Even though December is filled with festivities for us, people, it has one big disadvantage for dogs: fireworks. Big bangs which seem to come from out of nowhere can make dogs scared. Reactions differ from a light scare to complete panic. Some dogs never liked fireworks, others had a bad experience and as a result they’re scared from that point on. Whatever the reason for fear of fireworks, it isn’t fun for nobody. As the owner of your beloved dog, you want nothing more than a happy dog. This month should be a festive month for your dog too… Let me tell you what you can do about it yourself!
Do you also want a relaxed dog in december and celebrate New Year’s Eve together with your dog?
That’s possible! How? By teaching your dog to learn how to control his fear. What’s most important is gaining insight in the nature of your dog’s fear. How your dog reacts to fireworks is your starting point for his training. There are many different kinds of fear and every kind needs specific guidance! Long before it’s December you can work together with your dog in order to reduce his fear of fireworks. To stabilize his fear, that’s what you want. The other months of the year are the best months for training. December is a month full of stimuli for a dog with fear. The result is too much tension and pressure while training. As your dog’s owner, the rest of the year gives you more possibilities to control the situation and train your dog at his speed. This way, you can reach your goal together and enjoy New Year’s Eve without stress. December isn’t for training, but there are certain measures you can take to make this month not as stressful for you dog. You can also make New Year’s Eve more enjoyable for your dog, without him having too much stress. Want to know what you can do for your dog? Let’s see.
What is firework anxiety?
Many dogs are scared of fireworks or other loud noises, such as the sound of air balloons, gunshots and air guns in crops. Some dogs only show a light scare, but others panic completely. Dogs react instinctively on these sounds. Fear is a basic emotion, needed for survival. Fear is healthy; if you’re not scared, you’re in danger. Fear causes caution and arms the animal against danger. Fear stimulates the production of adrenaline, which in turn causes the so-called fight or flight response. Fear after a bang is useful and can be seen as a normal reaction to something sudden. However, fear becomes a problem when it’s not properly supervised and when it gets the chance to grow. When that happens, your animal can’t handle it correctly anymore. The first step to help your dog with his firework anxiety is to determine what kind of fear your dog experiences.
- Instinctive fear. Fear can originate from instict. Every animal has a survival instinct, but how the animal reacts to a certain stimuli depends on where the animal comes from. Let me give you an example about a dog who has always lived on the streets in an area with many hurricanes. This animal acts from his survival instinct when there’s a hurricane. He reacts in a way that ensures his best chances for survival. This dog will react to fireworks differently than a dog who doesn’t know this survival instinct. This dog experiences his fear as helpful, because it ensures survival. This dog will always have this instinct, but we can teach this dog to be careful instead of fearful by showing the dog that there’s another way of reacting to fireworks. For dogs with this kind of anxiety, training starts in February or March.
- Caution instead of fear. A dog who’s careful is often seen as a dog who’s fearful, but careful and fearful is not the same thing. Your dog is allowed to proceed with caution as long as the dog still looks at the thing that scares him. This is a useful mechanism for your dog. You do have to make sure that this caution doesn’t change into fear. You can do this by teaching your dog to be strong and confident. Training takes place throughout the year.
- Experience anxiety. This type of fear originates for instance because fireworks were thrown towards the dog. A dog with this kind of fear will charge or run away. To help your dog with this kind of fear it is important there are no stimuli for your dog to react to. Training starts in spring.
Genetics, breed, character, but also the circumstances you’re dog grew up in and his or her experiences are an important condition for developing fireworks anxiety. Do you want to know how you can support your dog with his fear? Read the tips below!
Tip 1: The period prior to New Year’s Eve
When your dog is afraid of fireworks and it’s already December, it’s important to acknowledge your dog’s fear, to neutralize your dog’s fear and to give your dog courage. When you two are walking outside and you hear a bang, you can show your dog that you also heard the bang, but that you’re not afraid of it. You can say something like “I get that it scared you a litte, it’s OK to be scared, but I don’t think it’s that scary!” By saying that, you show your dog you heard the bang as well, but you don’t go along with his fear. However, most owners are inclined to deny the bang was scary and they say something like “it’s OK, there’s nothing wrong”. But, your dog thinks otherwise! Your dog is scared and you, as his owner, tells him it was nothing. That makes your dog’s problem even bigger, because you, as a member of his pack, doesn’t see the danger and that puts you at risk. Downplaying isn’t the right way. Giving you’re dog courage is! You can do this by showing your dog you’ll face the danger together and that together you can do it. Not by giving your dog commands what to do, but by working together. Even if a bang scares you too, what makes perfect sense, you just smile out loud and together you’ll continu your walk.
