The leaves are changing, the nights getting darker sooner and that time of year a lot of pet owners dread is here, fireworks season!
So, let’s take a look at how we can prepare our dogs for this worrying time of year and keep them as calm and stress free as possible.
If you already know your dog doesn’t like fireworks then you’re probably already ahead of the game and preparing as we speak but if you’ve welcomed a new dog into your family and don’t know how they feel about fireworks there is no harm in preparing for the worst.
Build a safe place – this can be as simple as a crate with a comfy bed inside and blankets over the top to create a dark space or even a space under the bed for them to hide and feel safe where they can’t hurt themselves. Draw your curtains and make sure all doors, windows and cat/dog flaps are kept closed to eliminate any escape routes.
Thundershirts & Wraps – there are a range of Thundershirts available to help with stress. The thundershirt works in the same way as a reassuring cuddle would for a child by applying gentle but constant pressure which helps to calm anxiety and fear. There are also a range of wraps you find online and can make at home from a long scarf which will help with the same calming effect.
Music – Certain tones of music can help to neutralise the sounds of fireworks, the most effective for this is classical music. A lot of the classical music radio stations will broadcast a special “Pets Calming” broadcast on bonfire night, however as we all know fireworks rarely last for just one night. If you have a smart speaker turn up the volume and ask it to play calming music for pets or if you have a normal radio tune in to one of the classic stations.
Walkies – If possible take your dog for a nice long walk during daylight hours before the fireworks begin. Let them stop and sniff as much as they want, this will be more mentally stimulating and tire them out more than walking itself.
Brain Games – if walkies aren’t possible because maybe you don’t get home from work until after dark try some brain games. Mental stimulation is excellent and can help even the most restless dogs sleep peacefully. You can buy brain games online and in most pet shops but you can also make your own fun at home. Get a few cups and pop a treat under a couple of them, do the classic trick of swapping the cups around and let your dog find the treats.
Desensitisation Sounds – depending on your dogs anxiety level with fireworks you may be able to use desensitisation sounds to get them used to fireworks but be aware for dogs who are extremely stressed by the noise these sounds may not have any effect.
Calming Aids – there are calming plug-ins and many herbal pet sprays which can be purchased to help calm dogs. The plug in’s and sprays work by replicating the pheromones emitted by the puppy’s mum while feeding her pups and keeping them comforted and feeling safe. If you choose the spray option you will need to spray it on the blanket or area and then let the scent settle for around 20 min before your dog is allowed in the area as the initial scent can be too strong and put their senses on alert rather than calm them.
Toileting – If your dog is scared of fireworks don’t force them to go outside for the toilet, this will add to their stress and they may refuse to toilet anyway as they are too stressed and focused on getting back indoors for their safe space. Pop some puppy pads down and be prepared for accidents indoors. Don’t tell them off, they’re scared enough already. Stay calm, clean up and remember that while it may feel never-ending this isn’t forever.
Food – some dogs will eat regardless of how they feel but if your dog does go off their food don’t worry and don’t try to force them to eat. They won’t starve and will eat again when they feel calm enough.
Microchips – make sure the microchip details are up to date so if the worst does happen and your dog escapes in their fear they can be scanned and there is a higher chance of being reunited.
If your dog does choose to hide in their safe space or any space they choose this is fine, leave them be. The best thing you can do is prepare your dog as much as possible, stay calm yourself and continue to do as you normally would in the evenings, keep an eye on them but let them do as they please.
It is hard and upsetting as our natural instinct is to reassure and protect our dogs but stick with it as much as you can unless of course, they are putting themselves in danger with their reactions.