Cindy Kaeble, CPDT-KA
It's that time of year again and even though there won't be too many professional firework shows this year doesn't mean that there won't be plenty of fireworks! I am anticipating that this may mean even more fireworks throughout our neighborhoods this year and on multiple nights. That’s why we should be making preparations now.
Did you know that the days surrounding the July 4th holiday are often the busiest days of the year for many animal shelters and rescues helping lost pets? Let’s get a plan in place to do our part to keep our dogs safe and at home. Fireworks and other things like thunderstorms can be frightening. Be patient and comfort them. Their fear is real, here’s how to help.
õ Check your pet’s ID tags and chip information to make sure that it is up-to-date in case they do go missing. Keep their tags on them at all times.
õ Do not bring your pets to firework displays. Especially this year where those events are not professionally organized.
õ Keep your dogs inside as night time approaches. Tire them out ahead of time. Use a white noise machine, music or the TV to muffle outside sounds. Products like Happy Hoodie or ThunderShirt have been shown to help some pets.
õ If you do need to take them out, use a leash! Attach the leash to a well fitting collar or harness they can not slip out of. Secure all fences and gates. Do not leave them unattended. Dogs in a state of panic have been known to dig under or leap fences they have never breached before.
õ Stock up now - Prepare some frozen treats like Kong’s or slow feeder bowls filled with their favorites to keep them busy. Things like sweet potato, fat free unflavored yogurt, unsweetened applesauce or banana with some of their meal kibble is low calorie and will take a while to finish.
“BUT I want to work on helping them be more comfortable hearing loud noises.”
Awesome! Practice these exercises when no events are occurring and your dog is calm and not otherwise distracted. Choose a time when the sounds they hear will be controlled by you.
For puppies start right away - preventing the fear from developing is the best plan! While your puppy is doing something fun like playing or eating, play thunderstorm or firework sounds on a very low volume. This begins to build an association with those sounds with good and fun things. Gradually increase the volume as they become more comfortable.
Pups who have already decided that these noises are scary can change their minds with our help. Begin in very much the same way by playing sounds at a very low volume. Have some high value rewards on hand like cheese sticks or hot dogs and when they hear the sound you reward each time. Using a happy phrase (like we use our marker word) can help too. Exclaim in a happy voice something like “It’s a Party!” right before you give the treat. In this way if a loud sound occurs and you don’t happen to have a hot dog on you, you will exclaim “It’s a Party!” and get to the fridge for the reward. Start off very slowly and keep these sessions short to begin with.
In either case, watch them for behavior that seems to regress. That means you have moved too quickly, lower the volume and start over.
Contact a professional trainer for more help, your pups are depending on you!