Wagging Tales

As we head into Fireworks season now is the time to start thinking about getting your dog ready.

Fireworks may look very pretty, but many dogs find the flashing lights and loud noises very frightening. There are tips that you can use on the night itself to help keep your dog calm. If you are aware of your dog having negative reactions towards fireworks, ensure you speak to your vet for further advice.

Young dogs that have yet to experience fireworks may really benefit from some preparation to help them to gradually become desensitised to loud noises and associate the noises with something positive rather than something scary.

Ali Taylor, Head of Canine Behaviour and Training at Battersea advises:

“Making changes to your dog’s routine in advance may help your dog be more prepared for when fireworks are being let off. Small changes could mean that your dog doesn’t associate loud noises or flashing lights with the fireworks directly, and to help them stay calmer on the night.”

“Of course, there are things that you can do on the evening of fireworks night to help a nervous dog. Timing your dog’s walks for when fireworks aren’t being let off, ensuring your curtains are drawn, leaving lights on in the evenings and playing music or tv will all help to buffer the noise and sight of fireworks.”

“If you have a young dog who hasn’t experienced fireworks previously get them used to the sounds gradually by playing audio recordings of fireworks at a very low volume whilst engaging in fun activities with your dog such as a bit of training, or toy play. You can gradually increase the volume over time so that they become accustomed to it, if they show any signs of anxiety stop immediately and either go back a few steps of speak to your vet or a behaviourist.”

“If you already know that your dog is scared of fireworks it’s best to try and desensitise them to the noises and sounds as far in advance as possible as this can take months of regular training. It’s also best to ensure you are prepared by speaking to your vet or a behaviourist and ensuring that you have the right support in advance of the night.”

“Dogs may choose to hide if they are worried by the fireworks, so set up a cosy den area and start to encourage your dog to choose to settle in there use it by hiding some tasty treats.”

Ali’s top tips 

  • Try and introduce changes as far in advance as possible to make your dog more prepared.
  • No matter how good your dog is with fireworks, it’s never advisable to take them to a display.

How you can keep your dog or cat calm this Bonfire Night:

  • Make sure your pet is microchipped and their details are up to date

Animals can flee when they get scared. If your pet does manage to run away from home while fireworks are going off, you can easily be reunited if they’re microchipped and their chip details are up to date. It’s also a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped.

  • Avoid letting your pet outdoors when fireworks are likely to go off.

By keeping your pet indoors when fireworks are going off, it prevents them being caught out and from getting scared if they’re outside. Make sure you take your dog for a nice long walk before dark and provide litter trays for your cat.

  • Create a ‘safe space’ inside your home.

If your pet is scared, they may take comfort in hiding away. If your dog is used to being in a crate, cover it and leave it open with blankets inside, or alternatively a table draped with a blanket can make a great retreat.

  • For cats, if they normally hide in a specific place, make sure they have access and encourage them to use it with treats and toys. A box lined with blankets and with the opening slightly covered is ideal.
  • Don’t confine your pet to just one room.

If your dog or cat becomes stressed, they may hurt themselves trying to get out, so allow them easy access to all safe areas of the house.

  • Some animals may also be most comfortable curled up in their usual spot with you; let them do whatever suits them the best.
  • Keep the TV or radio on.

To reduce the sudden impact of the sound of fireworks, keep the TV or radio on. Playing certain types of music that don’t have a repetitive beat or any sudden loud noises, like classical music or reggae, can be very calming for pets.

  • Keep your pet distracted with a treat.

A new toy or treat can be a great way to distract your dog or cat from the noise. For cats, try something with catnip to keep them occupied, and for dogs try a long-lasting chew toy or a Kong packed with tasty treats.

  • Act normally.

Animals are very perceptive creatures, and if they notice you behaving strangely (like following them around and fussing over them) they’ll sense that something is wrong. If you behave normally, it will show them that the fireworks are nothing to worry about and it may help decrease their anxiety.

  • Avoid picking up your cat.

If your cat is distressed, avoid picking them up to comfort them, as this could make them more stressed and provoke aggression. Cats also take a long time to calm down, so leave them until morning to settle before interacting with them again.

  • Keep your curtains closed.

It may not just be the sound of fireworks that stress your pet -the flashes can worry them too. It’s important to make sure your curtains are closed and windows are covered to block out any sudden bursts of light.

  • If your pet is still stressed by fireworks following this advice, consider talking to your vet.

A vet may be able to provide some medication to help reduce your pet’s anxiety. Bear in mind that any medicinal treatment should always be accompanied by a behaviour management plan and should only be used as a last resort.

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