Is your Leonberger frightened of fireworks? Have you just got your new family member and wanting to prepare him or her for what’s to come, if so the LCGB can help you. Please find attached some useful techniques and if your still unsure on anything or need some extra guidance, you contact our Behaviourist, Rachel.
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are the most common treatments for canine anxiety, phobias, fear, and aggression.
Using these techniques requires serious commitment from the dog owner, and sometimes from a third party as well.
How Long Will It Take?
As long as it takes.
It depends on your dog, how severe their fear is, how much time and effort you put in, etc. Therefore, it can take days, weeks, months, or even years.
In the most severe cases, you may never be able to fully resolve your dog issues (despite your best efforts and being fully committed). In those cases, just lowering your dog reaction to what triggers his fear can make all the difference for them… and you.
SYSTEMATIC DESENSITIZATION AND COUNTER-CONDITIONING
These two dog behaviour modification methods are frequently used together. The dog is exposed to the weakest version of the feared object (desensitization) and immediately gets his reward (counter-conditioning). The exposure is increased over time, always followed by his reward.
Desensitization is the best way to help dogs get through their fear of specific sounds and objects in their life.
Desensitization is the process of gradually exposing the dog to small duration and low volume sounds, then
providing praise as the dog can very gradually tolerate longer and louder levels of exposure.
Counter conditioning -Counter means to change and condition means to teach so counter-conditioning is about teaching your dog to change his reaction to the thing he fears.
Simply put you are re-programming your dog to have a pleasant feeling and reaction towards something he previously feared or disliked. This is done by associating the feared thing with something pleasurable for the dog, like his favourite toy, treat, or game. Over time, the dog will associate the dreaded thing with something pleasurable and therefore stop fearing it.
LET’S GET STARTED
You will need to have access to firework noises, either threw the internet or by purchasing a ready prepared CD.
First make sure your dog/puppy has something to do that he/she REALLY enjoys, that may be some very tasty treats, a stuffed kong or even a game of tug. As long as it is a distraction and very rewarding for your dog.
Next try having your firework noises on VERY low in the background, remember just because you can’t hear it, doesn’t mean they can’t, their hearing is much more sensitive than ours
Your dog/puppy should not be reacting uncomfortable in anyway, watch out for that all-important body language to understand and read how your dog is feeling.
Start this as soon as possible and work on it threw out the year. Increase the volume slowly, this is likely to be weeks, rather than days and may even be months before you can turn it up a notch, the idea is that it becomes a positive thing, not a negative, so don’t rush it.
Never hold the dog or close him or her in the room, rather keep the exposure short and provide praise, play with your dog and give treats for staying calm.
Create space and safe areas for your dog.
Here are some things you can do if your dog does become agitated or nervous during the fireworks:
• Make sure they have something to do, a tasty bone or a stuffed kong.
• Try to distract away from the noise of the fireworks, have the TV up a little louder or a radio on.
• Reassurance, happy talking and positive associations.
• Make sure they have somewhere they feel safe, a certain place or room ect.
• Try using some of the natural remedies that are on the market.
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- Further information and advice from the Kennel club, endorsed by our Behaviourist and Welfare team:
- Acclimatise your dog to noises prior to the big night. There are many noise CDs on the market which give you the opportunity to introduce your dog to a variety of potentially disturbing noises in a controlled manner.
- Seek help from an experienced animal behaviourist. If your pet is severely noise phobic.
- Make a safe den for your dog to retreat to if he or she feels scared. Alternatively, let your dog take refuge under furniture and include an old, unwashed piece of clothing like a woolly jumper so that your dog can smell your scent and feel comfortable.
- Distract your dog from the noise by having the TV or the radio switched on.
- Try to act and behave as normal, as your dog will pick up on any odd behaviour. Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog. Reward calm behaviour with dog treats or playing with toys of interest.
- Check where and when firework displays are being held in your local area. Also ask your neighbours to let you know if they are planning anything.
- Consult your vet if your dog has any health problems or is taking any medication before giving remedies to help him cope with fireworks night, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Feed your dog a while before you expect any disturbances, as once the fireworks start your dog may be too anxious to eat.
- Walk your dog before dusk. It may be some time before it’s safe to venture outside again for your dog to relieve himself.
- Make sure you shut all doors and windows in your home and don’t forget to draw the curtains. This will block out any scary flashes of light and reduce the noise level of fireworks. Don’t forget to block off cat flaps to stop dogs (and cats) escaping.
- Shut your dog safely inside a room before opening the front door.
- Your dog might choose to hide under the bed; if he or she comes to you for comfort, make sure that you give it to him/her. Ignoring your dog would only make things worse as he or she wouldn’t understand your withdrawal from them.
- Keep a collar and ID tag on your dog, just in case they do accidentally escape. Make sure your dog is microchipped too, as if he or she does escape without a collar on this will ensure you are reunited as quickly as possible and is a legal requirement.
The use of a thunder shirt or jacket have proved successful or use a towel to wrap around your dog to make him/her feel safe and secure.
- Take your dog to a firework display, even if your dog does not bark or whimper, don’t assume he or she is happy. (Excessive yawning and panting can indicate that your dog is stressed)
- Tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off.
- Assume your garden is escape proof. If your dog needs to go out keep him on a lead just in case.
- Leave your dog on his own or in a separate room from you.
- Try to force your dog to face his fears – he’ll just become more frightened.
- Forget to top up the water bowl. Anxious dogs pant more and get thirsty.
- Change routines more than necessary, as this can be stressful for some dogs.
- Try and tempt him out if he does retreat, as this may cause more stress.
- Tell your dog off. This will only make your pet more distressed. It is important to remember that it is natural for a dog to be scared of loud noises and unfamiliar sights and sounds.