I have just rescued a three-year-old Border Terrier who is very nervous and jumpy around loud noises. With firework season coming up, can you offer any advice on how to help keep her as calm as possible?
Paul Manktelow advises…
There are lots of things you can do to help prepare an anxious dog ahead of the fireworks season and you’re not alone – as many as 40 per cent of UK dogs have a fear of the loud bangs and flashes that are associated with fireworks. Preparation is key, so investigate when your local displays are taking place and ask neighbours if they are planning on having fireworks in the immediate vicinity of your house. On the day of a fireworks display, I always advise owners to take steps to tire their dogs out and get them as relaxed as possible. Lots of exercise before dusk and feeding a big meal before you expect disturbances can help.
Ensure all windows and doors are shut and close the curtains. Having the television or radio on will help to detract from the loud noises going on outside and I’ve heard music with a repetitive beat, such as rap, will help mask the intermittent bangs of fireworks. It’s important that you play these distractions in the nights leading up to fireworks night, so it doesn’t overwhelm your dog. Creating a safe den or retreat, which has familiar toys and blankets, will help your dog to feel safe and secure, and rewarding calm behaviour with treats is a great way of reinforcing this behaviour. Never attempt to remove a dog from a hiding spot unless he chooses to come to you for comfort – and if comfort is sought, provide it in a calm and reassuring manner. Acting normally and calmly will really help an anxious dog to feel less afraid.
I’ve heard that many owners have found sound CDs useful, as they can desensitise dogs to a variety of loud noises. It might be worth trying one of these, but you need to do it well ahead of fireworks night and introduce it gradually. It would be a good idea to speak to a behaviourist or your vet, who may be able to recommend calming techniques or products