Category Archives: AniEd

NEW Webinar Available

This webinar will help you to develop a program, starting from before puppies are born, to help them build resilience, coping skills, good recovery from arousal, and become social, happy, confident and trainable companions (that, most importantly, stay in their homes forever!).

Not only that, if you want a really in-depth covering of puppy development and associated research, the online area is comprehensive, with a capital C!

At a glance:

  • four part recorded webinar
  • over two hours long
  • costs €50 for access to webinar in two formats, and comprehensive resource centre online
  • to purchase access please email
  • can be accessed from all over the world – all you need is an internet connection (options to download for offline access too)

Who’s it for?

All trainers and behaviour professionals will benefit, and this is especially for breeders, fosters and puppy rearers.

Really, anyone who will be in contact with a litter of puppies, for any length of time, so is perfect for rescue organisations.

Puppy Behavioural Development Webinar

We talk a whole lot about puppies, and the importance of early interventions cannot be over-estimated. Puppies need careful, structured and appropriate enrichment or challenge early in life to ensure that they have the best chances of growing up to be safe, and happy adult dogs.

Research continues to show that interventions must be implemented earlier and earlier, so by the time a puppy owner gets their puppy at 8-10 weeks of age, there should be a whole lot of vital work already done.

Sadly, the concepts related to this area are generally poor understood, with most people not intervening until there is some sort of serious behaviour problem affecting their relationship with their dog.

Behavioural tendencies are present as a result of a tricky mix of genetic influences, and environmental conditions (how puppy is reared). But behaviour is also most likely to get dogs killed – dogs become unwanted because of their behaviour.
We hear talk of giving dogs a second chance, when they have found themselves unwanted, but how about we emphasise giving puppies a first chance instead?!

Getting started as early as possible helps to make up for anything that might be lacking in the genetics department, and aims to prepare puppy for all the experiences and stresses it will face throughout its life.

This four part webinar is over two hours long, and packed with information and ideas to help give puppies the best start, and a first chance at a long and happy life with their humans.

Four parts:

  1. Concepts behind this program
  2. Contributors to behavioural development
  3. Challenging the system
  4. Developmental markers & building the program

Goals of this webinar:

Taking this webinar will help you:

  • understand requirements to support puppy behavioural development
  • recognise behaviour markers indicating puppy’s requirements as they develop
  • develop awareness for contributors to behavioural development
  • review reliable research on puppy behavioural development
  • understand commonly used terms relating to this area

You will get:

  • access to the recorded webinar in slideshow and YouTube formats so that you can view it or download it
  • webinar includes lots of video of puppies at various stages of development
  • discussion of behavioural markers that indicate required and beneficial interventions
  • access to the online resource centre
  • online resource centre includes references to all research discussed in the webinar, training clips and information on important concepts discussed
  • comment/discussion facility so that the learning can continue

If you would like to purchase, please email and we will get you sorted as soon as possible. What better way to start the New Year than with learning and adorable puppies…


Our Courses: Canine Health & Disease

At a glance:

When?: Course seminar on 9th and 10th June, 2018. Four months to complete optional assessment work from there – ends 31st October 2018

Where?: at the AniEd centre, Glasnevin, Dublin 11 (M50, J5)

How much?: Course fees: €120 includes weekend seminar, comprehensive course materials and supplementary resources
Assessment fee: €20 payable at submission

Who should do it?: anyone working with dogs, for example, trainers, kennel and petshop staff, groomers, rescue staff and volunteers, and pet owners with a keen interest in canine health

Booking: register here and we will respond to you as quickly as possible.
We will ask you how you would like to pay, and raise an invoice for you by which you can pay.
Upon receipt of payment we will send you your Learner Handbook and ask that you sign and return the declaration at the back.
A couple of days before your course starts, we will send you details, directions and so on, for your seminar and then you’ll be good to go!

Why do this course?

This course will provide you with an excellent overview and understanding of canine health, from a biological point of view. You will not find this tricky, even if you have never done science before, or even if you find science too difficult.

This approach, allows you to understand how diseases and disorders affect dogs, and, how treatment is devised and implemented.

This can be applied to building knowledge in terms of first aid, preventative care and humane husbandry care for dogs.

What will you learn?

This course comprises three parts:

Part 1: Canine Physiology & Disease
Part 2: Monitoring & Maintaining Canine Health
Part 3: Responsible Dog Ownership

Each course part covers a wide range of topics.

