The time around Guy Fawkes can be quite stressful for animals. The unexpected sights and sounds of fireworks can be very frightening and it can result in panic attacks and erratic behaviour. Although you can’t control the fireworks happening in your neighbourhood, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the pain of the experience for your pet.
Remember that the stress is caused by the dog’s fear of the unknown. It simply doesn’t know or understand what is going on. Therefore, trying to ‘explain’ to it not to be scared is both pointless and a waste of time. It sounds obvious, but many owners attempt to soothe their dog by talking to it as they would to a child. You want to comfort your dog, but talking logically to it is not the way to do it!
The first thing to do is to minimise the sights and sounds of the fireworks in your dog’s environment. You can do this by closing the blinds or curtains so the dog does not see the fireworks in the air. Also, consider turning on some music or turning up the volume on the TV or radio to reduce the impact of the noise of the fireworks.
Also, keep your dog inside and make sure their bed is handy (if they don’t have a bed you could make them one). This will create a safe place for the dog where it can go to relax if it wants to. This is especially important if you are intending on going out for the evening yourself and leaving them alone.
One of the most important ways to prepare your dog for Guy Fawkes night takes place earlier during the day. If you can, take them for a nice long walk. This will both tire them out and make them more relaxed. Early in the evening is the best time, soon before all the ‘action’ is going to start happening. Then, when you return after the walk, continue to maintain a calm and relaxed atmosphere in the house; don’t get the dog excited over mealtime, for instance.
If your dog starts to show signs of stress when the fireworks start happening, there are things you can do to calm him down. Most importantly, remember your dog is looking to you for guidance and trust. Dogs are pack animals and instinctively want to rely on someone else to make their decisions for him. (In fact, do you really want to make your dog happy? Simply let it know that you will make all of of its decisions).
So above all you must display calm yourself and show your dog that that is how you want it to behave also. Let it know that you are in charge and that it will come to no harm. To do this, do not react to your dog’s stressful state. This includes trying to comfort them which can in fact make things worse. Instead, calmly yet firmly hold your dog by the collar. Stay very calm yourself and do not react to anything the dog is doing. Do not say anything or use any soothing words. If you maintain this state, in time your dog will begin to calm down and sit or lie down. Let go of them only when they lie down and seem quite relaxed.
This may take a few minutes. However, by keeping a calm yet unwavering attitude yourself, your dog is going to eventually see that you are in control and that there is nothing to fear. If it shows signs of stress again you can repeat the process.
Guy Fawkes is one of those times that is simply not ‘dog friendly’. However, by doing the above you can make the experience at least tolerable for your pet while still having fun yourself.
For more great dog and puppy training ideas check out New Zealand’s own dog trainer Doggy Dan at The Online Dog Trainer website.