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(Claire Marchant's Fudge)

Be prepared and start this exercise NOW

The 5th of November and what seems like weeks before and after will be a noisy period for our pets.

Start conditioning your rescue dog and puppy as soon as possible!

We need the dog to associate all these whizzes, pops and bangs with the 'good stuff'.  Although the following method is not guaranteed, if done correctly, it certainly can't do any harm.  This is one of the easiest and most effective methods to help your pet.

Firstly, provide a place where your dog can feel safe.  A crate covered in a blanket in the corner of the room or a comfy bed under a table.  Your dog will decide if it's comfortable.  If it is a crate, keep the door open and allow him to enter and exit at will.  Perhaps use a cable tie to secure the door open permanently.  This area now provides a 'safe haven' where your dog can escape to if feeling anxious, which in nature is very important.
You can read about creating a safe haven for your dog in my article here...

To help make a positive association towards the sounds of the fireworks, we will expose him to the sounds but so the sounds are not problematic. We will also condition and pair up the sounds to something pleasant.   Booms and whizzes will soon equal the good stuff, i.e food/dinner.  Firstly the food instantly makes the dog feel better by releasing those 'happy hormones' in the brain and secondly, the noise becomes less important when food is around.

Print out and follow this easy guide...

1) Download track one from from this iTunes album, it is nearly ten minutes of firework noises and is 79p...

2) Load it to PC if it contains contains a good pair of speakers or connect some.  You want to be able to eventually play it relatively loud to simulate the real noise of Bonfire Night.

 3) Day one, Just before you prepare and put Fido's food down (all meals), press play with the volume at a reasonably low level and keep it there (so you can hear it but it doesn't dominate all other sounds).  As soon as you hear the first bang, start preparing his food as usual.  Then whilst it's playing, place the food down (in a bowl or scatter, depending on how you feed).  Do your usual feeding pattern.  Allow your dog to eat as the noise continues.  As soon as your dog has finished the food, turn off the sound.

4) Day two, repeat but with the volume very slightly louder.  We want a very, very slow progression of volume over a number of days.

5) Repeat daily for every feed time (if possible), gradually increasing the volume daily. By seven to ten days, you want it booming and the dog to be happily eating.  Keep this going until November 5th.

6) If the dog is anxious and/or is not eating then you have progressed to quickly and the volume is too high.  Slowly slowly! Step it down and start the steps again.  

7) When fireworks are most likely to go off avoid the dog's garden time.  If he has to go out in the evening keep it brief.  Have treats ready so any bangs or whizzes equal treats.  If you hear a bang, pop or whizz, call him and find his mouth with food, then remove him from the situation calmly.

8) Preparation: Find out it there are any organised firework events near your home.  Get an idea of the start time and ensure your dog had been for a very good walk and done what he has to do before the event starts.  This means you can wait until the event is over before letting him into the garden to pee and poo.  Also, you do not want to find yourself on a walk, far from home during a firework display!

9) As far as you are concerned, try and be very neutral (neither exited or too sympathetic) when the fireworks go off (either recorded or real).  By all means, acknowledge your dog and DO NOT IGNORE him.  Try and keep children from getting over-exited about fireworks around the dog (hard I know!). Dogs can pick up emotions very quickly.  Barking can result not through fear but also excitement.  Close the curtains and perhaps turn up the radio or television a little louder to hide the flashes and disguise the sound. 

10) When the real fireworks go off, you may want to feed your dog as he will probably now look to you for the food.  So feed dinner, a tasty Kong or a chew.  This will also keep him busy and hopefully, calm.  Allow access to his 'safe haven' that you have already set up.  Perhaps even feed him in there.

Considered using a Thundershirt?  Read about the calming effect this piece of clothing can give your dog...

There is some advice on the internet that suggests you should ignore your dog because you could be rewarding your dog for being scared.  This is nonsense.  It is impossible to reinforce an emotion like fear.  Stroking your dog gently will not make him any more scared on the next fact, it may even help!  Here is a superb article about 'Reinforcing Fear'...

Fireworks do not effect all dogs but if they do,  it can be devastating!  Do what you can now and build for the future!

Hope that helps folks!  
Enjoy the fireworks but keep your dogs safe!