Fireworks season can be a bit like Marmite, with many people loving it but lots of people also dreading it. If you own a pet that is scared of fireworks, chances are you are in the latter group. It is not unknown for dogs to clear otherwise perfectly high enough garden fences in their adrenaline filled panic, or to become so petrified you can hardly recognize them as the same dog. This is an awful time of year for these pets and their owners, but here are a few tips which may just help this fireworks season be a little bit easier:
- Desensitize your dog to noise. If your dog is particularly nervous of the sounds of fireworks (or thunder etc) you can purchase CDs which mimic the noises. These can then be played, almost silently in the home when everything else is calm and your dog is relaxed. Using something like a stuffed Kong or long lasting chew (chewing in itself is a calming behavior) as a positive distraction you can play the CD, so quiet that you cannot hear it. If your dog shows no sign of stress then you can up the volume by a notch. Repeat this over the next few days, only going up by one or two notches of volume a day and going back a step if/when your dog starts to stress about the noise. Full instructions are provided with most CDs but the main point of this is that it is gradual. So start NOW, even tho fireworks season is a few months away.
- Find suitable dog firework calming products. There are several products that are made to help calm dogs in stressful periods. Examples include Adaptil, Pet Remedy, Dowest Herbs and more. For these to work they are generally used before your dog is stressed, and then use is continued throughout the stressful period. Again, the products come with instructions but most will need putting in place before the fireworks begin, so buy sooner rather than later.
- Build a den. Again, best done before fireworks start so your dog can get used to the new idea, create a small den where your dog can retreat to. In the weeks leading up this den is to be his space. Do not force him in or out of it and let him take toys and tasty chews in there. This builds a positive association that this is somewhere safe and relaxing to be. You can spray calming sprays on the bedding in the den. A covered crate (or even cardboard box if you are on a budget) works well but it should be dark and have only one entrance.
- Change your walkies routine. Where possible try and create a new routine for your dog that involves early evening or even lunch time walks instead of the after dark walks. Therefore you are less likely to encounter fireworks whilst out and about.
- Ensure your pets microchip details are up to date, and they are always wearing a collar with the correct contact info on, just in case of escape.
- Keep pets indoors as much as possible in the evenings. This goes for cats too, as soon as you expect fireworks to start, keep the pets indoors so they are less likely to flee.
- When the fireworks do start you can turn up TVs or radios to help drown the sound, and stay with your pet as much as possible in the evenings. Close curtains and windows to block out sounds as much as possible.
- Try not to encourage stressful behaviors. If you pet stresses try to act normally, so you can give them the impression that there is nothing to worry about. If you praise their stressful behavior (i.e giving them cuddles saying “i Know, it’s ok, scary fireworks aren’t they”) then you are reinforcing the idea in their heads that there is something to worry about because you are agreeing with them. However, if your dog normally has cuddles and close contact on any other evening then this is fine to continue, because you are acting normally.
- If you have already tried all of the above before to no effect, and your pet really does suffer due to the panic then please see your vet as stronger help may be available.