Prevent Fireworks Fear

Any observant pet lover and pet parents would have seen their pets and strays alike, petrified and trembling, on hearing unfamiliar sounds like that of thunderstorms or fireworks during festivals, etc. It is a matter of concern and needs to be handled.

Fear in dogs should be handled at early stages in a pup’s life… training can be given after the pup is about four months of age.

Handling startling sounds during puppyhood

  • As pet parents, DO NOT be overprotective about your pet and don’t be scared yourself.

  • Talk to your pet when she is exposed to such unfamiliar loud sounds and assure her that you are with her and in control.
  • You must act and behave as the ‘Alpha’ of the pack, so that your pet feels safe when you are around.
  • Take your pet often to such places where there may be some noise, light traffic, children playing, etc. Alternatively you may also record and play such sounds often, to familiarise your pet at early stages. Your family and friends may take turns to do the same, as your pet needs to behave the same even when you are not around.
  • Appreciate your pet with treats, applause and hugs when she behaves appropriately on such sounds.

Handling startling sounds with adult dogs

Handling loud startling sounds like thunderstorm, fireworks, blasts, etc can be done in three parts.

Before: Prepare your pet in advance if you are expecting fireworks or thunderstorms. Tell them that they can expect the same. Assure them that they are safe in your company. If you have time, play such loud sounds in front of your pet while feeding them or playing with them. Show them that you are creating these sounds and that you are in control. Give treats, hugs and appreciation when your dog starts reacting in a desirable manner.

During: If you are caught unaware and such sounds begin without you preparing for it and if your dog shows signs of fear, such as tail tucked between hind legs; hiding under the bed, table or behind sofa; confining herself in a small dark room like the store, washroom or the study, etc, here is what you may do:

  • Please DO NOT scold or reprimand your dog. Let her be, till the sounds dies down or your pet comes out of her hole.
  • DO NOT over pamper or be overly protective at that time, as that would encourage your pet to repeat herself every time such sounds occur.
  • Try and minimise those sounds either by closing the doors and windows or taking your pet to another room.
  • Divert your pet’s attention by making other familiar sounds like that of a clicker or whistle or a squeaky toy.
  • l Offer your pet to sit or sleep on its bed as that would help them to feel safe and secure.

After: Without referring to the incident, be natural and calm with your pet, as if nothing happened and then do what needs to be done or to be prepared next time around.

(Nipun Biyani runs Jaipur-based Paws 2 Think pet salon.)

Tips to help your pooch overcome fear of noice

With Diwali just around the corner, everybody is looking forward to the celebrations and festivities. Happiness can be seen everywhere but is it the same for your dog as well? Does your loving canine also enjoy the festivals just like you or does it scare him or make him frantic? Diwali is the time to celebrate and it should be the same for your dog. But, the loud noises of the firecrackers make him scared and anxious. Last year, on Diwali, my dog Jimmi was shivering and whimpering throughout the night. We tried our best to calm her with soothing words and gentle patting, to no avail. However hard we tried to feed her, she did not touch food. While it was a happy time for us, it was really sad to see her suffering. This is more or less the same for all canines.

Here are a few tips to help your canine combat fear of noise:

  • Create a safe place for your dog where he can be shielded from the frightening sound. Associate that space with other good things like treats, food, etc.
  • Try to distract him by engaging him in another activity that captures his attention.
  • Ask your vet for medication to help reduce his anxiety level.
  • Before Diwali time, condition your dog to respond to noise in a non-fearful way. This can be done by using a tape with firecracker noise on it. Play the tape at low volume and give your dog a treat or play with him. Gradually increase the volume and treat him.
  • If the dog shows aggressive behaviour, put him on leash for the time there are noises outside.
  • Request your neighbours and friends not to light crackers which make loud noise.
  • Last but not the least, your kind words, your soothing tone and gentle touch will help him go through any nightmare.