Our tips on dealing with firework fears

I am one of the lucky ones, my dogs take no notice of fireworks except for the occassional bark at one of the very loud ones but for many the next few months will be torture for them and their dogs.

Some dogs show only a small reaction to the bangs and whizzes that will light up our sky between now and New Year but others will be in a total state of panic, risking injury and causing damage to the home even if the owner is there. They may be trying to escape the house or dig a hole in the carpet, sofa or walls. They may try and run way on a walk if they get scacred, as we all know that fireworks aren't even reserved for the dark anymore.

The use of sound CD's for desensitisation is a great pro-active move to help your dog learn to relax. You can buy these on-line or even download whizzes and bangs from the internet. Start with the sound at a level that your dog can cope with, so they are aware but still paying attention to you and whilst the sounds are playing, teach your dog to do a simple down stay and reward the dog whilst they are in position. See if you can focus them on an interactive toy such as a Kong Wobbler or similar.

Gradually increase the volume of the noises so that your dog is still focusing on you. If they are focusing on you and not the noises then helping them stay calm will be so much easier. Don't rush turning up the volume, move at the pace that your dog sets.

Here are a few simple tips to help your dog cope when the racket starts:-

Make sure your dog has been exercised and fed before the bangs start.

Keep your dog inside and keep the curtains or blinds closed so you can block out the flashes as much as possible.

Have the TV or radio on to mask some of the noise.

Don't anticipate your dogs fear. If you are cooing over them and waiting for them to be scared then you will only make matters worse. This doesn't mean that you can't talk to them or touch them, just be calm and at ease about it.

Play with your dog or do some little bits of training to keep their mind off of the noises.

Make your dog a den area with lots of blankets for him to dig into. If you have a cage, then set it up and cover it with a blanket but don't shut the dog in. Try and let them choose where they want to be, I know dogs that seek out some very unusual places to hide, one hides in the bath and another squeezes in behind the TV so just make sure the area is safe for you scared dog.

Do not punish your dog for his fear, he can't help it, but you should also avoid talking in a 'there, there it's ok' sort of voice. Be up beat about the noises 'Wow, that was a loud one' keep your tone up and enthusiastic and don't reinforce fear with a fearful response

There are some herbal medications and products that you can get for your dog to help them cope. Dorwest Herbs Scullcap and Valarian or Valarian compound are my first choice when it comes to nerves and fear but if your dogs reaction is extreme then speak to your vet about something stronger.

If you wish to discuss your dogs firework problem in more detail then please feel free to give us a call on 07776 334481.