Part 1 Canine Physiology & Disease:

  • cell anatomy & physiology -> zooming in, we start by looking at health and disorder at microscopic level to provide you with an understanding of the workings and treatment of serious disorder such as deydration and shock, tumours and cancer.
  • skeletal & muscular systems -> a common source of concerns such as lameness, bone, joint & muscle disorders, cancer, the effects of skull shape on health, and vertebral health & disease
  • blood vascular system -> covering blood and related disease, heart functioning and disorder, the lymph system and cancer, plus first aid and the control of bleeding
  • immune system -> the effects, disease and treatment relating to pathogenic organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, and vaccination
  • respiratory system -> how these organs work, and disease and treatment of disorder
  • digestive system -> how these organs work, and disease and treatment of disorder
  • urinary system -> how these organs work, and disease and treatment of disorder
  • reproductive system -> how these organs work, and disease and treatment of disorder
  • integumentary system -> the skin and related systems are exposed to the external and internal environment so may be associated with a wide range of disorder and disease
  • endocrine system -> how these organs work, and disease and treatment of disorder
  • neurological system -> how these organs work, and disease and treatment of disorder
  • sensory organs -> anatomy, physiology and disease affecting the eyes, ears, and nose

Part 2 Monitoring & Maintaining Canine Health

  • how to assess and evaluate canine health
  • care required when in contact with animals, particularly in relation to zoonotic conditions
  • providing healthy nutrition
  • providing healthy environmental condtions
  • carrying out health care procedures
  • preventative health care & parasites
  • cooperative husbandry care for dogs

Part 3 Responsible Dog Ownership

  • canine related legislation in Ireland
  • responsible ownership guidelines & choosing a dog responsibly
  • canine reproductive control & the effects of neutering


All assessment work is optional, unless you are completing a Specialisation.
But don’t worry, there are no tests or exams! All assessment will be conducted over a number of months, and as part of your course materials, you are provided with a study planner to help you organise your studies.
Even if you don’t plan to submit, you are encouraged to complete assessment work.

For this course, there are four separate assessment pieces:

  1. using course material, develop a healthcare checklist of signs for urgent, less urgent and non-urgent care
  2. carry out practical work with your dog (or any suitable dog to which you have access) demonstrating non-invasive health evaluation procedures
  3. design a suitable environmental enrichment program for a specific dog you know
  4. design a responsible ownership handout for pet owners

You have four months of complete this assessment work.

Register here.

Got Puppy. Now what?

Regardless of whether getting a puppy or new dog around Christmas is actually a bad thing (for that puppy or new dog), is up for debate; arguing the point is not relevant now.

If new puppies are in new homes, which they undoubtedly are, we want to keep them there by supporting new puppy owners, giving them the best advice and helping them avail of the best resources on puppy care.

We have a FREE trouble-shooting seminar for all puppy owners in January to help, and make sure everyone gets off on the right paw.

When – Saturday 6th January, 2018
What time – 2pm-4pm
Where – at the AniEd centre in Glasnevin, Dublin 11; just off J5 M50

What will we cover?

It will be two hours of puppy-people’s questions. All those niggling, puppy problems and behaviour mysteries will be discussed, so that puppies and their families can stay together in peace and harmony.

We will cover topics such as:

  • what puppies need to know
  • social experience – puppy and people
  • social experience  – puppy and other dogs
  • social experience – puppy and other animals
  • environmental experience – growing puppy brains and building confident, resilient puppies
  • puppy’s first walks
  • travelling in the car
  • importance of mental exercise
  • care with physical exercise
  • puppy nipping, biting and bite inhibition
  • puppies & children
  • management – prevent unwanted puppy behaviour
  • crate and confinement training – benefits and pitfalls
  • alone training
  • night-time training
  • passive training – catch your puppy doing the right thing!
  • Park your Pup – teach your puppy to relax and settle, and be ignored
  • preventing resource guarding
  • handling and grooming comfort
  • toilet training
  • playing with your puppy

We have lots to cover, and no doubt there will be more to discuss.

Who should attend?

This is vital for new puppy owners, if even if they have had puppies before. There’s nothing like going from an adult dog to a new, young puppy!!

We will be discussing puppy training & behaviour relating to puppies five months and younger.

This will also be great for those thinking of getting a puppy so that they can be prepared.

Pet professionals and veterinary personnel are welcome to come along too, as they will often be in positions to advise puppy owners.

