In December, we hear more and more fireworks everywhere around us in the run-up to the New Year celebration.
The setting off of fireworks during New Year's Eve is an annually recurring phenomenon, to which we, as loving dog owners, often look forward to in more or lesser sizes.
That is of course because our beloved dogs get nervous, scared, stressed or even completely panicked. Up to 20 % of dogs suffer from noise phobias.
There are quite a few dogs that are so scared of fireworks that they can barely function for weeks, experience persistent intense stress, and even fall into complete shock.
We must not forget that the fear of fireworks is very normal and functional!
The fear of loud bangs is a congenital fear. Hard bangs mean DANGER, you have to stay away from that! It is life-saving to be afraid of a loud bang!
Fear of loud sounds is therefore normal, functional and healthy! It is therefore not the intention that we try to teach our dogs that they must look for the loud bangs.
But despite the fact that it is logical and naturally functional, it often leads to a very unhealthy situation for dogs in our contemporary society.
There is nothing natural about our fireworks tradition at the turn of the year.
As a result, a dog can become and remain in acute and chronic stress, with all the associated unhealthy and destructive side effects.
We want to prevent this of course! Our dog lives in our house and in our society, we can't change that much.
The best way to invest is in PREVENTing highly developed anxiety or trauma in relation to fireworks. Because when there is, there is a lot involved in solving this.
If this is the case, it is best to engage a good behavioural therapist and start a good treatment plan from March or April.
You recognize a trauma or highly developed fear of fireworks by:
Symptoms of stress and anxiety signals (faster heartbeat, shaking or trembling, drooling, runny nose and eyes, panting, stiffening, sweating, recess extension, vomiting, emptying of anal sinuses)
No recover from the fear after the fireworks stop
Escaping (purposeful and organized or in panic and confusion)
Loss of ability to make smart decisions
No control over its own behaviour
Unwanted urination or/and faeces
Not peeing or pooping
The symptoms of firework anxiety may vary from individual to individual, it may be that your dog shows a symptom that is not listed here.
Although for a dog with developed fireworks anxiety, it is too late for this year to completely solve this problem, it is certainly of added value to make adjustments that make it a little less stressful for your dog.
Every bit helps!
For fireworks celebrations, owners take steps to soothe upset doggy feelings. You can think of:
Only go for a walk at the moment when there are no fireworks.
Only walk at places where no fireworks are lit, for example, take the car and drive to an outside area
Offer calming activities in the house, such as treasure hunting or chewing on hard edible material. Dogs can’t panic when using their brain for something else such as “work” so give your dog a job to do just before and during a thunderstorm. Drill him on obedience commands and special tricks, or ask him to play fetch and carry around a favourite toy. That engages his brain into productive activity rather than thinking about the scary noises.
Use curtains and / or adhesive film to remove the view
Turn on music to equalize the sound. Certain types of music can prove calming, too, by “entraining” the dog’s heart, respiration, and brain waves to slow down and match the soothing rhythm. Harp music can be especially calming.
Avoid all forms of excitement in daily life. That also means running and avoiding other forms of high physical activity.
Avoid offering sympathy. Coddling your pup when he's fearful can reward the behavior. Instead of saying, "poor baby are you scared?" use a matter of fact tone, "wow, that was a loud noise and made me jump, too—but we aren't scared."
Fearful dogs may instinctively look for tight-fitting places where they can hide. They often squeeze between furniture and the wall or hide their eyes in your armpit. This applies a comfortable "hug" sensation that seems to calm a dog, so let your pup seek his own shelter
Avoid giving your puppy a sedative, because it won't reduce his fear. He just won't be able to do anything about it, which can make his anxiety even worse. Your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication based on your individual pup's needs.
Dress them up. Some puppies and older dogs too benefit from a wrap that goes around your dog's body with just enough pressure to give him the sense that he is safe and protected. These aids are sold under a variety of names and at a number of price points (f.e “Thundershirt”).
Ear protection and earplugs that mask the sound may also help. Ask your vet to show you how to safely place anything in the dog's ears, though, so you don't damage the pup's hearing.
Things such as massage or TTouch can relieve a lot of stress from a dog. This only works if the dog undergoes this voluntarily.
Giving him treats and positive rewards for remaining calm also reinforces the benefits of controlling his emotions. Each time the firework blows, try saying, "Wow, what fun!" to jolly him along and show there's no reason to fear, and then give a treat.
Use essential oils or other homoeopathic remedies. Aromatherapy also helps soothe puppy fears. Some products are designed to soothe dogs prone to distress brought on by thunderstorms, fireworks, and other noisy or anxiety-producing situations. Pay attention! Always consult an expert before using this type of substance.
Another option includes dog appeasing pheromone products. These products, available in plug-in sprays (f.e “Adaptil D.A.P”, “D.A.P spray”), and infused collars can be found at pet products stores. The pheromones help a dog put a damper on fear long enough to “think” so that your behaviour modification/training techniques can work.
A natural supplement of melatonin, a substance similar to the chemical in your dog's brain that helps regulate sleep, may help. Melatonin helps reduce the panic attacks in noise-phobic dogs, but it won't sedate the pup. Melatonin lasts several hours and may be cumulative over several days so you can plan ahead for known scary events such as July Fourth. Melatonin can be found in health food stores, pharmacies, and some supermarkets. Always check with your veterinarian for the proper dosage for your size and breed of dog.
It's important to puppy proof your home so the frightened pup isn't injured, and a secure fence should withstand even a puppy panic attack.