How to prepare your dog for fireworks?
In a nutshell
- How do I know if my dog is scared of fireworks?
- How to prepare my dog for fireworks?
- What is the best way to get my dog used to fireworks?
- How do I make my dog comfortable during the fireworks?
- What can I do with my dog during fireworks?
- Massages are highly effective against firework fear
- What should I definitely not do during fireworks?
- Some more tips from our Flamingo dog trainer:
- In a nutshell
How do I know if my dog is scared of fireworks?
It’s often difficult to recognise signs of stress in your dog. Because of this, you may often not realise that your dog is scared.
Common symptoms of a stressed or frightened dog are:
- Pulling his ears back
- Walking away
- Frequently yawning, panting without being too hot and licking of lips
- Being overly alert and nervous and restless walking around
- Not wanting to eat
- Whining or barking
How to prepare my dog for fireworks?
What is the best way to get my dog used to fireworks?
Light and scent
How do I make my dog comfortable during the fireworks?
Is your dog still afraid of fireworks? Or haven't you had enough time to teach him that fireworks aren’t dangerous at all? Then here are a few things you can do to make your four-legged friend as comfortable as possible during the festive season:
- Make sure your dog has a safe spot where he can hide away at times when he’s uncomfortable. For example a dog crate.
- Keep breakable items out of the way; you obviously don't want your faithful friend to injure himself by knocking over a vase in a panic.
- Close all doors, windows and roller shutters to reduce noise and light effects.
- Various home remedies such as Bach flowers can alleviate anxiety and fear in your dog. The advantage of Bach flowers is that they are non-toxic and not narcotic or addictive. It gently balances your dog's emotions.
- Provide distraction! There are many different games to challenge your dog. By playing, your four-legged friend won’t notice too much of what’s happening outside. Kong also has useful tools to distract your dog. Did you know that when a dog uses his nose and sniffs, endorphins are released in his brain? This will calm down your dog. So if you get your dog to sniff, the fear will soon be gone. For this, you can use a sniffing mat.
- Covering the ears (e.g. with a Buff) or wrapping your dog can also help to calm him down. Remember that both covering and wrapping should be practised extensively beforehand so that your dog gets used to it.
- Turn up the radio or TV extra loud. These are sounds your dog is familiar with. This will also stop him hearing the bangs of the fireworks. Just make sure you put on quiet sounds and not overly loud party music.
- Stay inside, fireworks can be very beautiful for us but when your four-legged friend is scared or tense inside, it’s very important that you stay with him. He needs you!
- Pamper your dog with tasty snacks and spread a nice scent around the house. By the way, there are also snacks that have a soothing effect.
- If your friend is afraid of the sound of fireworks, he may also be afraid of other loud noises. This may be due to past events. You can seek a therapist to find out where the problem comes from. That way, you can address this fear of sounds in a more targeted way.
Massages are highly effective against firework fear
One of the best ways to calm your dog down is a pressure point massage. However, it’s very important to practice this beforehand so you know what your four-legged friend likes best. When doing a pressure point massage, focus on:
- Your dog’s ear pinna, the back of the skull and the point between the eyes: massage these areas gently with circular movements.
- The sternum: place your thumbs a finger’s width beside the sternum, gently press your thumbs into the tissue and rotate them in a circle.
- The jaw: Massage it by making circular movements with your thumbs.
- The rim of the skull: press your thumbs gently into the tissue and rotate in circles around the entire rim of the skull.
- The ear: support the inside of the ear with your fingers, and apply pressure with your thumb on the outside of the ear. Stroke from the beginning of the ear to the tip of the ear.
What should I definitely not do during fireworks?
There are a few things you should definitely not do when your four-legged friend isn‘t feeling well due to all the stimuli he has to cope with during the festivities.
Don’t use muscle relaxants
Until recently, vets prescribed dogs muscle relaxants for fear of fireworks. Your dog will seem calmer, but his fear will only get worse.
Don’t apply the "flooding" technique
With the flooding technique, you keep confronting your dog with his fear. This is an outdated method that is unfortunately still widely used. With these methods, anxiety and stress can become more intense. In addition, your four-legged friend may feel that you are no longer supporting him, resulting in him shutting down completely.
When your dog himself isn’t calm, it’s very important that you do remain calm. The calmer you remain, the faster your dog will also feel at ease and become calm himself. This is because your dog realises that there is no danger at all.
Ignoring the fear or giving it too much attention
You should not ignore the fear, but giving it too much attention means you’re confirming it. The more attention you give it, the worse it will get. Too much comforting is going to make your pet pal feel that something is wrong and he has every right to be scared. Sit next to your dog, stroke or massage him gently and talk in a calm, quiet manner..
Some more tips from our Flamingo dog trainer:
- Never leave your dog alone. You don't always have to give him attention, but make sure you are in the same room.
- When you go outside and your dog accompanies you (only if he is not afraid of fireworks), it’s best to always keep him on a leash, even in an enclosed garden. This way he cannot hurt himself or others if he jumps away. If your dog is very anxious, you can keep him on a leash indoors. Make sure you always use a loose, relaxed leash and only use the leash to return your dog to his safe place. Don’t use slip leashes or chains in this situation.
- Make sure you give your dog the opportunity to do his business half an hour before the fireworks. Nothing as annoying as an anxious dog that gets even more restless because he has to pee.
- Try not to give your dog a large meal within the hour before the fireworks start. A full stomach during a panic attack carries the risk of gastric torsion (in large dogs), choking or vomiting. In addition, this will cause your dog to lose interest in the treats you offer as a distraction during the fireworks.
- Always provide plenty of fresh drinking water.
- Don't get angry, even if your dog knocks all the glasses off the table out of panic. Fear is a reflex you can't do anything about.
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