Please book!

This is a people-only event, and requires booking so we know how many to expect.

You can book by emailing, messaging our Facebook page, or calling and leaving your details (01 8308380 or 086 044 9275).
We are closed for Christmas and New Year’s but will make sure to respond to all bookings for this event as soon as possible. Rest assured, that if you have contacted us and left your details, you have a spot on this seminar!

Please share, far & wide so we can get the best support to new puppy people, and prevent an onslaught of unwanted, difficult puppies in 2018.


This will not be news to you, at all, that dogs love sniffing. Sniffing isn’t just a fun past-time for dogs, it’s essential behaviour that they MUST do for behavioural health.

Not only that, sniffing can be a great training tool.

Sniffing for training

Dogs pull on lead for lots of reasons:

  • they’re excited to be out and about
  • the world is an exciting place
  • they have twice the number of legs we do
  • they want to get sniffing and sniffing and sniffing
  • they want to get to things
  • they want to get away from things
  • we have trained them to pull

Pet owners spend lots of money on all sorts of, often times, scary equipment and lots of time on training exercises, to improve their dogs’ loose leash walking skills.

Changing the dog’s motivation for behaviour, and reducing his expectation (that crazy behaviour is required) will help to prevent pulling behaviour, making walks more enjoyable for all.


Is there a time or area in which your dog really, really pulls?

Do you find it difficult to get your dog from point A to point B, on lead?

Are there particular distractions that you find difficult to manage?

Establishing Sniffing Stations will help:

  • to get your dog out the door, without too much craziness
  • to get your dog from the house to the car, or from the car to the park or from one spot to a very exciting place
  • your dog get passed, toward or through particularly distracting situations
  • your dog get to another person or dog in a calmer fashion
  • to get a dog from a kennel to an exercise area
  • to get a dog to an exit (or entrance)
  • the dog to associate good things with potentially distracting or worrying triggers
  • your dog’s focus on you to increase


Start with your dog on lead, and use really yummy food rewards.

  • say “Go Sniff!”
  • drop a couple of treats to the ground, across your dog’s eyeline if possible but just point them out if he misses them
  • let your dog eat the treats
  • repeat approx. every two metres

We start out with Sniffing Stations close to one another, and can move them further apart as the dog improves, or closer together for really tricky distractions.

If you know that you need to move the dog over the same short route, make more permanent Sniffing Stations.
Use double-sided tape to secure little bowls or even lids to each spot. Pre-load with treats for each trip.
For more temporary but pre-loaded Sniffing Stations, use little pieces of double-sided tape at each station and place treats on each one. This will also take the dog a little longer to eat, so is great to get dog past tricky distractions.
(Securely stick tape so that the dog doesn’t take that too!)

Teach sniffing on cue

Put sniffing on cue:


Sniffing is a handy training exercise because:

  • your dog loves to sniff (and is already really good at it)!
  • sniffing is a polite dog behaviour and can be used to diffuse the tension between two dogs at a distance
  • sniffing is a calming behaviour for your dog
  • sniffing can help to divert your dog’s attention away from a trigger
  • sniffing can be used as a release cue, to let your dog know they they can go be a dog again
  • sniffing can be used to keep your dog busy or entertained when you are otherwise engaged
  • sniffing can be used to help your dog calm after excitement
  • sniffing can be used as a reward, after recalling for example
  • sniffing can be used to help your dog form more pleasant associations toward some trigger

Sniffing as a past-time

Make sure your dog has lots of opportunities to sniff. Forget about taking your dog for walks, instead make outings about sniffing.

Take your dog on a sniff, rather than on a walk. Who’s walk is it anyway!?

No, your dog is not just being “friendly”

Set the scene…you are walking your dog, interacting or playing, your dog might even be on lead, or at the very least is engaged with you and not looking to meet and greet…in the distance a loose dog approaches, directly, attempting to interact with your dog, who is not really in to it…

Regardless of how this interaction goes, it’s not appropriate behaviour.
You are, I am sure, a ‘socialised’ person. This means that you can pass other people without having to approach them, attempt to interact or touch them. Strangers running up to strangers, attempting contact, especially if one person is clearly not looking to interact, would be weird and concerning human behaviour.

Same goes for dogs. A socialised dog doesn’t need to greet every dog, doesn’t get excited by the presence of other dogs, and can read another dog’s signalling without having to get right up in their face.
This negatively impacts a dog’s comfort levels and behaviour, and is probably not great for either dog involved.

