It is a complete family festival where everyone comes together to celebrate by wearing new clothes, lighting diyas, and eating lots of yummy food! Though, originally, it has been known as a festival of lights, it is often celebrated by bursting deafening crackers. While we humans seem to enjoy bright lights and loud noises, our dogs find it terribly difficult to cope with the same.
Main reason for their discomfort is the loud noise released while bursting crackers. A dog’s sense of hearing is much stronger than humans. As per the American Kennel Club, a dog can hear sounds up to a frequency of 47000 Hz and at decibels as low as -5 to -15 db. Hence, their perception of loud noise is stronger as well. What seems like a pop to us, sounds like an explosion to them! As a result, they are often unable to tolerate the noise created by crackers bursting around them. Hence, we see dogs displaying high anxiety behaviour, hiding in dark and secluded spaces, or sometimes, even running away from their owners in fright.
As a behaviourist and dog trainer, one of the most common requests I receive, in anticipation of Diwali, is to train dogs to be calm during the days of festivities. So when should you start training your pets to be comfortable during Diwali? Ideally, this should start the day you bring your dog home. By that, I don’t mean to light firecrackers the day your dog comes home, but start exposing your dog to various sound stimuli from a young age. If this is your pet’s first Diwali with you, get started right away. Do not wait for your pet to develop a negative association towards the festival, but instead, start preparing it to be comfortable during those few days of festivities.
The best way to prepare your pets to be calm is to desensitize them to loud noises through classical conditioning. Materials required for this are – a calming oil like lavender in a diffuser, some soothing music like sound of waves or white noise (nothing exciting, though), a bed/ surface other than the one your pet is used to, and one person to massage him. The idea is to get your pet’s senses to respond in a particular manner to the stimulus of loud noise.
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