Fireworks and Noise Aversion – A Treatment
Some dogs may become very distressed and fearful when they hear loud noises such as thunder, fireworks, or traffic sounds, this can cause certain dogs to become extremely anxious. Common reactions include hiding, shaking, panting, vomiting, defecation or urination, panic and occasionally destructive behaviours like chewing through doors and walls to escape to safe territory.
Hard as it may seem, you must not comfort your frightened dog, it will only encourage and reinforce the fears. Be blaise try and distract by playing a favourite game so he learns to cope on his own. If you give him too much fuss he’ll think this means that there really is something to be scared about! Of course, once he has cheered up a bit or relaxed, you must give him some love and attention – so that he knows he’s acting in the right way.
This program is not some quick fix. It will need time and careful handling. The aim is to slowly desensitize your pet to the sounds that are making him fearful. The DVD I have created covers fireworks, thunder, traffic noise, lorries, buses, airbrake sounds from large vehicles, gunshots and emergency services sirens. Each type of sound has its own track and that track can be repeated.
o It is a very good idea to introduce these type of sounds very quietly and gently to young pups who may not have a fear of the sounds as yet. This will get the pup who may not be able to go out because of vaccinations etc to be introduced carefully to all the scary sounds he will have to suddenly get used to when he is able to be walked and excercised
o At very noisy times say around Bonfire night, provide your dog with a safe hiding place (a cardboard box or lots of loose blackets he can burrow in) in his favourite room of the house, close the curtains and turn up the volume of your television or radio to drown out the firework noises. Dogs prefer classical music or even human relaxation CDs. Remember not to shut any internal doors, as the dog may feel trapped and panic even more with no method of escape.
o A stodgy high-carbohydrate meal (for example, with well-cooked rice or mashed potato) in the late afternoon will help make your dog more sleepy and calm during the evening. Also make sure he goes out to toilet before it gets dark and the fireworks start. Try to keep your dog busy with games or reward-based training, to keep his mind off the noises.
Often Medication can help coupled with a desensitisation program and disc. These are the medications I would suggest. You can normally combine them together to be more affective.
o Dr Bach’s Rescue Remedies: They are made from wild flowers. These gentle remedies are used to help relieve emotional and stress related disturbances in people and animals. The most common one used is Dr Bach’s Rescue Remedy. Between six and ten drops depending on size of dogs taken daily normally put in the dogs food. Available Chemist, health food shop or internet
o Skullcap and Valerian: A traditional herbal remedy for the symptomatic relief of anxiety, nervousness, excitability and travel sickness, and an adjunct in the treatment of epilepsy in dogs and cats. Normally supplied in a sugar coated tablet, it helps to calm and relax dogs and cats suffering from, apprehension, phobias or hyperactivity. Available Chemist, health food shop or internet Especially Dorwest Herbs
If possible try and start the program a week before any major event such as November the 5th or Diwali, the Hindu “festival of lights” where you know that with both these events there will be sustained bangs and sounds over a fairly long period of time.
This technique has been very successful in treating anxiety and phobias caused by sounds and are called desensitization programs. The technique involves exposing the subject to a low level of what actually causes the anxiety whilst pairing it with something positive.
oStart the medication a week or so before using the disc, this allows the dog to get used to the medication and to feel more relaxed. It is always prudent to discuss all medication with your Vet.
o Take your dog into a quiet room with you try and use a room that he normally uses and feels comfortable in. Start the CD at a very low (barely audible) volume. Reassure your dog by petting it and saying “good dog” in a regular calm voice. But only when your dog is showing no anxiety or fear, you can also reinforce this by giving treats at the same time.
o Start off very slowly the first few times, perhaps just a couple of minutes of the low volume noise. GRADUALLY over a few weeks or so, increase the volume until at the end of the exercise it is quite loud. The goal is for the dog to associate these loud noises with calmness and treats thereby relieving the fearful behaviour. This technique works well for most dogs, but it must be done correctly or it can worsen your dog’s reaction.
oIf the dogs shows any anxiety or fear of the sounds switch of the CD do not fuss or praise, The leave it for a couple of days and start again at a slightly reduced volume.
Always couple the above with plenty of exercise and a good diet
Tips to Remember:
A suitable place to hide – When the season begins, try and ensure your dog is already in their favourite room. All you need to do is to modify this room 2 weeks before to make it more suitable as a hideout. Put down lots of blankets for them to burrow in, and include an old unwashed piece of your clothing as the dog will feel comforted by your indirect presence. If possible the room should have minimal windows and blacking out the room removes the potentially additional problems of flashing lights and flares etc. Do not close the door!
Distractions – Provide plenty of familiar toys, special chews and games that might help distract the pet. Try to provide background sounds from the radio or television. As mentioned before classical or soothing type music is sometimes preferred, keep the volume at a loud but comfortable level.
Feeding and medication – Bowls of water are essential, and it is a good idea to make sure that your dog has emptied his bladder an hour before the display starts. Feed your dog a good meal, rich in complex carbohydrates with added vitamin B6. Remember to start the Dr Bach’s and Skullcap and Valerian a few weeks prior to the start of the events if at all possible.
Your behaviour – Do not punish your dog when he is scared, he may have trashed the house or soiled himself. He has not done this deliberately. Chastising or punishing only reinforces that whatever frightened him initially is something to be really afraid of and will make him worse. Don’t fuss; pet or try to reassure him, this acts as a reward for his fearful behaviour. Although it is hard, you must ignore fearful any behaviour that occurs.
This article was written by ©Stan Rawlinson (The Original Doglistener). A professional full time Dog Behaviourist and Obedience Trainer. You can visit his website at www.doglistener.co.uk for more articles and training information.