Fireworks season will soon be upon us and, while there is the strong possibility we won’t be having any organised events, various people and households across the area will be purchasing fireworks for personal use in their back gardens! Consequently, here are some tips and tricks to help your puppy cope with those noisy fireworks.
As with all new experiences, the owner’s job is to try and ensure their puppy does not end up fearful of any sounds or sights. No one wants a pup to grow into a trembling wreck of an adult dog when hearing loud bangs or seeing bright lights sweeping across the sky. So now is the time to train and, as with all training, start young!
The First Steps
Start to expose him to these sounds in a controlled manner. At Beastly Thoughts Professional Dog Services (BTPDS), we call this “constructed” exposure.
The way to start is to use your computer. Visit one of the many sound-effect websites and look up the list of firework noises available.
Play them WITHOUT the puppy around and get an idea of what the sounds are: whether they are big bangs, whizzy sounds or screamers, etc. Also, note how many seconds they last. Be aware of what volume you should play them at. For effect training, you need to be able to turn the volume up gradually.
Now for the Puppy
- Now it’s time to include your pup.
- Choose a quiet room if possible for the training although this might not be possible if the computer is not a laptop. Use your phone if this is the case.
- The pup has to be in the right mood to learn so make sure it is not tired and over- or under-stimulated.
- It should be in the room on a rug just contently chewing on something reasonably Have some even more delicious treats in your hand or at least nearby.
- Play the first sound effect very
- If the pup gives a very slight indication they have noticed the sound, lob a treat onto their nose or even onto their Just ensure that you reward them for detecting the sound; no words are necessary.
- If, by accident, you have started at too high a volume and they show distress or something like a startled response, throw them a large number of treats and stop. Start again some time later.
- If there is no indication of them noticing the sound, turn the volume up a notch or two and repeat it. Continue until you can complete rule 6.
- Now slowly increase the
- Note if bangs get more attention than whizzes or screams or vice versa: train appropriately for each
- Work your way slowly through the sounds making sure the pup thinks the noises are rewarding!
Taking It Further
That’s a great starting point, but what’s next? You may require more “constructed” exposure. Use YouTube to find a firework display, the New Year celebrations in London or the 4th of July. Play them to your pup so they can listen to a full display as they chow down on a bone or eat their dinner.
Now Let’s Go Visual!
Those YouTube videos are going to be great for playing on the TV if possible or, failing that, the laptop down on the floor. Train as you trained for the sounds.
Now repeat in duller and duller light until you can play a full display on the TV in the dark with the pup still settled and gnawing on their favourite chew or something similar. You are now doing “limited” exposure as a firework display on the TV in a dark room is very close to the real thing for your puppy.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT – you are proofing your puppy; habituating it to sights and sounds.
You can include other sound effects of course. My youngest dog Evie was exposed to Saving Private Ryan quite a few times as a puppy! Now, that’s incredibly noisy in places.
At BTPDS, we have designed a training programme around constructed, limited and real exposure and called it Sherpa: Socialisation, Habituation, Exposure, Reward, Pause, Assess.
If you would like to know more about our method, we have a webinar you can buy to help you understand how a dog’s brain works, how it stores memories and how to ensure the real world doesn’t end up a scary place.
Now please plan and make sure you’re ready for fireworks night.
See our article from last year for more information.
We hope you enjoyed reading about tips and tricks to help your puppy cope with those noisy fireworks. If you’d like to read more of our articles about looking after your dog, click here.