If you have a dog who is already terrified of fireworks, or a young dog who’s yet to experience the sound of fireworks, this is your early heads-up to begin teaching them how to cope. Do not put it off, play it down, or wait until the weekend before Bonfire Night to start. Leaving your dog to suffer unnecessarily.
Your dogs response to fireworks and bangs can be counter-conditioned, much like we do their response to other dogs, people, cyclists, traffic etc. As fireworks aren’t part of a dogs typical day-to-day life, when they are eventually introduced to them it’s easy to understand how their abnormal appearance and loud sounds can evoke a fear response, particularly in nervous dogs and puppies.
Firstly, you need to change your dogs negative emotional response for fireworks to a positive one. Secondly, desensitise the dog so they become indifferent to fireworks altogether.
To begin counter-conditioning, play firework sounds (YouTube has tons of videos for this) on the lowest possible level and feed your dog. Once your dog has finished eating, stop the firework sounds. Providing your dog has shown no physiological signs of stress like lip-licking, yawning, panting etc, increase the volume by 1 during the next feed. Repeat this process slowly until your dog is comfortable with the sound of fireworks at the highest volume.
It’s so important not to rush this process and push your dog over threshold, slow and steady wins the race. If you go too fast you’ll only have to start again from the beginning. This is why it’s important not to wait until it’s the weekend before Bonfire Night to begin panicking.
Desensitisation will occur after the counter-conditioning, once your dog has been exposed to fireworks over a prolonged period. When the fireworks no longer elicit a fear response and no negative consequence is experienced as a result, your dog will gradually become desensitised to them entirely.
Share this post with any friends or fellow dog owners who have a dog which struggles around Bonfire Night. Firework Phobia is absolutely improvable with the right approach, so please don’t let your dog suffer unnecessarily and start training today.
I’ll be creating a video shortly to demonstrate this training with our own 14-week-old puppy Panzer, so like and follow our page to get notified.