Unexpected fireworks have been blighting the lives of so many dogs over the past couple of weeks.
Kenzo is an eight-year-old Saint Bernard and he lives with his sibling sister, Izzy. Kenzo has always been the more excitable and nervous of the two dogs, but this year has been something different.
The couple always make sure that someone is in when there are likely to be fireworks.
The lady had popped out early in the evening – it wasn’t even dark – and hearing bangs, checked into the dog camera with her phone app.
Kenzo was in a panic, joined by the blind Izzy.
It took just five minutes for the lady to get back home and in that time Kenzo had eaten his way through a plasterboard partition. His mouth was bleeding.
Growing uneasiness about being left
Over the past few months Kenzo has gradually started showing anxiety when they prepare to go out. Where before he happily took food, he refused it.
The two elderly dogs have, over the past year or so, suffered from glaucoma. Both Izzy’s eyes have now been removed. Kenzo has one eye left.
Leading up to that disastrous early evening had been several evenings of fireworks when, though he coped, the elderly dog’s stress levels had gathered momentum.
Then the unexpected fireworks in the late afternoon sent him into such a panic that he destroyed the partition.
The next time they had to leave him, Kenzo chewed the concrete door step. There were no fireworks this time but he was very agitated.
After this the lady has left him twice but for no more than a couple of hours; they were now giving him Nutracalm prescribed by the vet.
He showed no distress.
So far so good.
The aim is to be able to leave Kenzo for several hours as they did before, whilst making him, almost literally, more bomb-proof to any sudden unexpected fireworks bangs that they can’t possibly foresee.
There are three areas to work on:[
The first is, in all aspects of his life, lowering general arousal/stress levels in every way possible so that he is more resilient.
I suggest they fuss him less while he’s panting and pacing. The attention-seeking, whilst driven by stress, also causes stress in a funny sort of way.
While I was there, the lady silently put food in front of Kenzo whenever he briefly settled. This will help him to self-calm. They can further reinforce calm by initiating the fuss he craves when he’s in a calmer state.
Going out and leaving them
They will practise the departure process as a separate exercise. This is the stage at where Kenzo’s unease starts. Making it a fun thing, they will frequently call the dogs behind their gate and as they do so give them tasty food. They can walk out of the house briefly. Returning, they will open the dog gate but be boring.
Gradually they will increase the time they are away. Watching the dogs on their phone app, they can make sure they return before Kenzo stresses.
They will leave plenty of chew things for Kenzy.
Finally, they will help Kenzo to build up some resilience should there be another time of unexpected fireworks – New Year perhaps. Like many dogs, he’s not fazed by recorded sounds or if they are on TV.
You can buy cracker bangers very cheaply (without the crackers). Party poppers are good but messy! I find in many cases we need real bangs.
One person can make the explosion, well away from Kenzo, as far away as necessary for him to hear it without alarm. The other person feeds him – something really special – as soon as he hears the sound. The bang triggers the food.
Gradually they can bring the fireworks sound nearer. It could take many sessions. They will then react the same way with real fireworks.
The vet has given them two doses of Sileo in case of emergency.
With the ongoing Nutracalm, the behaviour work and the fact that they can already go out again for a couple of hours without Kenzo panicking, I feel the prognosis is good.
A treat for me
What a treat it was for me to spend the evening with these wonderful dogs.
Both were pleased to see me. Kizzy settled quite soon but Kenzo paced, panted and jumped up by the gentleman for quite a while. When he finally did settle for the evening, the two dogs didn’t leave much spare floor space!