Desensitizing Firecracker Phobia
The sounds of the holiday season also includes the booming and rat-a-tat-tat, ear-splitting echoing of fireworks and firecrackers that terrifies many dogs.
It is definitely a myth that dogs will eventually outgrow a fear of the sound of firecrackers, thunder or other loud noises. Phobias are intense fear responses that are out of proportion to the real threat of the situation. Although there is value in knowing what originally caused a particular phobia, fortunately this information is not necessary to treat it. Gradual exposure, desensitization and counter-conditioning have been used successfully.
Try to expose your dog to the stimulus without evoking fear. For example, first by hearing a single firecracker set off at a long distance, say 100 yards or so. You then progressively, but gradually, bring the one firecracker nearer without evoking fear. The next step is to start over at 100 yards with two firecrackers and to repeat the process with increasing numbers of firecrackers. Each time your pet hears the firecracker(s) without showing fear reaction, give him a food reward and praise him. Each session should be about 40 minutes long and can be repeated daily or even twice daily if all is going well. If a fear response is evoked at any level, back up and start again.