America’s birthday is just around the corner and in just 4 short weeks we’ll be celebrating with barbecues and fireworks. While the 4th of July is a time of celebration for humans, it can be a terrifying day for your four legged family member who has anxiety over loud noises. If this is the case, RIGHT NOW is the time to start training your dog to be desensitized by the sound of fireworks. This blog will give you the step-by-step process on how to desensitize your dog to fireworks as well as an informative video from a Boise, Idaho, Dog Trainer.
If you have ever noticed that your dog bolts after a loud noise, runs out of the room, or hides under the bed after a loud sound your dog may have had a traumatic incident related to loud noises as a puppy, or perhaps they just weren’t socialized at the appropriate time of their development. Whatever the reason, you are probably well aware if your dog struggles from this particular anxiety and you may even dread this particular holiday.
Desensitization is a process whereby you introduce your dog to a stimulus, such as the sound of fireworks, and gradually increase the volume, while at the same time you work to change the dog’s reaction from fearful to relaxed, by pairing the sound with something pleasant and positive to them – like FOOD! Thanks to the advancement and accessibility of technology, there are plenty of free fireworks sounds you can record or play on your computer or on your smart phone by simply going onto Google or Youtube. (Don’t listen to these with your dog around you at first.)
To begin the process of desensitization, decide on a positive – food training – trick to teach your dog, i.e. Sit, rollover, shake. Then start playing the sound effects at a VERY VERY LOW level. You want to make sure your dog is not bothered by the noise so make sure you’ve got the sound set to the point where you can barely hear it that first lesson. When you can just lightly hear the sounds of fireworks, let the training begin! The food along with training them a new trick will keep their mind active, focused on treats and training thus linking a positive association. Just remember, dogs take their cues from us, so don’t look worried or nurture them if they’re anxious. Turn it around for them and make it a fun event and great time for the two of you! At first remember to keep it at a short lesson of only a few minutes on the lowest volume. Then the next day you adjust the volume up one notch and play again for a few minutes, depending on how your dog is responding. If your dog seems not to be interested in treats or training, you may have pushed it too far too soon. Take a step back and reduce the volume again until they’re are willing to accept treats and play. Make sure to remember to adjust the volume each lesson so that as you get closer to the 4th of July you’re sound effects are as loud as real fireworks outside your front door. Depending on your dog’s level of anxiety, in a few days to a few weeks, your dog will soon be able to tolerate the sounds of fireworks and even look forward to it because it is a positive associate! Also an early afternoon holiday walk is a good choice as it will help to dispel some of your dog’s excessive energy and anxiety.
Please be safe with your dogs and take special care to take them outside on leash if you don’t have a fenced yard during the holiday weekend. This is not the day or weekend to have your dog off-leash even if he’s totally reliable off-leash on other days. If your dog is sensitive to noises or the sounds of fireworks in particular, be extra careful this time of year. If your dog suffers from severe anxiety as a result of the sounds of fireworks or other loud noises and displays symptoms such as pacing, whining, hiding, or trying excessively to get outside, you can contact Companion Dog Resort for other training options with a professional dog trainer to help with this problem.