Noise Phobia and Anxieties

Focus on: Fireworks

It’s entirely possible to help your dog get used to loud noises like fireworks! Using Desensitisation and Counterconditioning methods of gradual exposure, you can alter your dog's fear response for the better.


What does desensitisation mean?

It’s the gradual reduction of reaction to a source of anxiety over time.


What does counterconditioning mean?

This is the changing of an emotional reaction to a source of anxiety, from a negative/anxious response to a positive response.


In terms of desensitising your dog to fireworks, the process involves exposing them to sound recordings over a few weeks to months, starting quietly and gradually increasing the volume. For best results, it’s recommended to start around six months in advance, but there’s no harm in starting now!


What you’ll need

  • A snug Safe Space: a calm, quiet space to carry out the desensitisation and counterconditioning training.

  • Audio recordings of fireworks – YouTube Calm Pet by Calm Sound https://youtu.be/AINzMizjDvw

  • Some of your dog's favourite treats and toys

  • Commitment to train: at least three times a week

What to do

Setup

  • When your dog is in their safe space, start to play the fireworks audio at a very low level – so low that your dog either doesn’t respond at all or reacts by just turning towards the source of the noise. This reaction should only last up to 30 seconds.

Reward

  • After each sound on the recording, to alter your dog’s emotional response to the noise, throw a small piece of their favourite food onto the floor

Progress

  • Once they’ve stopped showing signs of anxiety in response to the sounds and they’re able to engage in other activities happily while the audio is playing, you can increase the volume.

  • Give your pet a minute to get used to the increased volume, then start to interact by offering some treats or toys after each loud noise. If your dog refuses treats or engagement, take this as a sign that your dog isn’t ready to deal with the increased volume.

Don’t be predictable!

  • When your dog is coping well, start to vary the volume. The general trend should be that the volume increases and decreases, this will give you a better response. Learning isn’t a linear process, so training shouldn’t be either.

  • Proceed with caution! Go very slowly; the more time you’re able to take over this, the more likely you are to have a positive result. Keep going until you can play the recording at a volume that mimics the sound level of real fireworks. Reward your pet’s calm response after each loud noise, using praise, play and treats – this reinforces good behaviour.

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