Dealing with Uninvited Approaches

Safety first

Not only does this behaviour present risks for your dog’s safety, but also yours. Lots of your first reactions may be borne out of panic, and that may not be helpful.

Picking up your dog, trying to move them with the lead, or even putting your body between them and the interloper, may increase the tension or arousal in the situation leading to an escalation in their behaviour.

When your dog is at risk, you might be tempted to put yourself in harm’s way, to attempt to prevent your dog being injured or scared.

I get that. As much as I might advise you don’t do that, to be honest, I am going to do whatever I need to do to protect my dog from inappropriate contact with another dog who may potentially cause injury or stress.

  • picking up your dog may cause the other dog’s arousal to increase, pursuing your dog up into your arms. This may lead to a more persistent ‘attack’, with the dog frustrated and trying to reach your dog, and may lead to injury to you as the other dog attempts to get to your dog, or re-directs onto you.
    In a panicked state and being lifted and losing control, it’s also possible that your own dog will re-direct on you or catch you with his teeth or claws.

If you must pick your dog up, try to tuck him inside your jacket and turn your back on the other dog immediately.

It might be possible to put your own dog up on to something high such as a log, a rock or even on a vehicle.

Regardless, keep your balance, and possibly implement some of our other recommendations to reduce the impact on you, and your dog.

  • restraining your dog on lead may offer some protection in that your dog doesn’t have the opportunity to go after another dog, but dogs on lead are more likely to react and aggress when they feel under pressure.
    But when another dog comes close, we can feel the temptation to tighten the lead, and even use it to move our dog out of harm’s way.
    Doing so may cause your dog’s reaction to escalate faster and increase in intensity.
    If your dog is in an interaction with the other dog, them being moved suddenly and stiffly may cause the interaction to go south fast.
    Moving them by the lead, may even cause greater damage and injury should there be a bite.

Your dog being on lead may very well contribute to an interaction becoming more tense, more serious, leading to more harm.

Dropping the lead and allowing your dog to move and escape may well offer greater protection as your dog can move faster without you, but may put your dog at greater risk in other ways. Your dog running may even increase another dog’s interest, leading to intense chasing behaviour.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, loosening the lead, may be your best bet, especially if the other dog’s intentions are social, albeit obnoxious.
Keep the lead loose, stay at your dog’s shoulder, and move with your dog as he moves or circles may help. Stay calm, hum or sing softly to yourself (“Happy Birthday” is a great one to sing as it’s hard to be tense during that one!), and be ready to move.

  • you moving between your dog and the approaching dog is often a go-to move…indeed I have done it myself. Sometimes this can be enough to deter an overly-exuberant greeter, but sometimes it may just draw the other dog’s attention to you, making you the focus.
    Where an interaction has begun or where there is tension, you moving may certainly cause fireworks.

Although we are tempted to try and intimidate the other dog so that they move away, this doesn’t always work as intended, instead leading to an increase in arousal and a lowering of already impaired inhibitions, possibly in both dogs.

We can teach a dog to move behind us on cue which might help to diffuse tension, and paired with some of our other recommendations, may help to cool the situation.


Being proactive, and looking to keep interactions low key is probably going to be safest and most comfortable for everyone, but this requires time and space, which you might not always have.

  • assess the situation – how is your dog feeling, how is the other dog responding – how direct, tense and intense are they, how much control does the other owner have, how responsive is your dog, how well will you be able to escape?
  • scan your environment for signs that loose dogs may be present, such as people who look like dog walkers and other dogs in the distance, listen for dog tags and paws on concrete.
  • walk in places that require dogs to be on lead, that offer you good vantage points with lots of places that you and your dog can escape to that provide visual barriers
  • remain alert close to blind corners or concealed entrances, which might reveal loose dogs suddenly
  • keep your dog’s attention on you with trained cues for simple behaviours such as hand targeting, and high value motivators such as food rewards and toys.
    It’s best to avoid stationary behaviours such as stay, sit or down, as this can cause your dog to feel less well able to control the goings-on.
    Remember, the introduction or availability of high value motivators may cause your dog’s discomfort to increase as he attempts to keep the other dog away from his prized possessions. It may also make you more attractive to rude dogs looking to score a treat from a stranger, or take another dog’s ball (someone else’s is always better, right?!).
  • get your dog sniffing – head down and sniffing can communicate a desire for a calmer, slower interaction among dogs which may be heeded. Your dog staring and making eye contact with another dog, may encourage it to approach.
  • walking away calmly and/or taking sudden direction change can help to keep your dog focused on you and less likely to interact with another dog, and may cause the other dog to give up in its pursuit
  • this is the opportunity for you to have your dog behind you, and you between your dog and the other dog, before tensions rise and direct approach is imminent. It may also give you time to call to the other dog owner, asking them to get their dog.

