Over the last few days, my newsfeed has been full of missing dog posts, and dogs that have been killed on the roads after running away from fireworks. As the new year approaches, they’re only going to get worse…
As our dogs’ advocates, it is our responsibility to keep them safe. Here are some tips to keep your dogs secure this firework season.
Keep walks short and sweet. Limit the time your dog is outdoors, and replace physical exercise with mental stimulation and enrichment at home.
Work on counter conditioning your dog’s emotional response to the noises. Before firework season, at a low volume, low enough that the dog is comfortable with, play the sound of a firework, then immediately feed a high value treat. Repeat again and again, gradually raising the volume over a number of days until you reach the stage where your dog hears the noise, and immediately looks to you for a treat. Instead of associating the noise with fear, you can train their brain to make the connection between the noise and a positive response.
If your dog is particularly scared, consider investing in an anti-escape harness, or walk them on a double leash. Clip one leash to their harness and the other to their collar as a backup.
Be vigilant. Make your dog’s walk about them. Put your phone away and focus on them and the environment instead.
Don’t leave dogs outdoors unsupervised.
Reconsider walking your dog off-leash even if they have a great recall. Consider using a 10 metre leash instead.
Make sure your dog’s microchip information is up to date and they have ID tags on their collar and harness.
Take a good quality photo of your dog in case you need one for a lost poster, if the worst were to happen.
Provide a safe space for your dog in the quietest area of your home. This might be the bathroom. Set up an area with their bed, and plenty of busy-work, like stuffed Kongs and Lickimats or Snuffle Mats. A covered crate with the door left open can help to muffle the sounds slightly.
If they come to you, you can comfort them. You cannot reinforce fear by petting and stroking your dog, and by talking to them. If they feel safe with you, then let them know you’ve got their back.
Consider staying at home during the worst of the fireworks. We love to ring in the New Year at home, in our PJs with a glass of wine, surrounded by our pets. It means that we’re there for them throughout the noisiest periods.
Finally, please don’t be one of ‘those’ people… The pain, panic and fear that fireworks cause are not worth it. Fireworks in Madrid are illegal. If you see someone throwing them, please call 092.