Fireworks can be Frightening!
Fireworks night is just a couple of days away but, to be honest, that doesn’t actually mean that much these days. As soon as the nights draw in and the rockets go on sale in the shops, pretty much every evening there will be somebody putting on a back garden display somewhere.
Looking out in the night sky and seeing the sparkles lighting it up can be lovely, but if you have a pet who is scared, particularly a dog, it can actually be a total and utter nightmare.
So here are my tips on how to help them cope;
Tire them out!
Get in the habit of going for good walk before darkness falls. A dog who is pooped is far more likely to just lie down and sleep, rather than having the energy to get themselves worked up. I know this can be difficult, especially when the clocks go back and evening practically arrives at 3 in the afternoon, but it is often worth it. Consider investing in a dog walker around the worst times.
Make a den
Animals feel most secure in small, enclosed and cosy spaces where they can rest undisturbed. Creating a den is easy in most homes and often your pet will tell you where they want to go by getting under the table or wriggling behind the sofa. Cover the top, fill it will cosy blankets, pop a few treats in to keep them entertained and then leave them to it. They will relax much more successfully if you aren’t hovering to check they are chilling out!
Don’t praise the fear
Of course you aren’t going to be able to completely ignore your dog if they are beside themselves but if we are too over-effusive we can accidentally positively reinforce the fearful behaviour and make it worse. Do comfort your pet but try to mostly just act as normal, showing them that everything is fine and there is no need for panic. What is important though is to notice and praise the calm behaviour! Are they lying in their bed not doing much? THIS is the time for a pat and a treat!
Shut out the noise!
It seems simple but simply closing the curtains and turning on the TV will block out most of the flashes and bangs and also help reinforce the message that it’s just a normal evening of Netflix and chill, not the start of armageddon!
Where’s the cat?
Hopefully indoors! Most cats have the sense to come home and hide away until it is all over. Our jobs are to lock the cat flap to make sure they stay in and not bother them unless they come looking for us. Also, if they aren’t already, get them microchipped, so if they are out and get spooked and lost, someone will be able to bring them home.
Our pets have fantastic senses of smell and scents for them can be very soothing. There are pheromone products for both dogs and cats that you can use in your home to help reduce anxiety and increase confidence. Feliway for cats comes in a diffuser, plug it in close to where they will spend a lot of time and a spray for an extra ‘boost’, spritz it on their bedding before night falls. Adaptil, for dogs, also comes in a diffuser and as a collar for your pet to wear all the time. If you use them, start them several days before you need them and don’t expect them to be an instant cure! Used alone they won’t make much difference (and will be a waste of money) but used with the techniques above, they can be absolutely fantastic.
If all else fails…..
Speak to your vet about sedative medication. This is particularly effective (and very safe) for dogs. They should just chill out and sleep though all the drama. Some kinds also have a memory loss effect, so if they do get stressed, they won’t remember the next day and start panic about panicking when night falls!
And for next year….
Consider starting some desensitisation training with your dog, so next year won’t be as bad. There are a fantastic set of CD’s created by some of the best veterinary behaviourists in the UK, that can be incredibly helpful in teaching your pet how to cope and currently they are free from the Dogs Trust!
So, plan ahead, keep calm, stay safe and pray for the summer to come quick!