The other owner

While some of you will scoff at this, sometimes another owner may not be aware of the distress their dog potentially causes.

Culturally, among dog owners, it’s presumed that their dog running directly up to another dog or person is just an expression of their dog’s friendliness and joie do vivre. This interaction may be a teaching moment, if there’s enough time and everyone is open to discussion.


  • call to the other dog owner and ask them to get their dog, to leash their dog, to remove their dog
    There’s no point asking them to call their dog as doing so doesn’t necessarily mean that their dog will return to them.
  • as frustrating as it is when they say their dog is “just being friendly”, (we, of course know different), it’s best to stay as calm as possible so as not to increase the tension, or possibly get their back up, making them less cooperative
  • if your requests are not successful, tell them that your dog is not friendly, is sick or old, or is “contagious”
  • muzzle training your own dog, and having them wear a muzzle is a sure-fire way to get other dog owners to avoid you…
  • taking out your phone and really or mock filming them will often cause them to remove their dog and move away quickly
  • informing them that you will do what you need to do to protect your own dog, should they be unable to remove their dog immediately, is a last resort but threats may be necessary


Sometimes you won’t have time for any of the above, and are left with no choice but to react and to hope that you can minimise emotional and physical damage to all involved.

Repellents & Shields

Some you might be able to carry with you, but you may also be able to use things you find around you.

Repellents might include:

  • compressed air (Pet Corrector)
  • small aerosol can, citronella spray
  • water gun or spray
  • a Dog Stop alarm (very loud!)

The problem with these is that they will only be effective when the other dog is quite close. Outdoors the wind may blow a spray back into your or your dog’s face.

If something is designed to scare away another dog, it may also have that effect on your dog possibly leading to a greater level of distress in association with that context.

Shields might include:

  • an umbrella with a button pop
  • a length of cardboard, like a flattened box
  • a clipboard, sheet of Styrofoam, chopping board
  • your bag

Shields might act to intimidate a dog sufficiently that they move away, or may give you a few seconds to redirect and escape.

Again, anything intended to startle an oncoming dog might also distress your own dog.

Carrying a small back pack is a good idea, not only to carry things safely and out of reach, but also to use as a shield or as something to redirect a persistent interloper.

Other deterrents

Carrying a walking stick, or even an umbrella folded up may be enough to deter other dogs. Swinging it or cracking it on the ground can help to move them away.

Swinging a lead or line, or even the heavy handled end of a retractable leash may also help. Cracking the line in the air or on the ground may also cause sufficient startle to halt an approaching dog.


  • turn your attention to your dog immediately and keep them engaged
  • move away briskly, keeping your dog moving away, rather than directly
  • keep yourself between your dog and the other dog as you move
  • toss treats or something (such as pebbles) into the dog’s path (not at them), across their eyeline
    Tossing something bigger like a stick, or even your bag or jacket.
  • using a shield or repellent, and then using the couple of seconds it buys and get out of there
  • stepping forward and shouting “NO!”, “STAY!”, “SIT!”, “GO HOME!” or growling – might just buy you a couple of seconds of redirection so you can get out of there
  • get something between you and the other dog

Although the temptation is to ‘go big’, try calm and cool first and attempt to diffuse. Up the ante as needed.


  • grab collars
  • put your hands in the middle, or near mouths
  • pick up a dog
  • hit, kick, or punch
  • put your body or body parts in the middle

No magic wand

There is no one solution that is going to work every time. One of these may work in one context, but may be ineffective in another. The key is to have plenty of tools at the ready, and to practice when there’s no panic, so that you are ready when the shi1t hits the fan.

Sadly, loose dogs, under poor control, are an every day occurrence for the majority of my clients (and my friends, and me!), many having dogs who have been injured and are seriously distressed by other irresponsible owners’ actions (or lack thereof). Not only that, but a number of friends and clients have been hurt, frightened and injured by these dogs themselves, as they try to do their best to deal with the onslaught.

