The following are a few tips to help you train your pet for a fire alarm and evacuation.
Acclimate your pet to the sound of the fire alarm with an audio recording of the alarm. There are a couple ways to do this:
Play the alarm sound at a low level as background noise while your dog is in a calm, relaxed state. Gradually increase the volume if your dog shows no signs of stress or anxiety. Make it an even more positive experience by getting out some treats and doing some additional training.
Play the alarm sound at a volume your dog will hear and notice. Then, initiate an activity your dog enjoys (feeding, playing, treat-training), continuing for as long as you play the sound.
There is no need to acclimate dogs to smoke and fire. You want them to get uneasy and alert you when they see or sense an emergency.
Practice! Go through all the steps that might occur during a fire: the alarm, someone yelling and directing, evacuating the building, meeting in a group in your designated area, etc. You could break it into smaller steps at first so the dogs are not overwhelmed. Practice one step a day, then put it all together at the end of the week. Lots of treats and praise during this!
Socialize your dog to a lot of different people, places, sounds, and experiences (such as walking on a wobbly surface or down metal stairs). A dog that is exposed positively to a wide range of life is better equipped to handle new and potentially stressful situations. Take a training class so that your dog learns to focus on you around a variety of distractions.
Make sure your pet is crate trained. It's very important to be able to put dogs away safely during an emergency.
Stay calm! Staying calm helps people survive emergencies and your calm demeanor will help your pet relax and not panic.
Amanda Brothers, CPDT-KA, has worked professionally with dogs since 2000. After years of full-time shelter work, she started Sidekick Dog Training in 2006. Amanda shares her home with multiple dogs and understands the unique challenges of multi-dog households.