Firework Fear

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Many dogs are frightened of fireworks. Most dogs will react to noise such as stepping back from the kerb when a car goes past - this is a normal fear response. However some dogs become noise phobic and their response to noise is extreme, continuing even when the threat has gone. This can become very dangerous as they may run away with no reaction to their surroundings and cause themselves harm.
There are lots of things you can do to help your dog cope with fireworks. Long term it is best to discuss using one of the desensitization and reconditioning techniques to stop your dog’s phobia being a problem but in the short term the following things may help.

Your Behavior
Don’t reassure the dog for behaving in a scared fashion as this makes him think the behavior is correct. Don’t get cross, as this is also a form of reassurance.  Just behave normally and when your dog is relaxed give him some treats. Ignore any scared behaviors.

Making a den
A place which your dog perceives as safe is very helpful. This can be an area such as under the stairs or in a crate or box of some sort. The den should have a comfortable bed in it and preferably be insulated from windows so that the dog cannot see flashes of fireworks going off. An indoor crate with blankets draped over it is ideal. The den should be available all the time so the dog can get away from noise even when you are out. Music played near the dog which has a steady beat is useful to deaden any noises coming from outside the house.
 

Adaptil diffusers and Collars
These release a substance known as Dog Appeasing Pheromone which is the hormone produced by bitches to make her puppies feel secure.  The diffuser plugs into the wall and releases the hormone into the air around. This should be plugged in near the dogs den to help make him feel this is a secure area.  The collars are worn all the time and help the dog feel more secure where ever he is. Both devices last around a month before needing a refill/replacement.

Scullcap and valerian tablets are a licensed herbal medication that aims to reduce the amount of negative behavior your dog produces in fearful situations. They are very safe and can be obtained over the counter.

Zylkene is a natural product, derived from casein, the protein in milk.  It has not been associated with any side effects such as sedation or memory loss, unlike other prescription sedatives; however it can have some of the same benefits, by binding to the same receptors in the brain. The powder contained can be given mixed with water and tastes milky, making it easy to give. Again it is designed to reduce fear response. It can be given daily during the firework season but is often more effective if started a few days prior to a main firework display.
 
Prescription Only Medication from your Vet
There are medications available which may help your dog cope with fireworks. Please discuss this with your vet as some of the older treatments can actually make things worse. Follow any dosage directions carefully as these will be suited to your dog.

‘Sounds Scary’ CD’s
There is a CD series produced called ‘Sounds Scary’, which will help your dog overcome his or her fear of fireworks and other noises. The CDs come with an instruction manual and members of the practice can work with you to treat your dog’s phobia. The treatment can take several months to desensitize your dog, so it is worth starting as soon as firework season is over. Using this CD during firework season is not recommended, as your dog will be at a high anxiety level.

 

We hope you all have a stress-free firework season this year!

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