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For many, New Years and Independence Day are some of the best days of the year: backyard barbecues, parades, and amazing fireworks displays to ring in the start of a fabulous new year or celebrate our nation’s independence.
But for many pet parents, these are the most dreaded days of the year.
For those of us with fearful dogs, the evening is often spent comforting a panicked pooch from the first crackle to the grand finale. We use Thundershirts, essential oils, soothing music, and more to calm our stressed out dogs, often only finding relief when the explosions finally die down.
Instead of just dreading the big day, why not start to prepare now?
Certified professional dog trainer and animal behavior consultant, Ann Waterbury of New Dawn Animal Behavior Center explains how to help prepare your dog for fireworks:
“To prepare for fireworks season….check out this YouTube video with fireworks sounds. Play at a low volume while your dogs eats or does anything they LOVE to do. Repeat every other day, very gradually increasing the volume while pairing with something awesome for your dog. The idea is to desensitize your dog. If your dogs shows any signs of stress….than the volume is up to high or your session is too long. Keep it short and happy!!!!”
Start today! Go slowly and keep your sessions short. This is very important as moving too quickly can actually make your dog’s fear of fireworks worse. Just take your time and make sure your dog is having a blast while the video plays quietly in the background.
For more training tips and cool animal behavior information, check out New Dawn Animal Behavior Center on Facebook by clicking here.
As an alternative, something that can calm YOU and your dog, you could try massage. We have two collie spaniel crosses, Sam and Sarah, bred as gun dogs. They were both from the same litter and inseparable – except around firework time of year when Sam spends much of the evenings trying to hide into the smallest place possible shivering and quaking. His sister is totally not fazed by the bangs but gets upset to see her twin brother looking stressed.
We have tried everything over the years from the CDs you recommend to pheromone diffusers. But nothing made any difference to Mr Sam.
Last year, after completing a Diploma in Canine Massage I set up my own remedial dog massage and myotherapy service called AchyPaw. I soon realised that massage is not just beneficial for dogs with a muscular or joint issue but is great for the more mature dog that simply needs help learning to relax. So we decided to give relaxing massage sessions a go on Mr Sam to see if we could calm him naturally before the big bangs started. Massage can either be stimulating (when you use fast, vigorous and strong movements) or relaxing (when the movements are slower, softer and more rhythmic). Physiologically the plan is to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to bring about a reduction in heart rate and respiration.
For a couple of weeks before Big Bang season (which in the UK is around the end of October/start of November we gave Sam a 15 minute realxing massage and then wrapped him up warmly in a blanket – like a thundershirt. We found that as we progressed each night the sighs would come earlier into the session and his eyes go all goggly inside his head.
When the fireworks did start he was massaged early and wrapped up while we waited for the first bangs of party nights. This time when he heard them instead of running round the house, he simply looked up, still aware of the noise, but lay back down again as though the effort of being stressed was actually too much like hard work.
Success. But as an added extra, WE were relaxed too. Instead of us dreading the next big bang wondering what we could do to calm down our sensitive dog, we were able to get on with the normal evening things – like watching TV (which didn’t have to be on full blast to drown out the noises). His sister was also able to sleep through the bangs without worrying about her brother.
It is worth giving this a try? If you want to learn more about this treatment feel free to contact me from my website at: achypaw.com