Tony Knight Dog Listener

New Year's Eve - Fear of Fireworks

· 868 words · about 4 minutes

It's that time of year again when people celebrate throwing their old calendars in the trash. This ritual causes much merriment and is symbolised by huge explosions (and alcohol-fuelled shenanigans) all over the civilised world.

People who live with animals usually dread this time, especially if their animal pal loses the plot when midnight strikes. The following extract from my eBook "Think Like A Dog" gives you some handy hints to have a happier transition into the New Year:

"Fear of noise is one of those areas where living in an alien environment can be stressful for a dog with too much responsibility. By their logic, the higher up in rank you are, the more experienced you are. This is why no matter how much people try to reassure their petrified pooch that there is nothing to worry about, it doesn’t help. In fact – as you will discover in this section – our desire to make them feel better actually makes things worse.

The starting place is the everyday routine of Dog Listening to show your dog that they can trust you. This relationship comes in very handy when the dog is frightened; you would like them to look to your reaction rather than think they may have to protect you...

...When your dog reacts, it is important to be the calm influence. The way to react is to not react. If your dog wants to run away into another room then that is fine; leave them to take the first means of defence (Flight). Some dogs like to hide under a bed or in their crate too. Humans have the same survival instinct to take cover when under attack. If your dog sleeps in a crate it is a good idea to drape a blanket over it so they feel more enclosed. It is only when they have calmed down sufficiently to start to think properly that they may check to see where you are. At this point, the reward for your dog is that they are in your company once again. However, your reaction should still be one of “nonchalance”...

If your dog gets hyperactive and starts rushing about the place, you can intervene by maybe getting some control using a leash or holding them by the collar, but making no fuss is the most important part. Our desire to reassure them can lead to our own pulse rate raising; the dog thinks that you are worried too. Even if you are seen as the decision maker, if your decision is to panic then it must be a problem!

I have used the same technique when fireworks are going off. In fact, I have made a point of going outside to take a look. I did this with Pru for her first Bonfire Night in Britain. I lived a few doors down from the village recreation ground. Every year they had a big fireworks display and by staying at home I could save a few quid, still enjoy the show and not have to interact with the locals (it was a strange village).

As the loud bangs started, I took the opportunity to encourage Pru to learn. I went out into the garden and watched the display. Pru, who is a nervous character anyway, followed me out. After one particularly loud bang, she flew back into the house. No problem; I stayed outside and carried on watching. After a few minutes, Pru reappeared at the door, wondering where I was. She tentatively started to come back out before running in again after another banger exploded. This time, she was away for less than a minute. On the third bang, she started to go back but stopped and looked back to me.

To cut a long story short, by the finale of the show I had company in the garden. Sure, she wasn’t necessarily enjoying the display, but she found more comfort next to me than inside.

A previously storm nervous dog who I helped. Yes, there was a storm outside at the time…

To sum up, the everyday way that you interact with your dog will put into place the foundation of trust between you and your dog, ready for the times when this will be tested. When it comes to fear of noise, your reaction is crucial. Take control if you feel it to be necessary but make sure that anything you do is with absolute minimal fuss. Make nothing of it and your dog will calm down sooner..."

In addition to this, make sure that all pets are safely indoors. There are too many instances of dogs being found in a panic loose in the streets as they desperately try to escape the chaos. If you are leaving your dog at home while you are out celebrating, it doesn't hurt to have the TV or radio on loud enough so there is a significant background noise to counter the explosions. Close the blinds or curtains and - if you can - put them in a safe space where they feel comfortable and can't cause damage should they panic.

I wish you a Happy - an Peaceful - New Year :)

All the best,