Hi again, doggists!
As we already saw in the previous post 10 Tips For A Safe Celebration With Fireworks, dogs with fear of noises experiment some symptoms and behaviours when there are fireworks. It’s important to treat this fears long term, since they are not going to disappear by themselves. These fears can even get worse and our buddies really struggle here.
Trying to change your dog’s emotion to the sound of fireworks can be achieved by gradually exposing the dog to audios with the sounds at a very very low volume and if the dog is relaxed, playing or accepting treats.
Start playing the audio at a low volume and little by little turn it up if the dog is relaxed or focused with the game or meal. You have to see that he has recognized the sound but is still not reacting. This allows the dog to get used to the noise without reacting with fear. If you see he begins to be uncomfortable, turn it down immediately and return to the previous step. Gradually, you turn it up again if he doesn’t react, and so on.
If the dog is scared with the lowest volume, then try to shut down a speaker, lower the bass or even cover the speakers with a cushion.
Sessions playing audios must be short: about 2-5 minutes long at first, ideally you do it 2-4 times a day. You can try the following audio files:
The purpose of desensitisation to noise is gradually exposing the dog to louder and louder sounds over time. It can take days, weeks or months of treatment. The pace will be set by the dog.
It is important that the treatment is not in period of fireworks. But we still have a few weeks before San Juan is here, so let’s get to work!
-Act calm and normal. No need to pay exaggerated attention, but don’t ignore your dog, especially if it comes seeking contact or shelter. If he comes asking to be pet, you should pet him calmly with no problem, just act normal without overreacting.
-You should never punish your dog for being afraid. Our attitude is very important, we are their guide, they come to us for help.
-Never force your dog to approach or interact with something that frightens him. If he wants to leave or hide we will let him. Do not make him stay.
-Make sure your vet checks that your dog’s fears are not due to a medical condition.
-Helping your dog overcome a fear takes time. There is no cure overnight so much patience and perseverance is required.
Following these guidelines will be helpful, but equally or more important is mental stimulation for your dog! You already know from other posts: you should use everything that has to do with his nose and smell. Make him search for treats at home or his favourite toy, play dog mental games, Kong, etc.
Any questions you have please contact me. San Juan is coming! Let’s make our furry friends cope the best possible way!
References and further reading:
Curtis, T. Storm and Noise Phobias. Presented at the North American Veterinary Convention, January 2010, Orlando, Florida.
Horwitz, DF. Prognosis of behavior problems. Presented at the Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference, October, 2001. Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Canine Neuropsychology for Dog Behaviour Counselors and Trainers by James O’Heare.