Is your dog afraid of fireworks? Well, if so, you are not alone! It is very common for dogs to be sensitive to loud noises. Unfortunately, San Juan is a very celebrated day here in Spain, especially in Barcelona, where firecrackers can be heard already. For most of our dogs, these days coming are pretty terrifying. In this post I will give you some guidelines so you can help your dogs to cope with the situation.
You may notice they experience symptoms such as trembling, panting, salivation, not eating, restlessness, dilated pupils, sweating pads, urination and uncontrolled defecation, tachycardia … and other behaviours such as: flee or hide, seek contact, barking, destruction of some objects or scratching the wall/door, fear body language (tail between legs, low-set ears, head down …)
TIPS FOR A SAFE SAN JUAN (and other fireworks events)
1.Try to avoid the situation. Walk your dogs avoiding problematic hours. If you have the option to go away to a house in the countryside away from fireworks and the celebrating streets, leave with your dog.
2.It is preferable that the dog has exercised early in the day, but if there are already firecrackers in the morning and he does not want to leave, it’s ok. Ideally you should do nose work exercises at home every day; hide treats or his favourite toy and don’t forget to do it especially these days, so he can be more relaxed.
3.These days your dog can hear a noise and run away at any moment, so it’s very important your dog is identified. Take short walks and always ON LEASH until the event is done.
4.Obviously, try to keep your dog inside the house; with your company even better. Close all windows and blinds or shutters if you have. Turn on the fan or other white noises, play some music or TV to muffle the sound of fireworks.
5.Give the dog a good place at home to feel safe. A small area, preferably without windows, has an open door, with his bed, toys, kong, water … Turn off the lights! Yes, dogs feel safer in the dark. Plug Adaptil diffuser ideally 14 days before the event in this safe zone. It will help to reduce anxiety naturally.
7.Tryptophan helps calming dogs. You can give your dog supplements that contain it or if your dog has general fears talk to your veterinarian to consider a diet with tryptophan and ask for an anxiolytic recommendation. (a natural supplement is best)
No sedatives! Be cautious because sedatives leave the dog awake and still hearing the fireworks, so the fear can get even worse since the dog has no control of his body.
Late in the evening before the event you can give your dog a dish rich in carbohydrates: mashed potatoes or over cooked rice will help him to be more calm overnight. Check with your veterinarian if your dog has digestive problems.
8.Techniques such as TTouch to work relaxation based on body awareness. Another good option is the Thundershirt giving constant pressure in the body, relieving anxiety symptoms. Most dogs respond on first use, while others need two or three uses before showing improvements.
9.Scents such as lavender and bergamot also help relax the atmosphere. You can use pure essential oils. There are some already specially prepared for dogs: http://earthheartinc.com/Canine_Calm.html
10.Natural remedies such as Bach Flowers can also help work anxiety at an energetic level. Five Flower® or Rescue Remedy® are the most recommended.
These tips are for coping with the situation urgently, but to address the real problem you should contact a dog trainer.
Learn how you could work your dog’s fear to noises step by step in this other post. You still have time before the celebration!
Let’s do this! All dogs deserve to live without fear 🙂
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.