Common Behavioural Problems: Fireworks Anxiety (dogs)


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I have come to the conclusion over the years that I do not in fact have the pleasure of having a dog. My dog does not exhibit many stereotypical dog behaviours – has no interest in chasing cats, never plays fetch (or anything except ‘chase me!’ really…), he HATES water – jumps over puddles, sulks if he has to go out in the rain, and won’t willingly stay in the bath! You get the picture! This time of year I am always reminded of another way in which my dog is not a dog – you see my little Barney jumps at almost everything! But fireworks… He LOVES them!
*BARK*BARK*BARK*
Yea, you tell those fireworks Barney… ??!
If we do fireworks in our garden the dog is not allowed outside, for his own safety, except on a short lead. He’s only allowed to bark at the one’s he can see/ hear from a distance.

Well, most dogs are not like that. Studies have shown that around 45% of dogs exhibit fear/ anxiety toward fireworks. So, I thought I’d cover some helpful tips to help your canine friend through the fireworks this bonfire night.

1. Ensure your pet has somewhere to hide; somewhere they feel safe. Dark/ covered areas, and enclosed spaces are good as they help calm your pet and make them feel secure. Under furniture, in (clear) cupboards, an enclosed/hooded pet bed, even a cardboard box with something soft and familiar smelling inside – just ensure your pet has access to it at all times so that they can escape the moment they feel the need to.

Zzz Alfie

2. Walk your dog during daylight hours – there is no sense in attempting to walk a frightened dog when it is dark with fireworks going off left, right and centre! Walk them during the day so that they can enjoy the exercise, and you can care for them safely, indoors when the scary fireworks are lighting up the night sky. This reduces the possibility of fireworks being set off during ‘walkies’ and your dog becoming anxious/fearful.

3. By November I assume there are not many people who leave the windows and doors open around their house, due to the cold autumn evenings, however, this point still stands – ensure that windows and doors are shut, and blinds and curtains are also closed, this will help to muffle the sounds of the fireworks outside. Turning on the TV or radio (some noise) will also help to distract your pet from the noise of the fireworks.

Fireworks

4. One of the most important things you, as an owner, can do is to behave completely normal and ignore the fear/anxiety behaviour your dog is exhibiting in response to the fireworks. Unless your pet is self-harming due to the stress/anxiety or going to accidentally cause itself harm, do not give your pet attention (positive or negative) as ‘reward’ for the behaviour. If you are anxious about your pet becoming anxious, they will pick up on it and it will increase their anxiety.
This applies to any irrational fear/anxiety behaviour. If you comfort your pet every time they exhibit fear/anxiety, they feel that there is a reason they are being comforted, and that fear/anxiety is the correct response to the stimuli. Ignore your pets anxiousness; especially toward normal things that will not do them harm – such as the vacuum cleaner, recycling bins, furniture (yes, our pets can become anxious easily over mundane things).

5. Do not leave your pet alone, if you can help it, to ensure their safety. Ensuring your dog is microchipped (and wearing a collar and tag) will be beneficial if your dog somehow escapes.

6. Toys and chews are helpful for distracting your dog and keeping them occupied during the fireworks. A new toy, their favourite toy, a treat toy, a rawhide chew, their favourite chewy treat – whatever will be the best distraction for you.

Barney nomming

7. Adaptil supply a great pheromone diffuser, spray,  and collar for dogs. There are also Adaptil non-pheromone tablets.
The diffuser is a plug in and emits the pheromone throughout your house and works to soothe and comfort your dog.
The collar needs to be in close contact with the skin at all times, the body heat from the animal stimulates the collar to work.
The spray should not be sprayed on the animal! The spray can be sprayed on bedding, in kennels, in the car… ensure you and your pet stay away from the sprayed area after it has been sprayed, for 15 minutes (spray it 15 minutes prior to your dog needing the affects) to allow the spray to take affect and not cause harm to anyone.
NB. Adaptil is specially designed for use with dogs only.

Fear of fireworks doesn’t just affect dogs; many pets are scared of fireworks – the noises and the colours. Most of these tips can be applied to your pet species.

If you are concerned about your pet, seek the advice of your vet and/ or an animal behaviourist.


If you have any questions or comments, or would like any more information or advice regarding this post; or if you have anything specific you would like me to cover in a future post, then either contact me through this site or leave a comment below, or contact me via one of my social media pages:-
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Ali Holloway – BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare

Thoughts

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