Did your puppy have a fearful first experience with fireworks? Are you worried that your puppy will forever have anxiety when hearing loud noises? Maybe you’re even considering sedatives or boarding over the holiday.
Fear no more. These are common concerns, but with a little bit of knowledge, patience and leadership, you can teach your dog or puppy to conquer the fear of fireworks and other loud noises.
Understanding Your Role
In order to help your dog or puppy overcome their fear of fireworks, it’s vital that you understand your role as your dog’s leader. Your reaction and demeanor during the situation will likely determine whether or not you succeed.
Avoid “Comforting” a Dog or Puppy That’s Afraid of Fireworks
The most common mistake a dog owner can make with a puppy that’s afraid of fireworks (or storms) is coddling them. It’s natural to try to help a puppy who’s afraid by comforting them. However, it’s also a great way to unintentionally nurture their fear and anxiety, making rehabilitation much more difficult down the road.
Lead By Example
It’s important to remember that you are your puppy’s leader. Your puppy will always look to you for cues on how to react to the situation. If you become nervous or anxious, your puppy will too. Think of a mother dog and pups. She will protect her pups, but she doesn’t act afraid and she will not coddle them.
As we get into the exercises with your dog, understand that they will require time and patience. Rushing a puppy who’s afraid of fireworks will only cause them more anxiety. In summary, be strong, lead by example, don’t comfort them but don’t rush them. Just like a mother dog.
How to Desensitize a Puppy to Fireworks
Desensitization is the key to teaching your dog or puppy to overcome their fear of fireworks. We achieve this by re-introducing loud noises when the puppy is in a healthy state of mind aka Peace of Mind. We want to show your puppy that loud noises are really no big deal and certainly nothing to be afraid of.
Pot & Pan Exercise
Take your puppy outside for some play. While they are interacting with an adult stable dog or playing fetch with a family member, try banging a pot and pan together. Only do this a couple times, randomly and at a distance. Start with a couple seconds and build to a couple minutes. The key is not to overwhelm or do too much at once. You can also start by tapping them together softly and slowly build the volume.
You can also feed your puppy outside and do the same thing, make sure that the noise starts at a distance as the key here is to not startle your pup. If it does startle them, get them redirected to the game or food.
I recommend doing this outside because there are more distractions (sights and smells) and less chance for your puppy to focus on the noise. You can engage your pup by practicing obedience too. Basically we just want the loud noise to be nothing more than background noise while the main focus is on something more positive.
Repeat this process until your puppy is able to play with minimal response to the noise. Be sure to praise and always end on a positive note.
Recreating the ‘Pops’ of Fireworks
The next training technique is used with hunting dogs and is very successful when applied to a dog or puppy that’s afraid of fireworks. It might take a few weeks of the pot & pan exercise to prepare them, but the next step is to take your puppy to an outdoor gun range.
We want to recreate the sound of fireworks to get the best results. It’s likely not realistic for you to set off fireworks throughout the year, but the ‘pop’ sounds from a firing range is the next best thing.
Start far away or in the parking lot with your puppy in their crate. Feed them in the crate while you are there. On your next trip put the crate a little closer and again feed them while there. Over time, you will be able to move the crate closer to the range and your puppy will become desensitized to the loud noises.
Good Luck and Be Brave!
If you have a puppy afraid of fireworks, it does not have to continue. All it takes is a bit of knowledge, time, leadership, and patience. Your puppy will handle fireworks like a brave champion before you know it.
*IIf you’ve tried these tips yourself but it’s just not working out, you might need some assistance from the pros. Feel free to contact us. We’re here to help!
This Post Updated on July 1, 2022.