Fireworks, loud noises and things that go bump in the night!
I want to talk about Firework and loud noise desensitisation …yes, we need to start early, especially for our puppies who were born after last November, but also for our oldies that are noise sensitive. My Willow hates loud bangs and noises, fireworks week and New Year’s Eve is a stressful time for this house, so I invite you to join me on our journey to help him and your dog together.
I will break this down into two parts –
1- Puppies – Introduction of these noises to puppies who are currently happy energetic care-free souls.
2 – Helping dogs that already have a fear of fireworks/noises
We need to be good teachers and caregivers for our new puppies, so along with feeding them, walking them appropriately and playing with them, they need to be introduced to all manner of noises and experiences that they may encounter over their lives. If we can do this in a safe environment at a pace that they can cope with and with positive consequences, (eg without overloading them or causing distress) then we can help our puppies grow into very adaptable and well rounded adult dogs.
Try and think of puppies as sponges for knowledge and forever practicing for their adult life, but who need careful handling and positive experiences.
Just as we need to introduce puppies to children, adults, other dogs, the hoover at home, children running past them in the street, travelling in the car, going to the vets, having their first groom, we need to devote some time to introduction to things they may not experience for a few months. If we do not introduce these things early or in a controlled manner, by the time fireworks night comes around, we have sometimes lost that vital opportunity. Preparation is definitely our friend.
One of the best resources I have found for the introduction to fireworks (and indeed many strange noises that dogs may encounter but not always in your own home), is on the Dogs Trust website. Their Sound Therapy for Pets page includes downloadable guides and ‘scary sounds’ tracks with full instructions on how to introduce noises.
I can’t stress strongly enough that you start this process today. It only takes a little time each week, but will be a massive investment for your dog. He will thank you for it, and you will be so glad you did, as trying to comfort or distract a dog that is digging a hole in your carpet to hide from a week of fireworks can be very distressing for everyone.
Adult or already noise sensitive dogs
If you have a rescue dog (like my Willow), or older dog that has been scared at some time and is now fearful of fireworks, the Sounds Therapy for Pets at the Dogs Trust can also help your adult dog on a path to recovery.
How I am using sound therapy with Willow
As I am typing this blog, I am playing one of the tracks on my computer at a low level whilst Willow is sleeping and although I know he can hear them, because it is at a low level, it is below his threshold for jumping up and barking furiously. This is exactly what I need to do for him. Over time, I will play the noises a little louder every week, so that hopefully, by fireworks night I should be able to play quite loud fireworks sounds on speakers which he will be accustomed to, and more importantly will not react to. Which means we will all have a calmer evening.
Please do seek professional help if you are finding any problems with desensitising your dog to fireworks noises, it can be a very stressful and traumatic time for animals, but there is help out there. As a TTouch practitioner, I have worked with many noise sensitive dogs and had great results, but each dog is different and may need different training techniques.