Monday, October 25, 2010

Does your Dog have a Firework Fear or Phobia!

This article was submitted  by Caz Irving - Veterinary assistant

--------------------What is the difference I hear you ask? Well a Fear is essential for survival; it protects us from danger and is relative to the risk of harm. A phobia is so intense and out of context, that it limits normal behaviour.

Here is an example of how fear protects and phobia cripples. A person with a normal fear would avoid walking across a road unless it was clear. One with a phobia of cars would not go near a road in case a car appeared. Dogs, which have a phobia to fireworks, may not want to go out even when the fireworks have finished or may even stop going out at night as they now associate the fireworks with darkness. A fear is normally only displayed during the time of the fireworks.

There is treatment available for phobic and fearful dogs, but there is no quick fix. Desensitisation and Counter-Conditioning are the recommended methods used; in severe cases, drug therapy may also be necessary.

Desensitisation uses a special CD to expose the dog to the sound of which it is fearful. So as not to induce anxiety in the dog, start by playing the CD at home at a very low volume, as a background sound. You then increase the volume very gradually over time until reaching maximum volume and the dog no longer reacts to the sound. At this point, the dog is desensitised.
Counter-Conditioning starts after the dog has been desensitised. You achieve this by again playing the CD at a very low volume whilst at the same time feeding the dog or playing a game. When it is apparent that your dog anticipates the food or game each time the sound occurs, the volume is gradually increased. You then repeat the above method in various public places.

You need to undertake the above methods several times a day for periods of 5-10mins. Treatment can take many weeks or months of continued repetition before you see any improvement.

If you unable to complete the above methods for whatever reason you can help prevent the problem from getting any worse by following these steps,
- Do not take a sound sensitive dog to places where phobic events are likely. For example fields where hunters are out shooting or at fiestas.
- Avoid close proximity to the launch sites of fireworks.
- Do not restrict access to escape routes unless there is a very important reason to do so. Try to open up opportunities to escape.
- Do not sympathise with or get angry at a fearful or phobic dog, as either will add to emotional intensity of the situation and will increase the likelihood of future problems.
- Do not force animals to confront their fears by, for example, dragging them to places where they are reluctant to go.

It is very important to provide the dog with somewhere to hide; this could be under a bed, a wooden box, under the stairs or a covered indoor kennel. Your dog may already have a place they feel safe, sometimes they like to move from one place to another. This is why it is very important not to close the door and allow them to move and not feel trapped. It also helps to turn on the TV or radio in the room they feel safe. Some dogs are inclined to seek out their owners for security but this should be ignored. It may seem harsh but they become dependant of you when frightened and will have less chance of coping when you are not home. When your dog eventually emerges from its hideaway showing a more relaxed behaviour, you should reward the dog in the hope that this will help it recover more quickly on the next occasion.

I hope this information helps, but I would strongly advise seeking professional help to assist you before attempting the treatment methods.

(The CD can be brought from this website click here )
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  1. Thanks for that information, our little Jack Russell hates fireworks, or the sound of them at least. Not much fun for him living in Tenerife with one fiesta or another every week and plenty of fireworks. He tends to go into my office and hide under the desk in the dark until he is sure they are over, but then he will follow me everywhere and stick very close to me for the next hour or so. Thing is our rescue dog we have had from 5 weeks old has now started copying him. She used to be quite happy just lying in her bed without a care in the world but the last few months as soon as she sees him making for the office she follows. Where can I get one of these CD's please.

  2. I will ask the author of this article where you can get the CD

  3. Caz has told me you can obtain the Cd from this website