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How to survive Fireworks Night
is all-important if your dog is to get through firework night, or similar events, with the
minimum of fear and stress. But where do you start and how do you a safe and secure regime for
dogs with a fear of fireworks, thunder or gunshot noises.
First make a special place
where your dog can go to get away from the sounds he hates. In most cases, dogs will already
have a favourite room to go to, in which case all you need to do is to modify this room to make
it even more suitable as a hideout.
Some dogs don't know where to go to escape and for these individuals, we need
to create somewhere for them to hide. It is best to choose a room that is naturally quiet and
those that are located toward the centre of the house and have minimal number of windows are
the most suitable. It is best to prepare the refuge at least 2 weeks ahead of the firework
Preparation: Creating a Refuge
Install a DAP diffuser in the home, preferably close to or inside the dog's
hiding place. This should be left operating 24 hours a day from two weeks before the firework
event until 2 weeks after. DAP makes dogs feel much more relaxed and confident when they
might otherwise be stressed. Even if you only have a few days to go before the firework event
you should still use DAP because it may help. It is available from your veterinary surgeon.
Put in lots of blankets for your dog to dig and burrow in, preferably placed
in a corner where the dog has already tended to dig or hide. Include an old, unwashed piece
of clothing like a woolly jumper so that your dog can smell your scent and feel comforted by
your indirect presence.
The aim is to minimise the amount of noise entering the hideout room from
outside and the dog must not see the flashes of the fireworks as they explode, so close the
windows and use heavy curtains to make the room dark.
Bowls of food and water are essential. It is a good idea to make sure that
your dog has emptied his bladder an hour before the display starts.
Leave a few special chews and things for your dog to eat in the hiding place
in case your dog fancies something chewy to reduce his tension. However, donít be alarmed if
he does not seem interested in them Ė some dogs are simply not interested in treats at a time
Moderately loud rhythmic music with a good beat is an effective way to mask
the firework noises from outside, so put a hi-fi system in the room and keep the volume at a
loud but comfortable level. However, every dog is an individual and if yours is not very
partial to music at other times you should respect his personal taste!
The designated hiding place must be accessible to your dog at all times, and
it is vital to make sure that doors are fixed so that they cannot accidentally shut and trap
the pet inside or out of the room.
Get your dog used to going to the hiding place 2-3 times each day during the
run up to a firework display by taking him/her there and giving some food or a favourite
chew. This will help the dog to understand that this is a good place to go to.
If you know that a firework display is due on a particular evening then give
your dog a large stodgy carbohydrate-rich meal in the late afternoon on that day. Pasta,
mashed potato or overcooked rice are ideal, and will help to make your dog feel calm and
sleepy as the night draws in.
Make sure your pet is kept in a safe and secure environment at all times so
that it doesn't bolt and escape if a sudden noise occurs. Keep your dog on a leash in public
places and make sure that gates, fences and doors are secure.
If your vet has given you medication to reduce your dogís fears make sure that you follow
the prescription precisely.
When the noises start:
As soon as the fireworks display starts lead your dog to the hiding place and
encourage him to stay there.~
Don't get cross with your dog when he is scared. It will only make him more
It is tempting to try to soothe your dog to relieve his fears, but this is
the worst thing to do. It gives your dog the impression that there is something to be
frightened of, and may even reward him for being scared. Also, if your dog comes to think of
you as the only person who can soothe the fears, then he may panic if there are fireworks
when you arenít around to help.
Ignore your dog when he is looking frightened and only show attention and
affection when he has begun to relax. Then you can give your dog a game and some food treats
as a reward.
Finally, it is a good idea to try to keep your dog in a happy mood by playing
lots of games and doing little bits of training using food rewards. This will stop him from
falling into a state of anxious tension, but donít expect too much.
Ignore the noises yourself and, if your pet is only mildly fearful, you could
try to engage your pet in some form of active game. Try to appear happy and unconcerned. It
can help if you play a game with another pet in the household, because the frightened one may
be tempted to join in.
If your pet is very frightened by the noises and cannot be encouraged to play
then lead him or her to the refuge you have created.
If your dog is really terrified of fireworks then you could give him some
earplugs to block out some of the noise. Doggy earplugs are easy to get from pet stores and
your vet, but you can also make them out of rolls of wrung out damp cotton wool. However, it
is important to take care and to make sure that you donít push them down too far into your
dogís ear. You must also make sure that you remove them and throw them away afterwards! Care
must be taken that the ear plug is not so thin that it falls out, or so fat that it hurts
when you put it in.
Having got through fireworks this year you need to
start to do something about your dog's phobia problems long term. Many dogs can be treated
using behavioural methods called desensitisation and counter-conditioning. Specially made
recordings of fireworks can be used to train dogs not to react to the noises they fear and a CD
with full instructions made by
Sounds Scary Ltd can
be purchased from
Agility Warehouse along
with a selection of other items which can alleviate your dog's fears.
© Sounds Scary Ltd. 2003
the authors...Sounds Scary
Ltd was set up by Sarah Heath and Jon Bowen, two internationally renowned British
veterinary surgeons who exclusively treat behaviour problems in companion animals. They only
treat cases referred to them by other veterinary surgeons, which includes the very worst kind
of phobia problems.
They have clinics all
over England, and treat hundreds of behaviour problem cases every year. Both of them are
speakers at UK and international conferences on behaviour and they are involved in national and
international organisations on animal behaviour.
They record and edit the
sounds, write the manuals and support materials for the Sounds Scary products, as well as
providing comprehensive training and support materials for veterinary surgeons. The result is
an unbeatable package that enables vets and pet owners to work together to treat phobia
Sounds Scary discs are the product of
years of expertise in animal behaviour and the treatment of behaviour problems, including fears
and phobias. No other product can offer the same combination of design, quality and