Understand that it’s not appropriate for dogs to behave like this (just as it wouldn’t be OK for people to behave this way), and that your dog is allowed to say they don’t want another dog in their face by ignoring them or even snarking. In that context, that’s appropriate behaviour. Do your dog a favour, and get them out of there quickly and calmly.

Dying of Fright

Halloween is almost upon us, and with that, the accompanying terror experienced by so many dogs.

Because so many pet owners report that their dogs show fear to fireworks (and other sounds like thunder), it’s become somewhat normalised. That reduces proactivity , meaning that so many pets, and their people, suffer through fireworks season.

Fear is a significant stressor that affects dogs’ welfare, and may even cause the development of anxiety and phobic type responses having long lasting effects.
Where anxiety and phobia develops, the dog is exposed to intense, chronic stress which is damaging, physically and emotionally.

Although helping dogs who show fearful responses to sounds, whose fear generalises, who develop anxiety, and/or who develop phobic responses, is by no means easy or straight forward, we have lots of tools that we can put in place to increase their comfort and improve their welfare.

It’s too close to Halloween, and even New Year’s Eve now, for us to help your dog learn a more relaxed response to fireworks and other loud noises, but there are lots of effective strategies that we can put in place to help them, reduce their distress, and avoid this escalating further.
(That’s why we are not discussing counterconditioning and the use of sounds CDs etc.)

How does a fearful dog respond?

Dogs experiencing distress may show responses such as:

  • alerting to the sound, especially where the dog remains alert and on edge, even when it’s quiet
  • barking at the sound
  • wide eyes, panting, trembling, pacing
  • sitting close to you, attempting to snuggle in to you
  • looking to hide, or move away from the action in the house
  • checking doors, windows, boundaries
  • lying or sitting very still and quiet

Just as we are concerned for a dog who is showing less activity than normal, due to their normal responding being suppressed by fear, stress can also cause increases in activity.

This is often in the form of displacement behaviour including play and play related behaviour that’s often quite intense, so you might see play bows, bouncing and jumping. We might also see greeting behaviour, jumping up, humping, mouthing, overly affectionate behaviour and persistently seeking attention and interaction.

Which dogs are likely to be affected?

It’s pretty normal for a dog to be aware and possibly frightened of loud, booming noises and light flashes, just as a person may be. But, where this normal response is seen, the dog will recover immediately and be capable of going about their usual activities.

  • Some types of dogs are most associated with developing noise sensitivities, so there may be some heritable component.
    Many types of dogs were developed to be extra sensitive to their environment, and to be proactive if even the slightest threat is detected. We may have been selecting for the underlying components associated with various types of reactive behaviour when breeding dogs for particular functions.
  • Adolescent dogs go through fear periods during which they are more sensitive to scary situations and more likely to form long standing fear responses to these scary situations.
  • New dogs who might not be fully settled in their new home, so everything might be a bit overwhelming.
  • Sound sensitivity and separation related behaviour may be linked, so dogs who demonstrate behaviour associated with distress at separation may be more likely to show sound sensitivity. (Sherman & Mills, 2008)
  • Dogs who show fearful responses to other sounds such as the smoke alarm (particularly the beeping when the batteries are going), thunder and storm sounds, booming or low frequency sounds, household and machinery sounds such as blenders, lawn mowers etc.
  • Which paw your dog prefers may even be related to the development of sound sensitivities! (Branson & Rogers, 2006)

Trigger stacking is also worth noting here. A dog, who has been exposed to one loud noise in isolation, may have time to recover from it, but fireworks are generally repetitive and unpredictable.
The dog will not have had time to recover from one, before another goes off.
Because they are unpredictable, the dog can’t prepare himself so may be on edge in anticipation.

What can we do?

It’s not hopeless. Don’t just watch your pet suffer through Fright Night – we have some time to get planning and prepared so that you and your dog are more comfortable.


We know this is going to happen, indeed, in lots of areas it’s already happening. Let’s get a plan in place to reduce canine stress surrounding Halloween activities.

