This blog is a mixture of advice from credible trainers and behaviourists, interspersed with my own narrative. Rather than crediting sources throughout the blog, I will list them at the end so you can dig into more details if you'd like. I've done a lot of homework on this topic in hopes of saving you time, while breaking information down into easily digestible snippets.
The audience for this blog are new puppy owners with dogs who have not yet experienced startling sounds like fireworks or thunder.
A caring client reached out to me because she is bringing her new puppy home today (December 30th). She's clearly a concerned and responsible puppy parent, who wants to set up a safe environment for her new best friend. I responded with some quick tips, knowing that she only had about 24 hours to prepare.
Here they are (plus a few more):
Download some fireworks sound bytes to your phone. Have yummy treats ready. When relaxing with your puppy, play the sound at a very low volume. When you do so, talk calmly with your puppy and give treats in quick succession. Repeat at a low volume.
Increase the volume in small increments. You want to make a positive association with a potentially scary sound. Continue to reassure your puppy with calm praise and treats.
In real time, the sound can be startling. In this case, you can be proactive. You know the fireworks will begin at midnight. Be sure to set up your cozy environment and take your puppy for a walk well before the madness begins.
Play White Noise - You can try leaving a fan, TV or radio on to help mask the sounds of the fireworks. Here's a link I found https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZwe5PNO13g that has 15 hours of calming dog music. Unfortunately, there are ads, but you might be able to find, or purchase, other options.
Avoid petting her on the head. Most dogs do not like this, and your puppy might see this action as punishment.
Manage her environment to minimize startling noises. Close your curtains so she's not overwhelmed with both sight and sound. If you have a basement, you might consider settling in down there where the sound is muffled.
It’s important to remain calm and use a soothing, even, and confident tone. If you are stressed, your puppy will sense this and will feel more afraid.
Petting them can be comforting — long, slow, firm strokes along the length of their body are typically very soothing and have been shown to decrease the stress hormone, Cortisol. Avoid fast petting.
Watch for signs of stress like panting, pacing, leaving the area, or trying to hide. This is called keeping the dog ‘below threshold,’ and it makes it possible for learning to take place.
See my blog https://www.outsidethecrate.net/post/is-your-dog-an-entrepreneur about chewing and licking, both of which are self-soothing for your pooch.
Fireworks are an all-too-common noise phobia for many dogs. Luckily, with some preparation, you can help your puppy acclimate to the sound of fireworks and bounce back quickly when they are startled by the booms and bangs. Start introducing the sounds of fireworks in a positive and controlled way as early as you can — don't wait until Canada Day or New Year's Eve to practice!
For 2023, resolve to treat your puppy as the dear friend that he/she is. Never yell at or intimidate your friend. She won't understand, and it will negatively impact the trusting relationship you are building together. We are two different species living under the same roof. Be patient and kind. Try to see things from your puppy's point of view.
I wish all of my clients, friends and family all the very best for 2023.
Yours in training,
Jayne has been informally training dogs for over 20 years. During the Covid crisis, Jayne completed her Professional Dog Training Certification Program at the Ottawa K9 Academy, and set up her business - OUTSIDE THE CRATE. She is a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers (CAPDT), the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). She has also received several certificates of completion, including Game Changing Dog Training through the Karen Pryor Academy (facilitated by Terry Ryan), Unleashed Potential - The Core Excellence Program with Duke Ferguson, Trainers Supporting Shelters & Rescue Programs (APDT), Top Dog Academy (Ian Dunbar), and more!
Jayne is a positive reinforcement trainer who uses methods that are science-based, allowing her to adjust her training techniques as new evidence comes forward. Jayne avidly pursues continuing education and professional development by attending seminars and keeping current on all industry literature and trends. She will give you step-by-step instruction on how to train your dog in all basic obedience behaviours and good manners.