There is so much advice and support around but often owners feel they fail to help their dog, and become distressed themselves. There is hope though, but it takes a bit of time and learning some specialised skills to succeed.
Here are five tips for making some changes for the positive and helping your pet overcome his fears.
1) Prepare, Prepare, Prepare:
Any changes need to be made way before New Years to ensure your pet is safe and as stress-free
as possible. This might include altering walk and meal times, ensuring a rota is in place so your pet is never home alone, starting any calming products or veterinary drugs, and setting up a safe area
in the house if your pet wants to hide. If you are going to the vets to pick up calming products, also ask them to scan your dog’s microchip to ensure it is still working. Many dogs go missing when fireworks are set off
so being reunited quickly is paramount.
2) Many owners tell me they have tried this and that and the other but that nothing seems to help. The key is to use multiple tools as each will help a little and together they are more effective. So, for example, Tellington TTouch body work and a body wrap (or any of the calming coats) can be used at the same time as calming tablets, and a plug-in product. The key is to do your research and make sure that what you do combine, won’t disrupt the others. Also, take care if you are using off the shelf herbal products as what is natural isn’t always safe. Best to check with your vet, especially if your dog or cat is on medication for an illness already. You can also talk to an alternative vet or a qualified practitioner in modalities like Bach Flower remedies, zoopharmacognosy or even acupressure. All of which have been known to help animals who are noise phobic.
3) Check your pet isn’t in pain
. Many older animals have a touch of arthritis
. Often it goes undiagnosed, so if your elderly pet starts to be fearful of noise or you notice their anxiety getting worse, talk to your vet about pain relief
. Many can cope again once the twinges of old age are relieved.
4) If your dog is just mildly worried about the bangs, make sure you have lots of fun things for him to do while they are going off
. Many dogs love a long-lasting chew, others are occupied by interactive enrichment toys
like snuffle mats, while some like to train; running through their favourite repertoire of tricks. Perhaps you can pair the loudest bangs with a tasty treat to build up a good association
. Of course this wont work for the dogs who are really worried, but for some playing games and having chews etc. can work really well.
5) The most effective help for dogs to overcome their fears, however, in my experience, is preparing our pets with the Tellington TTouch Training Method. Learning and regularly applying in the lead up to and on the night of fireworks (if safe to do so), the TTouches (specialised ways of moving the skin around), a TTouch body wrap and, if appropriate, working them through the confidence course really can make a huge impact on how animals feel about fireworks.
You can find out much more about TTouch, and all these other tips in our book HELP! My Dog is Scared of Fireworks by Toni Shelbourne and Karen Bush, which is available from Amazon in Kindle or paperback format.