It is that time of year again. As dusk approaches the sound of snaps, crackles and pops begin to interrupt the silent night. Many of us who know we have sensitive dogs and how downright scary it is, have a ritual for helping them through it. For those with dogs who have always proven to be stoic and unflappable just see it as another annoying holiday. But dogs can and do develop sensitivities to these sounds. They may start to get anxious and skittish and show signs of anxiety that include trembling, panting, cringing, shaking and trying to hide. So what can you do?
First, there is prevention. If your dog has always been that unflappable pooch, help him to stay that way by offering him the comforts those of us with known sensitivities have to do. This will help to reinforce those nonplussed associations to “yay super awesome fireworks time!” associations.
The firework prevention and management freak out guide.
- Get some extra yummy special treats and have them on you at all times. My favorite way to carry uber yummy treats without getting all goobed up myself is to use treat toob that I can load up with pb or tripe. Yum!
- Create a safe quiet area for your dog to hang out. This can be his normal confinement area made extra calm-inducing with the blinds drawn, soothing music playing, interactive food toys and some extra goodies stashed for him to find. If your dog chooses to go in the bathtub or basement, make that their safe area.
- Ensure your dog’s gear is fit properly and ID tags/chips are up to date. Those collars get loose to the point where they can be slipped off our dog’s heads with a gentle tub. The harnesses get loose too with our daily walks. And those ID tags we got them years ago or that microchip they got when we adopted them….well time to update them.Microchips are one of the most effective tools we have for getting our dogs back home! Make sure that information is up to date or they cannot be effective in bringing your buddy back home. Not sure where to start with updating? Here is a link that will help you determine which company produced and distributed your dog’s microchip and how to contact them.
- Ditch the idea that you can reinforce fear. That old chestnut is one that takes some time to crack with most people. To put it into perspective, think of something that just makes your skin crawl. For me, it is spiders. Eek! If you threw a spider on me and then said: “Get over it, it is just a spider.” You can bet that a) I would not feel any better about the spider and b) I would seriously question our friendship! If you were instead to go slow with me, take time for me to adjust to the idea of touching a spider and praise me for being brave (even when I wasn’t) well, then I might just feel better about spiders.SO, moral of the story is, when the scary snap, crackle and pops occur, let treats rain from the sky, NO MATTER WHAT YOUR DOG IS DOING. This is the exact moment we have to create the ‘yay fireworks’ associations. Fireworks = Treat Party!!! (Oh, and by the way, this is scientifically proven! There are professional journals and research data out there that backs up this type of learning. Science rules!)
- If you know your dog has a history of severe anxiety during this time of year, talk to your veterinarian. They can discuss the use of appropriate short-term medications with you to help your dog to relax and get through this. *Note, please please please read this link by Dr. Marty Becker about the use of Acepromazine in fear contexts.
As I type this, my oh so sensitive girl Mary Lou is alternating between climbing into my lap and lying in her crate as Through the Dog’s Ear music is playing and the treat toob is oozing pb goodness at every snap and crackle. She is also obsessively licking me any chance she can get, an annoying behavior that I would usually redirect. It is a stressful time for her and since this licking seems to soothe her, a thorough bath via Mary Lou is on my scheduled activities for today.