DOGS TRUST – SOUNDS SCARY

Each year, tens of thousands of dog/cats are frightened by fireworks but there are lots of steps that can be taken to help alleviate some of their suffering as supplied by the peeps at Dogs Trust.

Like most animals, loud noises can adversely affect dogs and cats in particular as they have particularly sensitive hearing, but you can certainly do things to help your pets out.

Gun dogs, for example, are not born tolerant of loud noises but are trained and effectively de-sensitised to the sounds by use of the following tips:

Before the fireworks begin:
• Walk your dog before dark – it would appear to be a simple instruction but people tend to walk their dogs later in the evening when the fireworks may have already begun – get the walk in early to avoid distress
• Feed your dog before the fireworks begin as he may become unsettled
• Make sure your house and garden are secure as your pet may try to escape.
• Try to settle your dog in familiar surroundings before the fireworks begin
• Provide a safe hiding place – at noisy times around Bonfire Night, make sure your dog has somewhere safe in his or her favourite room, perhaps under the table. Close the curtains, turn the lights on, and turn up the volume on your TV or radio to drown out the firework noises.
During the fireworks:
• Don’t punish your dog for cowering or reacting to the fireworks as this will intensify his fear. You should aim to remain relaxed and therefore provide a good role model to your dog when he is afraid. However, if your dog comes to you for comfort don’t ignore him – interact with him calmly.
• Don’t leave your dog alone in the house during the fireworks period – he may panic and this could result in an injury.
• Keep your dog busy indoors – play games or enjoy some reward-based training to keep his mind off the noises. However, if he just wants to hide away then don’t force him to come out of his hiding place, allow him to stay where he feels safe.
Longer term treatment:

If you think that your dog gets worried by loud noises, contact your vet to see if there’s an underlying health problem first, and to help you find a qualified behaviourist. Your vet will also be able to discuss whether medication might be helpful.

Programmes of behaviour therapy recommended will vary for each dog, but may include the following elements:
• Establishing a consistent way for your dog to cope. This often involves teaching a dog to use a den to hide when he is worried. This might require you to gradually change your dog’s ‘coping’ response away from one that relies on your attention so that he’s more able to cope with loud noises if they occur when you’re not home.
• Gradually teaching your dog that noises are not scary through a process called ‘desensitisation and counter-conditioning’. This usually involves playing recorded versions of the scary noises but starting at such a low volume that your dog is not worried by them. The volume and direction of sounds are changed over time, but so slowly that your dog does not show any signs of fear. The sounds should also be associated with something that he enjoys, such as high value treats or a game.

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