Barking Blondes: Animals don’t understand the concept of Bonfire night
Animals don’t understand the concept of Bonfire night.
For dogs and cats it’s an onslaught to their senses with alien sounds whizzing and exploding overhead. Not understanding what’s going on, our pets turn to their fight or flight instinct in an attempt to rationalise the situation. Unlike a Thunderstorm (which can also distress pets) fireworks happen very suddenly whereas a storm may be brewing in the atmosphere for some time. Its thought, some animals may sense a storm whereas firework bangs are totally random.
According to the RSPCA over 45% of dogs display fearful behaviours during the ‘firework’ season. That means about 5 x million dogs display anxious behaviours like chewing their paws, hiding under the bed, drooling, shaking or not eating. Some dogs on the other hand, display a more macho reaction by barking and confronting the invading sounds.
None of these extreme reactions is desirable or fair on your dog. What responsible owners should always do when they bring their puppy home is work to de-sensitise the dog to a variety of common modern sounds, including fireworks.
There’s some great CDs like Clix Sounds for Company of Animals or Sounds Scary that pack modern, everyday sounds including babies crying, washing machines on a spin cycle, and car alarms. There’s thunderstorms, heavy rain as well as fireworks.
Play the CD and feed your dog at the same time so he associates the sounds with a positive experience – eating. Gradually increase the sound level from a low volume start.
Practise training or play a game with your dog with the CD in the background, checking you can get the dog’s attention despite these ‘weird’ sounds in the background. That way you’re getting your dog’s attention and proving that these odd sounds are nothing to worry about.
There are loads of practical tips for the night itself. Stay at home with your dog and definitely don’t take it to a fireworks display. Dog’s hearing is four times more acute than ours – so all the sounds will quadrupled for your mutt.
Caring owners often unwittingly exacerbate their dog’s fearful reaction by being anxious about the evening themselves. Dogs pick up on emotion and will sense that something isn’t right, adding to a stressful situation.
We often assume that by behaving like we might to a scared child, reassuring them, pandering to them will help. But ‘molly-coddling’ can unintentionally reward the dog’s fear, making the dog think there really is danger overhead.
The key is to act as normally as possible and lead by example, the aim to ‘direct’ your dog to a safe and calm Guy Fawkes. Simple planning can make all the difference.
Create a special den area for your dog to hang out in. This fulfills his natural instinct to hide and go to ground to escape the danger. Put in plenty of bedding along with a Kong toy stuffed with an exceptional tasty treat as a lovely surprise.
Mask the sounds outside – turn up the volume, and watch a movie. Or play the radio a little louder than normal. Prepare a meal and distract your dog with tantalizing cooking aromas wafting through the home.
Always be aware of your dog’s behaviour and stay calm. He will eventually follow your lead once the initial panic as passed. As calmness prevails, then praise and reward calmly.
Barking Blondes by Jo Good & Anna Webb, published by Hamlyn, £12.99 www.octopusbooks.co.ukTagged in: animals, barking blondes, bonfire night, cats, dogs, halloween, pets
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