puppies that have been completely isolated from the environment) or there is a behavior problem that must be treated.
The importance of our reaction
Believe it or not, our reaction to dog behavior is key to the acquisition of phobias. Run at full speed with them, caress them, dedicate words of tranquility, etc. and you will reinforce an altered behavior of the dog without realizing it. In trying to reassure them, we are only reinforcing a behavior that does not benefit our best friend at all.
What to do if my dog is scared of fireworks?
It is best to try to maintain a normal attitude (as much as possible) by trying to ignore the scary behaviors that the dog may have. We should not touch, pet, or reward them if they are nervous, excited, or especially hyperactive.
It is important to emphasize that fear is an emotion and that emotions cannot be reinforced, unlike behaviors. Therefore, we will avoid reinforcing behaviors that incite nervousness, but we will be able to caress them and offer treats if they are calm, hiding in a place or glued to our side.
How to reassure a dog afraid of fireworks?
If you do not have the time to follow a complete sensitization process or you do not see yourself qualified to do so, you can follow these tips for firework nights (like bonfire night / November 5th). Remember that you can use them too when you do not know what to do when a dog is afraid of thunder.
These 5 points will help you know how to calm a dog scared by fireworks and in general how to calm a dog that is afraid of any kind of loud noise:
- Do not leave them alone: it is not advisable to leave a dog alone at home, especially if they are very afraid and carrying out destructive behaviors. In addition to avoiding a possible domestic accident, being by your side will help them feel more secure.
- Create a nest: To create a nest you can use a cardboard box, a carrier or a cave bed. It must be a dark and comforting place, so you can put blankets and some toy inside it. We will locate the "nest" in a place away from windows and street noises. To get familiar with it, you must put the nest a few days before the fireworks and you must work on a positive association. The best thing is to reinforce them with a "very good" every time they enter and encourage them to enter leaving tasty treats and prizes there. Of course, never push or force them to enter. Also leave some water nearby.
- Isolate from the noise: apart from closing the windows during the firework display, you can also put on relaxing music at a high volume. Although they will also perceive the vibrations, the sound will not be so impacting.
- Offer them a distraction: although some dogs refuse to eat or play right now, offering a raw bone, a foodie toy, or their favorite stuffed animal can help distract them.
- Use pheromones: Synthetic pheromones , also known as DAP, are a mixture of stress and fatty acids that mimic the cebaceous glands that female dogs release during the nursing period. They have a primarily appeasing function and help lower anxiety levels. You should look for those who have studies that support their effectiveness.
Following these tricks will isolate your dog from the environment by promoting a state of calm and relaxation away from the stress of popular festivals. Remember that if your dog is afraid of fireworks, it is recommended that children and strangers do not try to manipulate or disturb them in times of fear, the dog could react negatively.
How to remove fear from dogs using systematic desensitization?
If we have time before the holidays, we can try to carry out a process of systematic desensitization that will help us to accustom the dog to the presence of fireworks, noises and lights in general. You should start practicing at least 1 to 3 months before the fireworks.
This process is indicated for many different kinds of phobias and fears, but we must be very cautious and take it step by step and with great caution. Never follow this process if your dog reacts aggressively or unpredictably to firecrackers. Discover how to sensitize your dog step by step:
1. Choose a booster for your dog
Since we are going to work desensitization using positive reinforcement, it is essential to have within reach, potent motivation for the dog. Usually a handful of dog snacks may suffice, but it may also be helpful to use unsalted chicken bits or toys. We will always choose thinking about our best friend's preferences.
2. Relax your dog by planting
Before starting the sensitization session we must prepare the dog to be calm and relaxed. That will favor the acceptance of the stimulus to which we intend to accustom them. For this we can carry out searching activities, which consist of spreading the bits of food that we have chosen. The dog will spend time sniffing and searching and this will provide them with relaxation and well-being. Caresses, kisses and a very positive attitude should be provided too.
3. Get a video of fireworks
It is important that you prepare in advance so that the volume is not at its maximum and causes fear and confusion in the dog. Choose a video in which the fireworks can be clearly heard but put it at a very low volume, almost imperceptible
4. Continue with searching tasks and video for 5 minutes
Scatter pieces of food on the floor so the dog keeps looking for food and does not focus on the noise of the rockets. Do not try to pet or reward them directly. This process will help them stay distracted and relate the rockets to an exquisite reward. After 5 minutes we will turn off the video or audio and continue as if nothing happened. Our attitude should be calm and unphased.
Probably in this first session your dog will be somewhat frightened and suspicious and will not achieve a 100% state of relaxation. It does not matter, it is preferable to advance a little than to advance nothing, be satisfied if for a moment they have been distracted from the noise and has continued with the task.
5. Practice daily
The key to raising awareness is to keep the process going for as long as it takes: a week, a fortnight, a month ... No matter the time, the dog at all times must feel comfortable, safe and rewarded.
The sessions should last about 5 minutes to avoid overwhelming or overstimulating the dog. It is very important that we keep in mind that this is a gradual process that can cost time and effort on our part.
6. Work with authentic pyrotechnics
If possible, once your dog is fully accustomed to the sound of fireworks or firecrackers you can try real pyrotechnics. It is essential that in this last part of the process you are accompanied by an experienced professional.
Finally we recommend interrupting the session if at any time you observe an aggressive, excessively altered or inappropriate attitude in your dog. The well-being of your dog and yours prevails first.
Medication for very fearful dogs, is it recommended?
In severe cases, when your pet is afraid and suffers diarrhea, panic, vomiting and anorexia, it is advisable to medicate the dog. It is best to consult with the veterinarian the option of using anxiolytics or other medication. However, it should be tested a few months before its effects on the dog's body to ensure the desired effect.
We recommend completely avoiding drugs that contain acepromazine, such as Calmivet or Paciflor, for example, since they increase the dog's state of consciousness but prevent them from moving, which can lead to generalized stress and panic.
If you want to read similar articles to Dogs Afraid of Fireworks - Remedy, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.
- Check the effectiveness of the collar and leash on your dog.
- Do not force interaction or approach with stimuli which cause fear.
- Do not reinforce fearful behavior.
- Consult a professional if the situation is severe.