Anxiety in dogs | Dogs and fireworks
The hearing of dogs is more than five times better than ours. Hence it should not be a surprise that many dogs get scared and uncomfortable by loud sounds. Thunder, fireworks, a backfiring car or other loud sounds can trigger anxiety in dogs. We know that these sounds are not a problem, but your dog does not. Particular fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night and New Years can create anything from mild anxiety to sheer panic in some dogs. Why? Many dogs simply do not know what is happening during fireworks. The intensity of the sounds and the repetition indicate that there is a problem and the dog does not how to cope. Dogs often respond with panting, shaking, cowering, hiding etc. If you try to console your dog by talking, soothing, petting or similar you are basically affirming to the dog that there actually is a problem. When you really want to convey that everything is fine. So how can we do that?
Anxiety in dogs | How to calm a dog during fireworks?
In the case of a backfiring car or something similar, just pretend nothing has happened. Just continue what you are doing and ignore the whole thing. If you are out on a walk, simply walk on. You might say something like, “That was a funny sound, wasn’t it”. In case you say something, it is important that you do not address your dog directly – it more like you are making a statement to the world.
The most important part for the owner is to be as calm and relaxed as you possible can. You do not help your dog if your get worried yourself, on the contrary, you make it worse.
In the case of fireworks & thunderstorms you will need some time. Prepare yourself and have a book or movie handy, and make sure your dog’s collar is on. It also might help to have the doors closed, so your dog cannot leave the room you are in. Limiting the movement area itself can slightly help, but main intention is to keep the dog close to you so that you can work it. The closer you are the more influence you have. That can be for the better or for the worse. Dogs are highly perceptive of what is going on inside of us. So if you can not relax or are worried for your dog it might be best to let your dog hide someplace else and not interfere at all. At least this way you do not contribute to the anxiety.
Focus on yourself more than you focus on your dog. Anything that helps you feel good and relax, go for it. When your dog starts reacting to the fireworks simply go up to your dog, take hold of your dog’s collar with an underhand grip. Do not talk to or look at your dog. Do not pet it either. Just keep hold of its collar and relax. Find a comfortable sitting position for yourself in which you can easily keep hold of your dog’s collar. Do not allow your dog to move away. You simply keep your dog next to you without giving it any attention. Turning on music or a movie might help to dull the outside sounds.
There is some nice music available designed to calm dogs – you can check out “Through a dogs ears“. But do not focus on these externals. They might help a little but do not forget that you are the most important element in the mix here.
While holding the collar – in a relaxed way – focus on something else than the dog and enjoy yourself. Have a chat with your partner, watch a movie, read your book and be at ease. Patiently keep hold of your dog’s collar till you feel all the tension going out of your dogs body till it completely relaxes in a lying down position. This might easily take 15 minutes, but can also take an hour or more. Let go of the collar once your dog has completely relaxed. The idea is to keep your dog in your presence and giving the dog your calm energy aka behaving in a way that makes it clear that your are relaxed with the situation.
If your dog starts reacting to the sounds again simple take hold of the collar again. And wait for your dog to relax before you let go. In case your dog hides under the bed or wherever, let it. Do no create a drama by trying to get / coax your dog out of there. You simply would make the situations worse by creating a drama or being emotional.
Let us know who you go or rather how your dog goes. Do you have any other tips that might be helpful?
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