Surviving Guy Fawkes with Your New Puppy
This time of year that is highly emotive for a lot of people- and for good reason. Fireworks can be really stressful, for both pets and owners alike. It is completely natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises- and running away from them is a survival instinct.
A common myth surrounding fireworks, is that if you reward or comfort your dog, you will be reinforcing their fear. I am here to tell you- this is totally a myth! Without getting into the nitty gritty of learning theory- fear is an emotion. You cannot reinforce an emotion (to change it). However, you can counter-condition...
Think of it this way- say you aren’t fond of spiders. You are placed in a room with a tarantula, it elevates your heart rate. It darts underneath a desk to where you cannot see it anymore- ekk! Heart rate starts to rise. If I walked into this room, gave you a hug and $1,000, would you be less or more worried about the spider? Well, the answer to that really depends on your initial level of discomfort, but I can guaruntee you will not be more scared 😉
This is the same scenario with our dogs. Don’t be afraid to give your dog comfort (think: the same level of comforting a scared toddler. You wouldn’t go over the top, but you would provide a calm, safe environment with lots of comfort).
If you are lucky (yes, lucky!) enough to be experiencing Guy Fawkes for the first time with your dog, yay! I also will be going through fireworks season with a new dog- my Malinois (Toto), has just turned 7 months old, so he hasn’t experienced a Guy Fawkes yet. Let me clue you in on my plan:
He will have plenty of exercise during the day, so I’m not dealing with any pent up energy when it comes to the ‘boom’ time.
I have a plethora of his favourite treats and toys, all ready to go.
He will only be fed about half of his dinner portion, so he is slightly hungry for the evening
I will be home, or have him with me for the main fire works period.
When the fireworks start, provided he doesn’t react negatively, I plan to go outside into my yard and play. When there are big booms, there will also be treats falling from the sky.
Enthusiastic games of tug (his favourite!). If he shows any signs of discomfort, we will retreat to the safety of the house (where the noise is more muted than outside) and continue to play.
If he wants to stop and take the sounds in, that’s absolutely fine too.
Work to your dogs level- if they are naturally already a nervous dog, start off in the living room with some background noise (the TV) on, and the curtains closed. As they get more comfortable, you can open a window, draw the curtains etc. Work your way up to playing outside.
If you play your cards right, you will end up with a dog that is indifferent to fireworks!
For those of you with older dogs that have already had bad experience, check out the infographic below…