Fireworks Season Approaches
With those leaves starting to fall from the trees, it is fast approaching fireworks season. Now is the time that you can intervene to prevent your young dog from becoming scared of fireworks and other loud noises. In November, it really is too late- the best we can do is try to manage the problem.
Many dogs are petrified of loud, sudden noises. Unfortunately, this problem tends to get worse as the pet gets older, not better. A dog may be mildly affected as a puppy, but severely phobic by middle age. Dogs that have noise phobias become extremely distressed, and can do huge damage to themselves and to your house trying to escape from the noise. Some dogs have been known to jump through windows- it really is that extreme.
If your dog is already very scared of loud noises, the best option is to see a behavioural specialist as soon as possible. The behaviouralist will work with your dog to reduce the fear and negative associations with loud noises (desensitisation), and to try to start to create positive associations instead (this is known as counterconditioning).
If your dog doesn’t have a phobia, or the phobia is very mild, then it is much better to prevent the problem than treat it. The first step is to introduce your pet to these sounds at low levels. A CD of sounds is used for this purpose (for example, CLIX sounds CD which is available from The Company of Animals or Amazon). Treats and praise are used to reward calm and happy behaviour. It is very important that you do not verbally or physically reassure your pet when they show signs of fear, as this will just reinforce the fear. Start with the CD on a very low volume. As your pet shows complete relaxation with each sound, you can gradually increase the volume. Praise your dog for being relaxed, and give it treats. You should be able to build up to the sound being really quite loud indeed, with your pet still being relaxed. Doing this training now will prepare your dog for loud noises in future, and you should have a much more relaxed November!