  • make sure your dog has a tag on his collar, and that his microchip details are up to date
  • stock up on HIGH value food rewards that your dog LOVES like hotdog, chicken, cheese, pate, peanut butter, roast beef, liver or whatever really gets your dog going
  • stock up on some of your dog’s favourite toys that he loves like squeakies, tugs and toys for dissection
  • check out our YouTube channel for tons and tons of ideas for puzzles to keep your dog’s brain busy and distracted.
  • start to plan toilet breaks – how often does your dog need to go outside? what time will it be dark? is there a quieter area that you can bring them to?
  • plan how you will exercise your dog at home or in quiet areas so that they are a little more settled
  • where will you and your dog be set-up on the night? This might require a bit of planning, especially if you have family or party plans.
    Set up in a room that is well insulated from sound (surrounded by other rooms, for example) and has at least one door between the dog and the entrance/exit to the house.
  • exercise your dog on lead at and around Halloween
  • Your dog will very likely be comforted by your presence so being with him or her is important.
  • Start to play the TV or music louder than usual now so that you can use it to drown out sound on the night, and your dog has some time to get used to it.

Set-up a safe bunker for your dog now! If you only use it when he’s likely to be scared, he will associate this change with feeling frightened. 

  • Make a comfortable, cosy refuge by laying some blankets over a bed, chair, table that your dog can go under, or a crate.
    There may already be a spot that your dog likes to take cover in – use that, if it’s safe!
  • Set up a bunker in places your dog chooses to hide, if safe
  • have your dog’s bed in there and his favourite toys there

Start to feed your dog a yummy stuffed Kong in their bunker every day in the run up to Halloween so that you are establishing this as a nice place for them to go.

Needless to say, it is not recommended that you bring your dog to bonfire or fireworks events, or to costume parties or trick-or-treating, or even greeting trick-or-treaters at the door. 

Most dogs are not comfortable wearing costumes, even though it can be super cute!

Preparation & Safety

Halloween isn’t just spooky for us!

Children and people in costumes, funny decorations, candles and reduced light, lots of forbidden and even dangerous food, excitement and doorbell activity will cause any dog to become stressed out – throw in fireworks on top of that…

If a dog is stressed out, his normal ability to cope with stress is reduced, so even though he may tolerate excitement and activity at other times, Halloween might be too much.

Special consideration needs to be given to child-dog safety at this time of year:

Other safety concerns include:

  • dangerous and inappropriate foods
  • routines out of whack so it can be difficult to keep track of everyone
  • candles
  • decorations
  • door opening and closing
  • children in costume, excited and possibly worrying to the dog

Halloween is a bit of a minefield when it comes to dog care!

The Set-Up

Fearful and spooked dogs can panic and attempt to flee, even injuring themselves in the process.

  • make sure your dog wears a collar with ID, and is chipped (make sure the chip is registered and the details are up to date)
  • check fencing, gates, boundaries etc. and it’s best to exercise and toilet your dog on lead, even in your own garden. A panicked or spooked dog will go through an “invisible” fence, over or through a boundary that they normally wouldn’t.
  • keep your dog on lead when walking, just in case he is spooked while out and about
  • have at least one closed door between your dog and the front or back doors
  • spend time with your dog in a quieter area of the house; it’s better to have children and other pets spend time elsewhere especially if they are active or noisy
  • close the windows and curtains in the house
  • play music or the TV louder to drown out some external sound.
    You can run the washing machine or dryer, or use a white noise machine or app.
  • while inside and supervised with you, have your dog drag his lead so that he can be easily restrained if needed

Your behaviour

You may act as a safe base for your dog, whom he uses as a reference point. This means that your presence and your behaviour may help your dog cope with distress.

  • be calm
  • don’t scold your dog – this will make fear worse
  • talk to your dog, use a jolly voice
  • sing happy songs or listen to upbeat music – this will help you and your dog be calmer!
  • stay close to your dog – try not to come in and out too much
  • listen to your dog: if they seek contact, pet them; if they just want to stay close to you, be there; if they want to hide, let them and make sure they have a safe space
  • it may be better that an adult is responsible for the dog, rather than children, for safety

Massage and touch may help your dog, and it can be relaxing for you too. But, remember, listen to your dog and it’s best to do this between booms and bangs, rather than when he’s stressed. We have more on this here.

Keep ’em busy

With all this planning and preparation in place, you will be doing an excellent job of managing your dog’s response to scary sounds.

If we can successfully reduce the impact of the noise, we might be able to further take the edge off, by providing your dog with lots of distraction, to keep their minds busy.

  • if they can eat, practice fun training exercises using high value rewards
  • if your dog can play, play fun and active fetch, sniffing and tug games
  • have lots of Kongs and food dispensing toys ready with the yummiest stuff – encourage lots of chewing and lapping behaviour, which can be calming

Start practicing now! Introduce sniffing and chewing activities now, at times when it’s quiet and your dog is calm. Establish these activities as safety signals.

