People all over the world will all soon get around Denmark to celebrate the New Year with fireworks. How can you best help your dog get through the days when the loud and harsh sounds of exploding fireworks are all around and the sky is lit up by flying rockets?
Dogs hear 4.5 times better than humans. For them, the sound of fireworks can be a very violent experience.
If your dog is not yet frightened of fireworks?
You have a great possibility to prevent them from developing fear of the sound of fireworks.
A dog’s behavior is often mirrors that of its owner. If you are calm and relaxed, then this will have a positive effect on your dog.
If you hear a sudden explosion on the street where you dog is .. try to keep yourself completely calm. Do not to react. Your dog will look to you for a lead and will notice that you, yourself are not frightened. This will help the dog believe that there is nothing dangerous about the events that have just occurred.
Where a dog is frightened, you shouldn’t begin to try and feed your dog snacks or treats as a form of comfort. You will be rewarding your dog for being frightened and there is nothing positive for your dog to learn – quite the opposite, this can reinforce your dog’s fear of fireworks.
Stay calm and keep walking.
You have a dog which is very frightened of fireworks?
The degree of fear varies from dog to dog and naturally any treatment of this fear will need to be adapted to the specific dog.
Once a dog has developed a fear for fireworks, it will not simply go away by itself. The fear can get worse year by year. Worse, if the fear isn’t treated, it can develop into a general fear of loud noises or even going out for a walk in the dark.
It is thus very fundamental that steps are taken to remedy this as early as possible – the less fear the dog has exhibited the easier it is to help them!
New Year’s Eve!
On New year’s Eve itself it is very important that you have taken your dog for a good walk. Choose an area where there is less likely to be fireworks being shot off like a forest, beach or swamp. Keep the dog on a leash! If it gets frightened it might run off – no matter how at ease it is normally to take the same walk.
Try and let your dog use its senses during the walk – for example, you could put some treats on the ground and let the dog look for them.
Another idea is to use soft treats or snacks and put them up in tree stumps and other places where the dog has to really use its senses to find them. In this way, the dog can become tired in a natural way by being gently stimulated – but do remember to try and not over stimulate your dog. Overstimulation increases the dogs stress level.
You should also not try and take your dog out for a walk while there are the loud explosions of fireworks outside. Try and take a little time and plan your day and evening.
If your dog is very insecure then pay attention to this and take steps to mitigate the effect accordingly. Don’t hold a loud and noisy party as this can make the dog even more stressed and will make its fear over the fireworks even greater. If you can take steps to generally make the evening overall less stressful for the dog, it will be much better placed to see through the evening.
Plan an activity!
Be prepared to have something to distract your dog when the fireworks are at their worst. It could, for example, be a fun game or having access to a tasty bone but, once again, please remember not to excite or stress your dog too much when doing this.
You can also use a toy which you can put some food into. You can put snacks into a dishtowel – where you make little knots in the towel and put the snacks into the knots so that your dog has to work with its sense of smell to find the snacks. Your dog should also use some energy in trying to lick the snack out of the towel – the action of licking tends to relax a dog.
Let the dog choose its own resting spot!
Your dog should choose itself where it wants to be. This could be close to you, under the bed or in its basket or pillow.
Protection from light and sound!
You can help your dog by covering up your windows so that you cannot see the light flashes which come from the rockets. Play quiet music to distract it from the sound of the fireworks. If you don’t have curtains at home, try using black plastic garbage bags to cover the windows. Shielding the dog in this way will offer protection from both light and sound.
Build a cave!
Build your dog a cave. For example, you can use a coffee table and lay a heavy duvet over the coffee table so that your dog can relax inside the homemade cave and feel more secure. A heavy blanket or can be used to reduce the sound even further.
Some dogs are very happy for the so called “thunder shirt” as it provides a comforting pressure on the body. If you can get access to this clothing it may help. Sometimes though a nice duvet to snuggle under can also be very comforting for many dogs.
Give a helping hand!
There are many different products that you can buy over the counter which can help relax a dog. Products such as Kalm, Zylkene and Aptus relax are often used.
In some instances, though it is necessary to get prescription medicine and there are new products which can block the fear reflex without making your dog drowsy. Speak to your vet on the various options which are available and always be aware that your dog needs to have a health check before you can get the prescription medicines.
If you don’t know how your dog will react to the various substances then it is always a good idea to try them before you have to use them on New Year’s Eve.
Most important of all for having a good – or at least a better – New Year’s Eve is:
- Be prepared and have decided which treatment and action you will use
- If you know beforehand that your dog is very scared by fireworks – prepare for the fireworks well in advance of the actual firework season starting
- Make sure the dog has had a good walk before it gets dark outside
- Never shout or tell your dog off for being frightened or try to force it to get over its fear. Instead, let it know that you have noticed that it is scared and let the dog know that the dog can come to you for comfort, security and peace.
- Shield the dog from light and sounds
- Try and be calm yourself. Make it clear that you have understood that the dog is frightened and that it is completely ok if it doesn’t want play or eat snacks or chew on a bond.
Even if you dog has never shown any fear of fireworks, you should know that there is no guarantee that it can’t suddenly develop it. Older dogs that have previously been completely calm can, as their hearing deteriorates with age, suddenly show signs of fear quite simply because they cannot recognize the sound in the same way as before!
Alternatively, you can always plan to hold your New Year’s Eve away from the City’s fireworks.
Happy New Year!