How to Train Your Dog to Accept Fireworks

Easy
1-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

While you and your family might eagerly await the annual fireworks display, your canine friend is likely to be huddled under some furniture shaking like a leaf. The deep and loud sound of fireworks may startle us, but such sensitive canine hearing can leave your dog feeling like bombs are being dropped overhead. He might not be eating his food, he may stop drinking, and he might not be able to sleep.

Training your dog to accept and live with fireworks will save him serious anguish. Seeing your dog trembling for hours on end isn’t easy, so if there are steps and measures you can take to reduce that fear, it’s a no-brainer!

Defining Tasks

Due to the serious fear that fireworks can bring out in dogs, training isn’t always a walk in the park. You will need to take a number of steps to reduce his fear. A big part of training will be gradually desensitizing him to the terrifying sound. If your dog is young and a puppy, then overcoming the fear may take just a week or two, if he has had a deep-rooted fear of fireworks for many years, then training may take many weeks to yield results.

Fortunately, the measures you can take as an owner are straightforward and it’s vital you follow them for the wellbeing of your dog. Dogs who experience such extreme fear may develop behavioral problems and fears in other areas of their lives. So be patient and persistent and you’ll soon have your dog smiling through fireworks.

Getting Started

Before you get to work with your canine pal you will need several things. His favorite food or treats will be needed to calm and reward him during fireworks. You will also need some recordings of fireworks and an audio device to play them with.

You will also need to ensure your dog’s den is comfy, homey, and a safe shelter when fireworks do start to go off. Apart from that you just need 10 minutes a day for the next few weeks and a proactive attitude and you’re ready to begin!

The Desensitization Method

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Desensitization Method
Step
1
Cue the audio
Head online and find an audio recording of fireworks. Ensure the sound is clear and the clip is long enough that you can leave it to play for up to 10 minutes. You are going to gradually introduce him to the sound and break down his fear, prior to fireworks night.
Step
2
Start low
Place a speaker in the same room as his bed and play the clip on a very low volume. Make sure he doesn’t look too startled. If he is shaking or trying to escape the room, turn the volume down.
Step
3
Play it cool
As the clip plays, sit with him and praise him for his calm behavior. Be sure to shower him with attention and be upbeat and jolly. Many dogs gauge how to feel and behave from their owners, so if you are relaxed he may mirror that.
Step
4
Repeat
Play the clip each day for 10 minutes and slowly increase the volume. The key to this training is to build up the volume very slowly. If he looks terrified you are going too quickly and you need to decrease the volume. Be sure to sit and play with him throughout the clips--you can talk to him, encourage him to play and even give him the occasional treat.
Step
5
Separate
When you can play the clip relatively loudly and he doesn’t appear scared, leave the room and watch through a window. You now want to ensure he is still relaxed and calm even when you aren’t there to distract him. It may take weeks to get to this stage, but this gradual process will help him overcome his fear and ensure he can be left alone on fireworks night.
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The Managing Environment Method

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Managing Environment Method
Step
1
Provide a safe place
Ensure his bed is super comfy and offers a secure place to retreat to. When dogs are scared they like to retreat to their territory where they feel safe from the scary sounds around them. This could mean you get him a crate or a roofed bed in preparation for fireworks night. This extra shelter will make him feel much more at ease on the big night.
Step
2
Visit beforehand
Ensure his bed is super comfy and offers a secure place to retreat to. When dogs are scared they like to retreat to their territory where they feel safe from the scary sounds around them. This could mean you get him a crate or a roofed bed in preparation for fireworks night. This extra shelter will make him feel much more at ease on the big night.
Step
3
Consider a thunder shirt
These devices can be bought from a range of online retailers and local pet stores and can be really effective in reducing fear during fireworks. They work by gently applying pressure to your dog’s chest, helping to calm his breathing and reduce fear and anxiety.
Step
4
Consult your vet
Many dogs are so terrified of fireworks that to slowly reduce their fear they need to be mildly sedated. There are a number of different options that will help your dog slowly drift off and be less aware of the fireworks around them. You can then slowly reduce the strength of the medication until it is no longer needed.
Step
5
Follow through
Try all of the above methods at least several times before you give up. With a fear that has been ingrained for years, it will often take several times of trying a measure before you see success. So don’t give up just because he was still scared the second time, be patient! You can also use any of the above steps in conjunction with each other.
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The Prep and Protect Method

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Prep and Protect Method
Step
1
Feed early
Feed him way before you expect the fireworks to start. Many dogs will be so terrified from the fireworks they won’t be able to eat their meal. This can leave them scared and hungry, which is not a pleasant combination.
Step
2
Wear him out
Give him a very long walk before fireworks start. The logic to this is simple, if he is knackered then he will find it much easier to sleep through the fireworks. If he is full of energy, it will all be focused on the deafening sound.
Step
3
Stay calm and relaxed
Dogs look to the pack leader (you) to see how to behave and feel in situations. If you’re calm and collected, he may well take that as a sign that he is safe and relax too.
Step
4
Encourage
Give him treats and praise throughout the fireworks. Regular food and cuddles will help him feel more at ease and reinforce that he doesn’t need to be scared. If you can’t be there during fireworks night, find someone he is familiar with to stay and spend time with him.
Step
5
Stick together
Don’t isolate or lock him away. If you shut him away to deal with the fear himself, then the fear may become even worse and be even harder to overcome in the future. Instead, it is important you show him you are there to support him.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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