Dogs can hear a wider range of frequencies than humans, and can pick up sounds that are four times further away than what we can. Fireworks can be SCARY for your dog.
Common stress signs in dogs include licking lips, whale eyes, tail tucked under, pacing, hiding, drooling, shivering, barking, elimination and destructive behavior. Read more about stress signs here. In addition to not lighting any firecrackers (even the noiseless ones cause a lot of pollution), following these tips will help make this a festival for your pup as well.
Prepare your home: Shut the doors/windows and draw the curtains to minimize the sound/smells coming in.
Safety of your dog: The sheer number of dogs gone missing on Diwali is ridiculous! Make sure your dog has their collar on and an ID with name /phone number. Keep doors/windows shut and make sure there are no escape routes out of your house. Keep fresh water available at all times. Don’t leave your dog alone, especially if you know they going to react adversely to the sounds.
Be cool: Your dog looks to you at times of stress and uncertainty. You might have heard that dogs pick up on their human’s body language. Yes, that is true. So, you have to keep cool for your dog. If you show that you are worried or stress, your dog will also be worried and stressed. If you keep calm and positive, your dog is going to be encouraged to also keep calm. Engage in routine activities during fireworks such as reading, watching TV, eating etc.
Comfort your dog the right way: Don’t cuddle or pet your dog when they are showing signs of stress. That’s right, don’t do it. You might not increase the anxiety and fear, but petting doesn’t help. Make sure you walk/exercise your dog well before the fireworks begin. If your dog is responsive and willing to engage, try something fun such as a game, basic obedience training or a frozen kong, and reward them for their engagement and positive behaviours. That way, your dog is going to be mentally/physically occupied, and is less likely to pay attention to the noises. If your dog is not willing, and is showing signs of severe anxiety, please consult a behaviourist and/or a vet. Be in the same room as your dog. Be attuned to their needs. Fuss over them the right way.
Do not force your dog to face their fears: ‘Flooding’ your dog with a stimulus, loud sounds and bright lights in this case, is a cruel and high-risk strategy. It does not work. Repeatedly exposing your dog to what they are scared of, without allowing them to choose how and when to engage, is going to lead to more severe anxiety. Consult a certified behaviourist on the humane, effective ways to reduce anxiety and fear of loud sounds.
Consult a behaviourist or a vet: Behavior modification programs that can desensitize dogs to loud sounds from a certified force-free behaviourist can help with the anxiety immensely. Also consider the counsel of a vet, and choose prescription medication instead of over-the-counter drugs. Make sure to consult with them well before Diwali season!
Wishing you a happy, safe and noiseless Diwali!