Fireworks Fear, How Can I Help My Dog?

Fear of fireworks (and other loud noises) is a common problem in dogs. Fireworks Fear can also spread to fear of thunder, and eventually all loud noises.
It is of course not nice for your dog to be afraid, but for an owner, it is also quite an ordeal to see your dog get nervous, crawl away, or hear it bark constantly. Some dogs express their fear by not eating more, others eat half the house.
So fear has many faces and many forms.

My dog ​​is afraid of popping, should I ignore him?

Certainly not! The idea behind the old-fashioned advice “you must ignore your dog or you will reward the fear” was based on the idea that fear is a conscious choice. Fear is not a behavior; fear is an emotion. You cannot reward or correct emotions.
So if your dog is startled and comes to you; feel free to support him! You can put your arm around him, you can play with him, you can feed him, massage him, whatever it is he needs to feel less miserable.
Of course, you should not act nervous and anxious yourself, because then you will not be of support. Stay calm, watch your dog closely.

Also Read: How to greet a strange dog the right way!

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From fear to panic

Most dogs are startled by unexpected loud bangs. They lookup for a moment, the tail goes low, the ears back, but they are quickly recovered and continue with the order of the day. With these dogs, you can put in a reassuring word, followed by some treats or play.

Pay attention if your dog is more or less startled at bang 3 than at the first bang; this says a lot about his ability to recover. This is very important if you want to try fireworks training with your dog.

If your dog can no longer eat or play, and does not recover, wants to flee, or remains hyper-vigilant of his surroundings, perhaps barking or wheezing, the whites of his eyes may be visible; then you are really talking about a fearful dog. In real panic, a dog shuts down completely. He no longer eats, is panting, drooling, the whites of his eyes are clearly visible, your dog can run blindly. Some dogs squeak or scream, and sometimes you’ll even see a dog actually lay down and cramp or jerk. In dogs that really panic, medical advice is really necessary.

Did you know this? Many dogs start to show driving behavior when they are anxious, and this is usually mistaken for “dominance” or “challenge”.

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What can I do about fireworks fear?

There are many different things you can do to help your dog deal with loud noises better. But… fear of loud noises is strongly hereditary, and often the fear does not go away completely. It will be something you and your dog will learn to live with.
You can do fireworks training, you can use medication or other means.
Making your house “bombproof” is also important. Thick curtains, turn on the television a little louder and build a “safe space” for your dog. Creating a “safe space” (like a crate with thick rugs over it) for your dog is a great idea. A safe space only really becomes safe if it has been approved by your dog well before the bang. So make sure your dog sees this place as a safe space in plenty of time. Then he can crawl in if it gets too much for him. You can try earmuffs for dogs, you can distract your dog in the form of games or training sessions, sometimes your dog needs a thick chew. Also, consider home visits. If your dog is not so fond of that anyway, just celebrate New Year’s Eve at home with your dog.

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Why is my dog ​​afraid of fireworks?

This can be due to genetics (fear of loud bangs is very hereditary!), certain breeds are very sensitive to noise, it can be due to a trauma where the dog was really injured by or during fireworks. Fireworks’ fear can also get worse and worse due to a wrong approach from the boss. I once had a client who wanted to do fireworks training. Now every time his dog startled, he gave the slip chain a good tug, but his dog kept on startling. This man-made sure (out of ignorance!) that the fireworks fear got worse and worse.
Some dogs don’t become afraid of fireworks until they get older. This is often related to deteriorating senses, or to pain or discomfort that your dog then associates with loud bangs.

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Fireworks training

Can you reduce fireworks fear with training?

Yes and no. It can certainly help and reduce anxiety. But with training that doesn’t suit your dog, or where the steps are taken too quickly or where the learning principles are not understood, fireworks anxiety can also be exacerbated.
Fireworks training is usually done individually because you want to stay below the limit for your dog to react fearfully.
The goal is to be able to link something pleasant to the sound of fireworks. This can be done, for example, at home with the help of a fireworks CD.
The sound should just be audible for your dog, you can then reward your dog with treats or play.

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Medication for an anxious dog

There are different types of medication given to dogs during fireworks. Some medication paralyzes the dog, but he can still hear everything. So he’s just as anxious as ever, only he can’t move. It seems clear to me that you should not give this type of medication!
There is now a gel on the market, Sileo. This ensures that loud sounds less “enter” into the fear center in the brain. Your dog will not become drowsy and he can do everything else. You give this gel in the lip fold of your dog, it is easy to dose and can be given several times in a row.
You have to start building up some medicines well in advance. In any case, only use the medication in consultation with your vet, never play doctor yourself with mail-order pills!

Your dog may be so scared outside that he goes to the bathroom inside. You can of course not penalize this!

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Other types of tools

There are also other resources that can help with fireworks anxiety. Essential oils, homeopathic remedies, Bach remedies are remedies that can calm your dog and help him deal with his anxiety. Adaptil is a product that releases pheromone odor (smell of mother in the nest) into the environment.
Relaxed is a fairly new device that plays soothing sounds, and you really have to learn that. A Thundershirt or Body Wrap can give anxious dog support. But your dog also needs to get used to this. Earmuffs for dogs are still relatively unknown, but they seem to work very well.
There are also special chews on the market that contain soothing herbs, such as valerian.

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6 tips for during fireworks

  • Don’t leave your dog alone during fireworks, stay at home with your dog
  • Provide a safe shelter with sound attenuation and no view of the flashes of light
  • Give your dog something to chew on
  • Keep your dog on a leash
  • If your dog wants it, go play, train or give him a massage
  • Don’t force your dog outside during fireworks
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My dog ​​is not afraid of fireworks!

That is very nice. But, it doesn’t mean he won’t be. So don’t take any risks, don’t take your dog outside with fireworks. A piece of fireworks that flies into your dog or explodes in its mouth is a disaster that you can easily prevent. So also make the fireworks for your dog who does not suffer from fireworks fear, as pleasant as possible by doing fun things together.

Also, pay attention to dogs that are not afraid of it, but just want to go there. We have a number of shepherds who immediately think at a bang that it is training and that they can bite. Some dogs only see that something is being thrown away and want to retrieve it right away. Not such a good idea with fireworks!
So always make sure that your dog stays safe and does not develop a fear of fireworks!

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