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HoundBytes DECEMBER SPECIAL with audio
December 16, 2007

This month’s HoundBytes is a special edition about fear of fireworks and comes with an audio file.

Fear of Fireworks in Dogs

It’s nearly 2008 and we welcome the New Year with a lot of fireworks. For a lot of animals this is not a pleasant time of the year. The unexpected loud bangs and flashes scare them. Some dogs do fine and don’t seem to notice the fireworks. But still, fear of fireworks is fairly common. Dogs that are afraid show signs such as shaking, trembling, more drooling than usual, some dogs start barking or howling, others may try to hide or get away. Also you dog may loose bladder or bowel control or experience temporary diarrhea because of the stress.

NOW is the time to prepare!

To help you with this I have uploaded a mp3 audio file in the Members Only section of (remember the password is ‘barktwice’).

Desensitization is a method for dealing with anxiety. You can use it for socializing a puppy that has no previous negative experiences with fireworks or loud sounds. This method involves exposing your dog to the thing that he is afraid of. When doing that you provide a positive stimulus in order to teach your dog that he need not be afraid.

Play this CD at a very soft (!) volume at first. The basis is ‘train for success’ so take small steps! Distract your dog from the fireworks sounds by playing with him or by giving him a regular training session. Leave the CD on repeat. When your dog is OK with it (he appears to be ignoring the sounds) then you turn up the volume a bit. Repeat this several times a day until your dog is comfortable when you play the audio file at a realistic fireworks volume.

Desensitization and distraction are key!

Repeated exposure to the fireworks audio file gives your dog every chance to cope.

Do not comfort your dog when he’s scared. When you cuddle and stroke him when he’s scared, he’ll remember that as a reward for acting nervous. Instead, just ignore the bangs and flashes and continue doing what you would normally do. Instead of comforting him, just take away his attention from the fireworks by distracting him with a toy.

Needless to say perhaps but do not scold at your dog for being scared. It will only scare and confuse him even more. Remember you are the alpha in the house and you are a role model. So whatever happens… remain calm.

It can help when you know someone with a dog that is NOT afraid of fireworks. Set up a meeting with your dogs together so your dog can observe the other. Try to avoid having two scared dogs together.

Drug therapy?

You could give your dog a bit of additional support.

You can use plug in devices (similar to an air freshener) that distribute Dog Appeasing Pheromones into the air. You need to start 2 weeks in advance and have the plug in device continuously distributing the calming pheromones. Another natural (aroma) remedy is Bach’s Rescue Remedy.

Your vet will have several calming medicines in case you already that your dog has a fear of fireworks. Tranquilizers are not for every pet so never borrow medicine that is not prescribed for your dog. Talk to your vet about medical options.

On 31st December: Keep your dog safe!

  • Make sure you take out your dog for a sanitary walk before the fireworks start. When you have a car then take a drive and go walk your furry friend in a nice and quiet area.

  • When you go out with your dog make sure he’s on a leash so he cannot run off when something scares him.

  • Close the curtains in the room where your dog is so he cannot see the fireworks flashes.

  • Play music that helps mask out the outside noises.

  • Don’t leave your dog alone and don’t let him go out into the garden by himself on this day.

  • Make sure your dog cannot escape from the house. Instruct all family members to keep the door closed. The day after, animal shelters often experience an influx of lost pets that have fled in panic from the fireworks. Also, you want to make sure that in case your dog sees an opportunity and escapes, his ID tag is up to date.
With plenty of distraction and a caring owner your dog will be just fine.

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I wish you all a merry X-mas and a happy New Year!

Paws up,

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