TOP TIP: Fireworks and the anxious dog.
Some DOs and DON’Ts…
If you have a dog that gets very anxious around fireworks, it’s quite natural and almost instinctual for many us to try and soothe any nervous behaviour we see, often by talking quietly to a dog in a comforting way and petting him or her too, saying things like, “it will be okay, Sammy…don’t worry” over and over.
Some people will sit for ages with an anxious dog and stroke and kiss, believing they are supporting him in this kind way. This approach, however, is unfortunately unlikely to have any positive effect (for the dog) even though the person is being kind and believes he is making things better. The human here is applying human psychology to dogs, an approach where, even though the intention is kind and good, can often make matters worse. The dog’s interpretation is likely to be ‘you are sitting here, stroking me, talking quietly to me…and you’re on the floor too – you never do that …you’re obviously very frightened too! Everyone’s frightened … and no one is in control…’
So, what should you do? As strange as it may seem, you should do your best to ignore a dog in this state of mind and behave naturally, so your dog ‘gets from you’ … from your behaviour … that there is nothing to be concerned about. Don’t make a fuss of an anxious dog (making contact or placing your hand on him is fine) but try not to look at him for any sustained period. It can be tough, very, but you will help more in this ‘ignoring’ or passive way than if you try to soothe with words or by petting constantly. Be positive, turn the radio and the TV on/up and try to just get on with things. The message here is that if you’re relaxed and in control, your dog will be less anxious as a result. Over time his anxiety should decrease. Using a crate and covering it with a heavy blanket is a good way of providing your dog with a safe haven or den when he feels anxious – I prefer to leave a crate door open so a dog can go in and out whenever he likes. Just the knowledge that he has free access to a very secure/dark place in the home will in itself reduce any anxiety levels. If he settles down in his crate of his own accord, by all means check on him every now and again, but say very little and leave him alone for a time after that. Appear confident and you will give him confidence.
If you have a dog that gets very anxious when he hears fireworks or loud noises, alternative strategies (such as using Thunder Shirts or DAPs) can be discussed/explored, so get in touch with the LoveK9 tream if you have specific worries or queries.
November 9, 2019