How to keep your dog calm during Halloween/Fireworks
This is also the perfect time of year to practice how you want your dog to respond to the doorbell or door knocking in general, and practice makes perfect!
Be sure to expend your dog’s excess energy before the doorbell starts ringing, excited kids start showing up, and those fireworks begin. Take them for a long structured pack-walk or run.
[Yes, even small dogs and dogs who have "big backyards" need structured exercise to expel their energy and meet their inherent need to migrate daily].
When it all begins....Keep your dog calm by keeping calm yourself. Remember, while we humans communicate with words, dogs communicate with energy, and will look to you for clues on how they should respond. Do not talk to them..."it's ok...it's ok" comes off as if you are unsure/weak, and they will no doubt respond to your words with excitement/fear. If you’re not making a big deal, looking to them to respond, or showing excitement, then your dog will learn to be less concerned as well.
Practice placement. Remind your dog they do not need to be concerned by showing that you are their leader, and that you are there to protect them. When the doorbell rings, take your time to calmly and assertively place your dog on their bed, get them to stay, then open the door with your calm energy. If you have someone else at home with you and this is your first time practicing calmness with the door - one person can enforce placement, while the other opens the door - work as a team!
If your dog is extremely anxious around fireworks, and typically flees, set up a safe space for them to be. I recommend setting up a kennel with a dark sheet over it so they can feel safe. Make sure the kennel is not too big for them - they should be able to stand up and turn around, but it should be cozy in there. You can also look into purchasing a thunder jacket for extra support in these situations.
In all cases, you can play calming spa music, and diffuse calming scents such as lavender. If you don't have anything like that on hand, you can boil some water with cinnamon and spices.
Do not give your dog treats when they are in an anxious state-of-mind or try to soothe them with your voice or physical affection. You do not want to re-enforce their unbalanced state of mind. The best thing you can do is exhibit calmness yourself.
Before it all begins, while they are still calm, you can put some coconut oil or sugar-less peanut butter in a Kong or puzzle toy, or give them a bone to occupy their focus.
Note: If your dog is shaking or yawning, they are simply processing - their mind is very active. Try not to focus on this symptom or feel bad for them - continue being a strong leader so that they can feel safe.
Sara Nielsen (Bylo)