Next to this, it’s also nice for your dog to go on the same, familiar walks in December. Choose a route that is as quiet as possible, where you have the least chance of hearing fireworks, and make this route familiar by walking the same route constantly, especially when it’s dark. Inside you’ll make a familiar spot for your dog, with his bed, a toy and maybe something to chew on. When your dog is afraid, that’s his go-to spot. You can test what spot your dog considers safe. Let your roommate throw over a chair and watch where your dog wants to go. Does your dog wants to go upstairs, does he crawl under a table, is he going to the bathroom or maybe he wants to go inside a cupboard? Then that’s the place where you’ll make his familiar spot. A crate (with a cover) can be useful for a dog with fireworks anxiety, but take a good look at its location. Most of the time, it’s not on the spot your dog chooses himself when he’s afraid!
Tip 2: New Year’s Eve
If your dog has fireworks anxiety, it’s better for your dog to stay at home with some quiet company. Try to keep things as calm as possible, let others go outside, but stay inside with your dog. Avoid constructive tension, like counting to 12. Put on classical music instead of the TV. bach is a good choice; scientific research shows it helps with natural relaxation. Sit quietly yourself, let the dog be near you and talk to him regularly with a low voice to prevent your dog from getting excited. Does your dog want to go to his safe spot? Let him go, even when it’s in another room.
Tip 3: Support your dog naturally
A dog who’s afraid of fireworks can be supported with the help of natural therapies. Bach flower remedies, most of the time the Rescue drops or spray, are often used in the dog world. However, Rescue isn’t always what’s the best fit for your dog. You also doesn’t teach your dog how to handle his fear and the root cause of his fear isn’t addressed. Did you know there are 38 Bach flower remedies? The chances are another remedy fits your dog’s character better, especially in the case of firework anxiety. Such a remedy will be composed for your dog specifically. I can do it for you. Was your dog not afraid of fireworks, but is fearful on New Year’s Eve, contrary to your expectations, than you can give him the Bach Rescue spray to prevent trauma. Other safe supplements are for instance Phytonics Strezz, which enhances the nervous system and let your dog handles his fear better, or Avena Sativa complex. This one filters stimuli and make the experience milder for your dog. However, the dosage is more difficult. If you want to know what’s best for your dog, please make an appointment to ensure the best result.
Tip 4: TTouch
TTouch is a certain method of touch and works with circular movements. These movements relax the body and give your dog awareness. TTouch ensures balance for your pet, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. It has an influence on using the body more efficiently, changing a behavioral pattern, it brings relaxation, peace, less stress and fear, promotes the healing process and performances, enhances the collaboration between human and animal, enhances trust and ensures your pet is confident. TTouch can also be used for specific problems, like firework anxiety. It’s a great addition for the December month! The best thing of TTouch is you can do it yourself. You can always follow a masterclass, worldwide, which gives you the info you need to start yourself. This way, you can help your dog at home! TTouch also works with body bandages or the so-called Thundershirt. This swaddeling gives the dog a constant, but soft pressure on his body, which has a relaxing effect on the nervous system.
Tip 5: Training for firework anxiety, the whole year round!
December isn’t the right month to start training your dog for his fear of fireworks. You train your dog in the other months. If you have a dog with firework anxiety, you start training in February or March. You don’t have to train with firework sounds or real bangs. No, you want to teach your dog to be strong and confident, no matter what. You support your dog in this journey and teaches him to dare more. Together you can conquer the world. Training starts with certain measures, based on your dog and the kind of fear he has. Making your relationship even stronger and showing your dog that you are his safe base is very important. Every kind of fear asks for a specific training and needs specific advice. Individual advice, based specifically on your dog, is the most succesful. Building your dog’s confidence is often a great first step. You can work on that yourself by letting your dog choose his own route when you go on a walk or enter him in a fun dog class, like tracking! This strengthens your bond and will give your dog more confidence.
Individual advice for a long-term result
This applies to all the tips above: choose what fits your dog best. Every dog is different. Standardized advice is often a good start, but individual advice works best in most cases. From a holistic viewpoint, we can look at what fits your dog best. This way, we ensure a long-term result based on fitting advice and/or natural supplements, in order to reduce your dog’s fear of fireworks.
Do you want individual advice for your dog with firework anxiety? Make an appointment here.