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fireworks season

Photo by Mel Taylor

It’s Fireworks Season… whoosh, bang, fizz, whizz!!!!

 It’s firework season once again and we know that many dogs really worry about fireworks. One of our suggestions is to give your dog a bucket holiday now. Here’s how and why.

Stress Bucket

Positive and negative events that your dog experiences fill your dog’s bucket. Think about it like this; each event represents a glass of water and each glass gets poured into the bucket. Like with all buckets, there is a limit as to how much water your dog’s stress bucket can take before it over-flows.

Every dog is different however, some dogs have HUGE buckets and so never fill and some have tiny thimble sized ones, and theirs could possibly fill after just one positive or negative event. If your dog’s stress bucket is full it is likely that you will be seeing behaviour responses to relatively mild encounters or to things your dog normally tolerates and is OK but all of a sudden isn’t. Ever thought; ‘he doesn’t normally react this way?’.

Here’s the very crucial thing

Once your dog’s stress bucket is full it can take an average of 72 hours before it starts to empty. And that’s IF no further positive or negative stress events present themselves. So, if your dog is continuing to experience positive and/or negative stress events with a full bucket, you will likely see a continuation of behaviour responses associated with a full bucket (depending on the dog will depend on how these manifest. The usual suspects include; barking, lunging, growling spinning, nipping/snapping, to name a few), and so the cycle of reactivity goes on and gets rehearsed.

Give your dog a Bucket Holiday

Let’s face it, for the majority of dogs, fireworks are major bucket fillers and so giving your dog a bucket holiday now, i.e. allowing your dog’s bucket to empty is one way you can help your dog through fireworks season. Here’s how:

  1. Ditch the walks. Really?!? You ask! Yes! Giving your dog a break from walks will help to empty their bucket. Instead utilise the time to play calmness games and boundary games at home.
  2. Give your dog some mentally enriching calmness activities. Things like stuffed kongs, long lasting chews, search for the treats around the house, snuffle mats. Sniffing-type activities are great for growing calmness and emptying that bucket.
  3. Ensure your dog is getting lots of sleep and play the reward nothing game.

Here’s how you play:

When your dog is relaxed and semi-snoozing, calmly walk over to where they are mark with a calm ‘yes’ or ‘nice’ and place a piece of food down on their bed. What you are doing is capturing what you want and reinforcing it. We all know how reward based training works, right?! What you reward you ultimately get more of! It is important to look at creating calm as training, and some dogs needs to learn the art and skill of calm through training.

Reinforcing your dog doing nothing…

Now, what may happen after you have walked over and rewarded your dog for essentially doing nothing, is that they may get up. We often get asked; haven’t we just rewarded our dog for getting up? Think of it this way; you mark what you want and the food gets placed at the moment when your dog is doing nothing, so that is the bit that has been reinforced.

If your dog is extremely sensitive to your movement, set their bed or yourself up where you can perhaps lean across and calmly place the piece of food down and its important to act ‘passively’, so reward side on (not looking directly at your dog) and place the food down rather than feeding to the mouth. Slowly build this skill, don’t over-do it to begin with as what you don’t want to create is a ping-pong dog!

Control the controllable!

We can’t control the fireworks, but what we can do is control what we can do to help our dogs through the loud bangs that is fireworks season.

Do you need help with a training struggle?

Visit our website for more info on ways we can help: www.devondogs.co.uk or email us HERE if you have any questions. If you’d like to combine a holiday with dog training, check out our staycation packages HERE. We can also give you a Behaviour Consult if you live a long way from Bowerland and are not sure where to start in your training journey. 🙂

And check out more of our Thursday training tips HERE.

logoDo you have a training issue you want to tackle? Come and stay with us in our cottage style apartments, right in the heart of Dartmoor, and make the most of our fantastic training facilities onsite.


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