How To Prepare Your Dog For Fireworks
Firework season is fast approaching, so we wanted to explain how we can help your dogs to feel ok during this noisy period. These training methods are intended to be preventative, so if your dog already has a phobia of fireworks you will need to seek the help of a trainer or behaviourist.
So what is desensitisation?
This is the process of exposing a dog to a stimulus (in this case the sound of fireworks) beginning at a very low intensity and gradually increasing the intensity gradually over a period of time to help them to become desensitised to this stimulus.
To begin with, get your dog settled in a room or on their dog bed and start playing the sounds of fireworks at a low level. You can do this by playing the sound of fireworks on your tv or phone. It is really important that this is at a level low enough to not cause a reaction or any signs of fear or distress from your dog.
Signs of fear to look for in your dog are that of a tucked tail, ears back, lip licking, looking away, lifting a paw, trembling or shaking, a lowered body posture, yawning, seeking out people (e.g. looking for comfort from you), hiding, not moving, or urinating.
It is best to do this every evening over the next two weeks and increasing the volume when you feel your dog is ready for you to do so. It is important that this is done in a controlled environment in this instance indoors and without closing your dog in a room so that they don’t feel trapped and unable to leave.
Counter conditioning and desensitization need to be used together to be effective and are often used to change unwanted behaviour in dogs, especially fearful ones. When your dog feels anxious or scared about something, it’s usually either because it’s unfamiliar or they associate it with something bad.
Increasing your dogs exposure to this sound means that they are more familiar with it and using counter conditioning to pair this sound with something positive for your dog such as chicken or a tasty treat give them the opportunity to build lots of positive associations with the the sound of fireworks which should help them to find this much less alarming.