I had a young Labrador who was coming along well in training until a neighbour set off a firework nearby. Now she is terrified. What can I do about it?

It’s always a good idea to try and desensitise a youngster to loud noises during its early training. Start up the vacuum cleaner, the hairdryer, bang the doors, put the TV on an action film…

This is important because if a dog isn’t exposed to loud noises when still a puppy, it’s not uncommon for it to develop a fear of fireworks and loud bangs as it gets older. This is even more serious with gundogs who should be trained from a young age that the sight of a gun will bring pleasure and not fear of a loud bang.

Curing fear of firework bangs

I have cured several adult dogs which showed fear of bangs through a careful desensitisation process. I cured another dog, a six-year-old Labrador bitch, which was terrified of fireworks, by flooding its senses and using food as a diversion.

I stood about 500 yards from a large public firework display and during an hour of unrelenting noise she consumed her evening meal by being fed a nugget of food every time there was a loud bang. (If you’re going to do this, make sure that the food is particularly delicious – small pieces of chopped up chicken breast … )

The result was remarkable and her fear vanished for good. However, I recommend that before you start this retraining programme you get her ears checked by a vet to make sure there is no underlying infection that could cause pain on hearing loud noises.

Of course, some dogs will always be frightened of fireworks. In which case make sure that they have access to their beds or somewhere they feel safe (which might be under a bed) and if they sleep in a crate then cover it with a blanket. Put radios and/or the television on to supply some background ‘white’ noise and draw the curtains.