As November 5th looms upon us, it is a good idea to think ahead as many of our fur friends suffer from anxiety at this time of year. Fireworks can cause serious stress and trauma and it is difficult to know what to do for the best.
Often puppies are not too affected by the loud noises and bright sparkly things in the sky, and if you can condition your pups from an early age you can avoid your dog being fearful of fireworks. You may wonder how you can prepare your pups, and it is not as difficult as you may think, but it does take time and preparation. The sooner you can start conditioning the better, and from experiments on several litters, pups that have been exposed to the sound and sight of fireworks in the first few months have become desensitised.
If you want to condition your dog, simply follow the same steps, starting as soon as you can. Firstly prepare your dog by having a couple of chilled days prior to the conditioning, make sure they have plenty of exercise but no stress. Choose the best time when your dog is relaxed, preferably at night which is when fireworks usually take place. Then start by showing a video/tv screen with fireworks playing (YouTube have a good selection), and reducing the volume to barely audible for the first time. Remember a dog's hearing is so much more acute than ours, so keep the volume to a minimum. As the fireworks start playing, and your dog is not phased reward with treats or play with a toy, to make the association with something positive.
Repeat the same process each day at the same time. And over the next week or so gradually increase the volume of the fireworks by 0.5, until you are able to put the volume on high and your dog is unfazed. By the time you have reached full volume, try hiding your speaker behind curtains or on a window sill to create a realistic setting. If at any point your dog looks concerned go back a stage, and reduce the volume again, then play, reward and repeat the process. Once the noise and fireworks stop do not feed any more treats so that the association is staying calm when the noise sounds = rewards.
On November 5th try to move your dogs daily routine forwards a little, so that they have their walk and evening meal in daylight hours and then try to get them to go to the toilet before your local fireworks begin. Then do the same process that you did in practice once the fireworks start, use toys and rewards to create the positive association. Before you know it the sparkly noisy things in the sky are all over, and your dog is happy and relaxed.
If, however you have a dog that is already nervous and anxious at the slightest sound, this is more of a case of you offering them as much space/comfort/protection they may need. Plan ahead and think how you can offer your dog a safe, secure area to seek comfort during a scary time. Try creating a safe haven by making a den or space that has a cosy blanket, and is as far away from windows and doors to avoid seeing and hearing the fireworks. Then turn up the TV volume or play some music to distract from the sounds. Have your dog's favourite toys and treats ready and don't be afraid to comfort and stroke your dog if it helps.
Another suggestion is you can try plug-in DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) diffuser which replicates the calming pheromones that a mother emits to her puppies. In extreme cases if your dog won't settle and is beyond comforting, speak to your vet.
Hope that helps, and have a fun Firework night!