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Firework Fears!

I've had numerous questions regarding fireworks so I decided to answer you all in one go. This time of year is very stressful for many animals and, consequently, their owners. Dogs particularly can be extremely frightened by the noises that fireworks make.

For all animals there are some simple guidelines for this time of year. Keep them indoors during the evening when fireworks are likely to be let off. If you are going out, leave the radio or the television on so that there is some background noise to distract them. Also ensure all the windows are shut and shut the curtains to minimise the noise coming into the house as much as possible.

For dogs that become very distressed there is a mild sedative which may help. This is available in tablet form from your vet and he should be able to tell you if your dog is a suitable candidate. This will take the edge off their anxiety and should partially sedate them.

We often enforce our dogs' fears without realising it and there are ways to desentitise dogs to these sorts of noises. You are too late for this year but could try it for next year. Firstly when your dog starts to get agitated and starts trying to hide or comes to you, don't try to console him. Our efforts to tell them it's all alright and try to calm them down are seen by them as us getting highly agitated ourselves. This then tells them that there must be something to be frightened of and we enforce their fears. If you ignore them and pretend that nothing has happened it will help to reduce their fear.

Try to get hold of a recording of fireworks going off. This desensitisation takes a few months so leave yourself plenty of time before next November. Decide what is your dog's favourite passtime. It could be eating or playing games with you or just simple praise from you. Then play the recording at an extremely low level so it is barely audible and entertain your dog the best you can. This fun will relax them and they will be happy. Very gradually over the next weeks to months start to increase the volume of the recording and keep doing whatever activity your dog likes. Your dog will gradually learn to associate the noise with feeling happy and relaxed. You need to do this slowly and be patient. Most dogs should be helped a lot or cured by this method.

Happy Bonfire Night (hopefully for you and all your pets).

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