Dogs (like people) are instinctively alarmed when hearing a loud noise such as fireworks, thunderstorms or cars exhaust banging. A person who hears a loud noise is only likely to be momentarily shocked whereas a dog may be in fear for a long time afterwards. This is due to a person being capable to quickly identify what the noise is and then process that it is not a threat to our safety.
A dog not understanding the human world cannot do this. Their only chance is to have someone they do trust in a time of need to look to for guidance about their security. If the dog believes the owner is the one to be trusted then they can observe the owners reaction and follow suit. If they see the owner looking relaxed when hearing a noise, they will remain calm with the thinking ” they are the ones to be trusted and they don’t seem bothered so it must be okay”. If however the dog believes the owner is not the one to be looked at for their security needs the dog may react without looking to the owner. Common reactions to fireworks for dog are to hide, shiver, have their tail between their legs, run away etc.
In these moments it is then common for the owner to reassure the dog of the problem. The dog assesses the owners body language when in communication and then sees the owner looking to the dog in a time of crisis using a sympathetic tone. The message that all is well will not be clear to the dog and they can interpret the owners language to reinforce it was right in its assumption of the noise being a problem. What the dog needs in this moment is the see the owner dealing with the problem by investigating the situation and then using a reassuring confident tone that all is well.
A lady from Clapham in South London contacted me about her miniature Poodles who are scared of fireworks last year. The ladies dogs, Bertie and Mina would both hide when hearing any loud noises. The lady realised that her dogs never got better no matter how much she reassured them. Once she got the foundations in so her dogs looked to her for their security needs including people coming to the door and other dogs etc, then the fireworks was the next natural step. Now she has dogs that get startled when they hear a loud noise but quickly calm down when they observe that she is okay with it.
For help with training with dogs who are scared of fireworks / loud noises or any behavioural issues contact us at https://www.dogtraininginlondon.co.uk/ . DTIL has a the most experiences behaviourists and trainers in London.