Sharing our home with a noise phobic dog makes for a troubling bonfire night (or fortnight). Things have been improving for us, and this is a record of what we’ve tried.
In order of importance:
Build a cosy den as a safe hiding place. We draped blankets over a side table, put some cushions around and under, and let Skitters take herself away there. I can’t remember if we made the den, or if we watched where she went and made it more comfortable. Whichever way, that was helpful in the first few years.
Masking outside sounds. In the last few years this has been two pronged and effective: a good long washing load running (thankfully we have a noisy washing machine); and music playing. For the music, we’ve turned into Classic FM’s broadcasts during bonfire nights of “soothing music to help keep your four-legged friends relaxed during fireworks season”. In previous years we’ve tried blasting Muse around the house. That works.
Getting a dog walk in before sunset. This is important, reducing the chances of a scary firework sound during the walk, and making sure we get the exercise in.
Inevitably, Skitters will need to go out to pee again during the evening. To mask the noise in the garden, we give her a good solid round of applause! More Flamenco Palmas-style clapping, perhaps. Again, we’re trying to mask any random firework sounds.
Be prepared by finding out when firework displays are happening (not only bonfire night, but festivals and celebrations at other times of the year).
There are a few other things we’ve tried:
We’ve been using Adaptil diffuser and collars. Do they make a difference? I’ve no idea.
We did try a Thunder Jacket. The problem is that we keep forgetting about it until too late. And we don’t want to bring it out at the last minute and associate it with “bad things” happening.
Distraction food, like a bone to chew on. Not a huge success for us, because the fear of sound wins out over the food and chewing for our dog.
Sound therapy: this is not for during fireworks but months in advance, such as the Sounds Scary recordings. The basic idea is to play scary sounds so quietly the dog doesn’t even register them, and slowly, over weeks, increase the volume. It’s a big commitment. You can find a few dog desensitization tracks on Spotify, too.
It feels like Skitters has been coping better over the years. It could be because of this, or perhaps she’s loosing her hearing.