Helping your dog through firework season
In the run up to Guy Fawkes Night and with other celebrations that traditionally involve fireworks, such as Diwali, Christmas and New Year’s Eve on the horizon, many dog owners will be concerned about how the loud bangs and flashes will affect their dogs.
Fireworks can often be very frightening and stressful for our pets, causing anxiety and unpredictable behaviour. It is important that dog owners plan ahead and ensure they have considered ways to keep their beloved pooch safe and calm.
For a non-working dog, loud bangs, flashing lights and unusual smells of explosives can be very unnerving, dogs will seldom be able to identify where these rare sensations are coming from. This must be terrifying for them. Reactions can be dependant on breed, owing to genetics, some dogs might inherently attempt to hide whereas others may pace and become agitated.
Not only do our dogs have an amazing sense of smell, their hearing is also impeccable. They can hear sounds that are 4 times further away than the human ear can, not only that, they also hear much higher frequencies than we do. Loud sounds that are comfortable for us are likely to be unbearable for them.
We hope that we can help prepare you and your pup for the upcoming firework season with our following tips:
Prepare for evening fireworks
Check when and where local fireworks displays are taking place and ask neighbours if and when they plan to celebrate to help you prepare. If you normally walk your dog after dark, be prepared earlier in the day by going for a nice long walk well before sunset. By law, fireworks should not be let off after midnight on Guy Fawkes, so try and tire your pup out before dark and allow a final toilet break, outside, when they have finished. If your dog is particularly anxious, you may want to give them their supper a bit earlier too. If you can, try and introduce this routine a few days before fireworks night so that the change to routine isn’t too drastic for them. Anxious dogs are often thirsty so ensure that their water bowls are full.
Prepare a hiding place for your pooch, perhaps a nice blanket draped over a table, or if they are used to a crate, lay a sheet over the top to make it a safe and secure place for them to hide. Allow your dog to move freely through your property to find their own “safe space,” even if it isn’t their usual spot.
Long lasting, natural chews such as antlers, are an excellent way to distract your dog. As are licky and snuffle mats and treat dispensing toys that keep your pup’s attention.
Mask the sensations
Create a noise diversion, loud bangs can be masked by music. Consider playing music at a comfortable volume that drowns out the unpredictable bangs. Draw curtains and blinds to reduce the impact of flashes and turn indoor lights on to reduce the distress caused by them. Reward your dog for calm behaviour and never tell them off for being scared.
Keep all doors and windows closed. It is every dog owner’s worst nightmare, and it doesn’t bear thinking about, but we must highlight the importance of microchipping and ID tags. In the worst possible scenario, if your dog does escape and run away due to the stress and anxiety caused by fireworks, the chances of being reunited are increased tremendously if your dog is microchipped, it’s up to date and your pup is wearing an ID tag. These are legal requirements in the UK and for good reason. Whenever you visit the vet, ask them to check your dog’s microchip to ensure that it is still active and hasn’t migrated.
Our dogs are so perceptive, they will notice if we are behaving strangely and being overly anxious. Try to create a calming environment, reassure them, but please try to behave as normally as possible, if you act differently, they will feed from it. Being cheerful and calm will send encouraging signals to your pup.
In certain circumstances, if your dog exhibits extreme anxiety and stress, it might be worthwhile speaking with your vet who can provide a care plan and perhaps some medication, if required, to reduce the discomfort caused by the firework season. There are many remedies and over the counter medications available for our dogs but we would always recommend discussing these options with your vet, especially if your dog has any health conditions or is on and medication.
In conclusion, we hope that firework season passes without anxiety for you and your dogs but if you are concerned and think you require more support, your vet or local dog behaviourist will be able to support you in ensuring that you provide the best possible solution in this understandably stressful situation.