Kathy Hobson, of Dog First Aid Sussex, said: “A fear of loud noises is innate in most dogs Whilst fireworks might be fun for us, many of our dogs are less than keen. Some may experience some mild anxiety, for others it can be a truly terrifying experience. We’re unlikely to be able to achieve a complete firework ban or persuade the entire nation to swap to silent fireworks, so instead it is our responsibility to empower our dogs to cope as best they can.
“You need to start the training now, to try to desensitise them to the firework sounds and to prepare your house as a safe place for your four-legged family members. If you have a dog that suffers from extreme fear/phobia, or you find that your training is not working then you should definitely be calling on the services of an experienced modern force-free behaviourist.
“Did you know you can purchase a CD with firework sounds? You can also get firework sounds from places like Spotify or YouTube (please do not try this if your dog is extremely noise phobic as it may make the situation worse).
“To try to desensitise your dog to fireworks noises, start playing these sounds daily. Start with a very low volume, and once your dog is comfortable at that sound level reward the dog with a food treat or toy. Next time turn the volume up slightly. Again, wait till your dog is comfortable with the fireworks at that level and then once they are, you can increase the volume again slightly.
“Check out when and where firework displays in your area are taking place so that you know when to expect them. Also check with the neighbours in your street if they are planning any bonfires and when
“On evenings when fireworks can be expected, you should feed your dog nice and early. Dogs who are stressed and scared are less likely to eat, and this can make a bad situation worse for them as they are then not only scared but they are hungry too. Ensure there is plenty of water available as an anxious dog who is panting a lot is likely to be thirsty.
“Get out nice and early on your walkies so your dog can relieve themselves in the safety of the day. Why not do something fun too. It would be ideal to try to tire your dog out if you are expecting fireworks in the evening. The basis for this; a tired dog might be more inclined to sleep through the noise than a dog full of energy who may be more likely to focus solely on the noises that they find scary.
“Shut out the world outside. Make your home a place of security for your dog by reducing the noises and flashes of light from outside.
“Create a safe place/den: Dogs like somewhere safe that they can retreat to when they get scared, or even when they’ve had enough of a situation. It’s good to create somewhere nice and cosy for them, preferably something that has sides and a roof, with plenty of comfortable blankets and easy access to food and water.
Don’t forget your dog looks to you for reassurance. Therefore, it is important that you are nice and calm, giving out a wonderful relaxed and positive energy. If you are giving the impression that there is absolutely nothing to fear, your dog will hopefully take that as a sign that they too can relax.
“Don’t shut your dog out or in a room on their own. Remember they will look to you for reassurance, and you want to be close at hand with plenty of treats and their favourite toys to comfort them and praise them. This will make sure they feel at ease and show them there is nothing to be afraid of. Never ignore them when they are scared, and if your dog comes to you for comfort then please do offer it to them.
You can contact her on [email protected] , 07498 557064, or on Facebook www.facebook.com/dogfirstaidsussex.