I continue to be amazed at the lack of understanding when it comes to fireworks and dogs. The bright lights, screaming sounds and loud explosions are not something that most dogs are going to enjoy.
If your dogs are not already prepared for what’s coming this weekend, there isn’t enough time to get them ready. Do what you can to protect them by keeping them away from all fireworks. Spend the next 6 months getting them ready for New Year’s Eve.
The reality of it is that fireworks are not going to go away. We can continue to wish that they would and talk about it until we are blue in the face, but they will never go away. There are folks our there that love to blow things up (myself included – if you have never shot at a tannerite exploding target you are missing out. )
So you must prepare your dogs for what’s going to happen. There are dogs that will never be comfortable with fireworks but you can defend them as best you can by getting them used to noise.
Conditioning Your Dog
Fixing noise sensitivity is hard. Conditioning young dogs before they have an issue is easier.
As hunting dogs folks, we tend to focus on gunfire conditioning and that is important and will help, but there is more to “noise sensitivity” than just gunfire. Gunfire tends to happen in the field while dogs are moving or have a certain amount of activity and prey drive in gear.
Unexpected noises happen everywhere. It’s not just fireworks. Cars backfire, lawnmowers backfire. Plates and bowls get dropped. Doors get slammed.
Condition them to expect the unexpected.
Start Before They Are Born
I prefer to start noise desensitization before pups are born. You do this with a radio in your welping pens.“Just like human babies, pups will experience things in the womb. Breeders should get started there.
“Country and Western makes the best bird dogs” – W. C. Snell
Once the pups are born, you can continue the practice. As a kid, my dad raised his litters in our laundry room. There was constant noise. Opening and closing doors, the washing machine running, the horn on the dryer when a load was finished.
Add Noises as You Raise Them
You can add additional noises as you raise them. I like to start with quiet clapping and increase the volume over time. I tend to close cabinet doors louder than required and I drop the metal feed bowls often. It helps that I’m clumsy and always in a hurry.
Don’t try and scare them. Do all of this while things are going on. Clap loudly when you are out playing. Increase your volume when you praise them.
Make a lot of noise when you feed them.
Even if your breeder has done these things, start slow when you pick your pup up and bring them to your homes. It’s a new environment and he no longer has the safety and security of his mother or siblings.
Ease him into noise introductions but bring him along as soon as he’s ready.
Just like newborn humans, if you create a completely quiet environment, that’s what they will require in the future for comfort. That’s not based in reality.
Get them used to unexpected noise early and often.