Tag: Dog fireworks anxiety

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Puppy Tails (1)

Puppy Tails (1)


Introducing Rollo; active, happy, speedy puppy with bundles of energy and lots of love to give. He is a lurcher (greyhound mix) collie mix, and the best birthday gift a girl could hope for!

Rollo, when we first brought him home 殺

He is our newest addition to the family – at 11 weeks old now, he is having his second set of vaccinations (and microchip) this afternoon, meaning he will be able explore the big, wide world beyond the house and garden!

In this, the first puppy “tail”/ tale, we will look at some of the habituation training we’ve been doing with Rollo, to prepare him for the big, wide world out there!

Rollo at 8 weeks old.

Firstly, for those who are unfamiliar with habituation training, this is training that teaches a dog to be okay with a stimulus. Basically, you acclimatise the dog to the stimulus you’re exposing it to.

It is important, when habituating your dog to a stimulus, that you do not comfort your dog. If a dog acts fearfully or anxiously to something they need not fear, and comfort is given to that reaction it will reinforce the fear/ anxiety to that stimulus. By comforting your dog you are reinforcing to them that their reaction was correct.

Some of the main sound stimuli that dogs often show fear toward are:

• Thunder
• Fireworks
• Vacuum cleaner
• Loud vehicles

To habituate Rollo to these sounds, he first had to be exposed to the sounds and his reaction gauged, to know where to begin.

Let’s look at the first two; thunder and fireworks – not sound stimuli that you can schedule training around, as you often get little to no warning of when these sounds may come up in life (you can’t always rely on the weather forecast ).

We are fortunate to have a (modest) surround sound system in our living room, as well as a Chromecast device which allows us to play sounds and videos via the TV and the surround sound. So, to introduce Rollo to the stimuli of thunder and fireworks we found videos and sound clips online, and played them through the surround sound. Starting off at a very low volume (which we struggled to hear, but Rollo (having superior dog hearing) could hear just fine) we played several different videos – firstly of fireworks, then the same with thunder.

Rollo was unsure the first few times we played the fireworks – he sought comfort the first time, and whined a little in his uncertainty. We carried on as normal with what we were doing, and encouraged Rollo to continue playing with his toys. We did this several times over a couple of weeks – after a week he just didn’t react any more, but continued with whatever he was doing (playing, eating, napping, etc.) at the time.

After the first few times, when Rollo’s reaction was lessening, we increased the volume each time to continue habituating him to this noise. The volume increases didn’t seem to get much of a response from Rollo, other than that he seemed to acknowledge the sudden noise interrupting his day. During the second week, with the volume at a suitable level Rollo had completely given up on reacting in any kind of negative or anxious way to the fireworks stimulus.

We repeated this training method with playing thunder through the surround sound with Rollo, and his reaction was significantly less to the thunder than to the fireworks. This may be due to the firework habituation training having gone so well, or simply because Rollo is unaffected by the noise (my previous dog, Barney, used to love to bark at thunder and fireworks just to join in being noisy – not out of any fear or anxiety). After just over a week of doing this with thunder, Rollo was showing no negative or anxious reactions – success!

Rollo age 10 weeks, enjoying his teddy – giving no reaction to the noises from the surround sound system.

We still occasionally play thunder and fireworks, just to keep the habituation successful whilst he’s still young. The real test of this habituation training will be when he hears thunder and fireworks for real, for the first time!

Throughout the above, Rollo was also being habituated to the vacuum cleaner – let’s face it, I can’t not vacuum so he needs to gets used to that! We have a Henry Hoover, which Rollo was very suspicious of at first, as Henry was a lot bigger than him when we first brought Rollo home! Rollo pawed and mouthed at Henry with his strange nose and funny feet! He wasn’t too fussed on Henry until the noise came… That spooked Rollo the first time – he barked and whined and ran away from Henry. Rollo soon settled down as we didn’t react to Henry (or comfort Rollo) and he soon realised the noise was nothing to fear.

But then came the movement; a noisy Henry in the corner is one thing, but a noisy Henry moving around the house is another! Using Henry to actually vacuum (not just so Rollo could get used to the sound) sparked the barking and whining and retreating reaction again. Again, we didn’t react or comfort, and we (whoever wasn’t manning the vacuum) encouraged Rollo to continue what he was doing.

Whilst Rollo doesn’t react so extremely any more to Henry, he still usually stops what he’s doing and watches from a safe distance until Henry is quiet and back in his corner. This is a good reaction in my book, for the time being, as Rollo is not fearful or anxious, but we will continue to work on this as Rollo also isn’t completely comfortable around the noisy, moving Henry (he may never be, but dog training is an ongoing thing).

Rollo age 9 weeks, with his Nylabone chew, showing mild interest in Henry Hoover’s stationary noisiness.

Finally, when we’ve had Rollo on his various leads in the front and back gardens (lead training will be covered in a future “Puppy Tail”), we’ve used the opportunity to allow him to become habituated to the noises of the neighbours, the street and various vehicles.

Our back garden backs onto a train track, with fairly frequently running trains (at all hours of the day and night). Foxes often run around the neighborhood, and there are plenty of birds and squirrels around too! Cats roaming their territories, and dogs in neighbouring gardens or being walked down our street, are frequent sights. Cars, motorcycles, buses, lorries, cyclists and pedestrians are also frequent down our (relatively busy) little road. All of these things, and more, have caught Rollo’s attention and sparked a reaction in the beginning.

Trains and other vehicles, and the local wildlife, Rollo just takes in his stride now – they’re just part of the background noise to life. People and other dogs he so badly wants to interact with, which is only natural whilst he’s confined to the house and gardens – this training will continue on walks in the outside world. Cats, he doesn’t (at the moment) react to in any way as they stay well out of reach.

He does still enjoy watching the world go by from the driveway, now he’s used to the noises and activities going on, on our road. The main thing is that Rollo has been given the time and the training to acclimatise to these everyday stimuli, so these things are less of a worry when he is able to go for walks beyond the realm of his home and gardens.

Rollo age 10.5 weeks enjoying watching the world go by, from the safety of the driveway.

All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


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Common Behavioural Problems: Fireworks Anxiety (dogs)

Common Behavioural Problems: Fireworks Anxiety (dogs)

Behaviour Banner

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

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