Intersperse fun and active games, with a calming break for some chewing, and then bring the energy up again by engaging them in a game again.
Using noisy toys like squeakies might also help to drown out fireworks nose too.


Calmatives are generally over the counter remedies, that may or may not have a beneficial effect. I have some concerns about recommending these.

The first concern being that reliable evidence for their efficacy is lacking, and reported or anecdotal effects may be due to placebo and bias effects.

Because there is heightened awareness among professionals and pet owners, lots of these products have flooded the market, and made very attractive to concerned dog lovers.
Using these products may cause a person to believe that they are doing all that’s required, and possibly believing that their pet is benefiting, when that might not be the case.

Such products that might be helpful, in combination with other measures include:

There are countless others, for which I have not seen effective and beneficial results, despite seeing their use with a range of dogs.

If you are going to implement any of these, start using them now. Don’t wait until the fireworks have started or your dog’s fear has intensified; otherwise they become predictors of distress.


This should not be considered a last resort, or something that must be resorted to.

Sound sensitivities cause dogs real distress and suffering, and impacts their welfare. If fireworks caused physical pain, I’m sure people and professionals would not hesitate to medicate, treat for pain and inflammation, ensure the dog’s comfort.
Sound sensitivities cause serious emotional and behavioural damage, which has a neurological basis. We can treat the brain, and help the dog.

First port of call: talk to your vet.
Share this article from Dr Overall on drug therapy for sound sensitivities.

Be clear about your dog’s behaviour:

  • What sounds cause the fearful response? Where is your dog when this happens?
  • What does your dog do? How does your dog respond?
  • How long does it take for your dog to recover, and go back to normal?

Further treatment may be indicated in different situations:

  1. a dog who alerts and barks at fireworks, and maybe shows some of those displacement behaviours (increases in activity etc.) is probably going to be OK by implementing the measures described here
  2. a dog who hides, and startles but can still interact, play and eat is also likely to be OK just by implementing the advice in this blog
  3. a dog who pants, paces, trembles, especially if they take a while to recover from this distress is likely to need more support
  4. a dog who panics and looks to escape is likely to need more support
  5. a dog who has a disproportionately strong response to sounds is going to need more support, especially where this response has generalised to other sounds
  6. a dog who is on edge, even at quiet times, and startles and shows distress to a growing array of sounds will need more support

Dog 3. and even dog 2. (and 1.) may benefit from a situational medication like Sileo, which is a relatively newer medication developed for dogs with sound sensitivities. It offers lots of benefits in that it can be administered at home, even once the dog is experiencing distress.
Sileo helps to reduce anxiety and distress, without sedation.

Dogs 3. – 6. may benefit from an anxiolytic medication such as Benzodiazepines, which help to reduce anxiety and panic, but may also be sedative.
These may include alprazolam and diazapam. The former is likely a better option, as it is less sedative. These can be given as situational medications so are ideal for Halloween night when there  are likely to be fireworks consistently sounding.

Dogs 4.-6. may benefit from maintenance medication too, so as to help reduce anxiety in their day to day lives, and help limit the generalisation of their sound sensitivities, for example, clomipramine, fluoxetine.
These anxiolytic medications will provide background relief, and then situational medication can be given when we expect the extra distress of fireworks. (We don’t have sufficient time to start this medical program at this stage, as it’s likely to take a couple of months.)

Please discuss this with your vet. This is only general advice based on medication protocols often applied to dogs with sound sensitivities. Medications don’t work the same for every dog, so your vet will know the best approach and support for you and your pet as you try to find the best protocol to help.

Some anxiolytic medications can cause paradoxical effects so talk to your vet today. This will give you some time to try the medication out, before you really need it, so that you can evaluate your pet’s response.

A note about ACP

ACP or Ace or Acepromazine is still commonly prescribed for sound sensitivities. This is not an appropriate medication for use for dogs with sound sensitivities.

This pre-med doesn’t have anxiolytic effects, but rather sedative effects. Indeed, it may even heighten the dog’s sensitivity to sound…so not a good choice at all.

Dr Karen Overall, again, discusses its use in this clip.

This fireworks season, get planning and preparing now because our dogs don’t have to suffer just because that’s the way it’s always been. Get proactive and start today!

Of course, please get in touch should you need any further advice.