Remember, remember the 5th of November – it’s a time that many dog owners dread and never forget.
With Bonfire night fast approaching it is a nightmare time of year for so many dog owners. Of course the main problem is that the 5th of November is just the start of the firework season and a lot of displays start before the 5th and continue long into the New Year.
So what should people do? How should dog owners behave in order to turn a stressed dog into a calm and happy dog? In many cases it’s the complete opposite of what they are currently doing!
Here are some suggestions of what to do in advance of firework displays:
Contact your local council and ask for details of local firework displays so that you can be fully prepared. It would also be good to know if your neighbours are planning any firework displays in their garden so you can be ready for the celebrations that are happening closer to home.
Ensure that your dog wears a collar and ID tag and that their microchip details are up to date just in case he panics and somehow manages to escape.
Bach Rescue Remedy for pets (can be purchased online and at some pet shops).
This is an emergency remedy which consists of 5 different natural solutions that help calm and reassure pets. It works by restoring emotional balance whenever they are under stress and is good for situations such as:
It’s very easy to administer:
Place 2-5 drops (depending on the size of the dog) of Rescue Remedy on a treat and give to your dog. Or simply add 2-5 drops of Rescue Remedy to their drinking water. Repeat as required.
This remedy is not only effective for dogs but is also good for cats, horses and birds too.
Skullcap and Valerian
These are licensed herbal medicines which are used to relieve stress, nervousness, over excitability and travel sickness in dogs (and cats).
This is an effective formula to give dogs (and cats) who suffer from firework anxiety as it contains calming and reassuring properties without causing drowsiness or altering normal behaviour.
Dorwest herbs offers this combination in tablet form and can also be purchased from other animal herbal stockists.
Some homeopathic remedies can also be helpful such as:
Aconite – this works with dogs that have been frightened badly, particularly by thunder.
Borax – this works for dogs that are frightened by sudden noises.
Gelesium – this is for fear and anxiety from loud sounds and for trembling and shaking.
These remedies can be prescribed by a homeopathic vet. To find your local vet go to:
D.A.P – Dog Appeasing Pheromone.
This can be purchased from a vet (or internet) either as a plug in, collar or spray. The appeasing pheromone mimics the pheromone produced by lactating mothers which gives comfort to her puppies and helps reassure and calm anxious dogs in stressful situations. This can also be affective for dogs who suffer from nervousness and separation anxiety.
Firework CD or Download
You can buy a CD with firework noises on to help desensitise your dog to loud bangs or download these noises from the internet. You start by playing the noise at a low volume while doing something that he likes, such as playing with his ball or giving him treats. This will create a positive association. You gradually increase the volume until your dog adjusts to the noise without showing fear or anxiety.
This isn’t usually a quick fix but it gives you control of how loud the firework noises are. The other benefit is that the desensitization training can also be done during the day when it is not dark, which can be helpful to many dogs.
Sounds scary! Has a range of different CD’s that can be helpful when de-sensitising your dog to fireworks, thunder, gunshot noises, traffic and even baby noises in preparation for bringing a new baby home.
CLICK HERE for the free download.
Thundershirt is a coat or vest that is put on a dog to help calm and comfort them. It is thought that the gentle pressure applied by the Thundershirt has a calming effect on the dog’s nervous system and reduces symptoms of stress and anxiety. The shirt can be used before, during or after fireworks in order to help calm and reassure a dog. Although this product is from the US there are several official UK distributors which can be found online and also at Pets At Home.
When firework displays are planned – preparation is key.
Do not leave your dog alone at home and never try to force him to face his fears by making him watch a firework display, as this could be traumatic for him and increase his fear.
Ensure that your dog is well exercised both physically and mentally so that she is tired. Feed her a few hours before the event and ensure she has access to plenty of fresh water. Plan the last walk or toilet break just before it gets dark, this is likely to be the last toilet outing of the day.
Create a familiar safe place or den for him to go to during fireworks. This could be a crate, a wardrobe or even under a bed. If using a crate you could cover the top and sides with a blanket in order to buffer the loud bangs. Some dogs like to elevate themselves when frightened, if they are not normally allowed on the furniture and jump up they are not being naughty they are simply finding the best way to cope with what’s going on outside.
Close all windows and curtains so that it helps defuse the firework noise and helps block out the firework lights.
What to do during fireworks
The key point to remember is when you give attention, affection, look or talk to your dog you are rewarding and encouraging their current state of mind. This means if your dog is stressed or anxious by stroking and talking to him at this time will increase the behaviour.
Dogs can display a variety of behaviours when they are afraid such as:
The best thing you can do for your dog is to act as if nothing is happening, that you are not upset about the fireworks and take no notice of any stressed behaviour they demonstrate. For dogs that pant, pace and run towards windows and doors, place them on a lead and keep them by your side. By keeping them still will cause them to calm down quicker as the pacing creates more stressed behaviour.
It’s essential that you stay calm. Try not to feel sorry for your dog, explain about fireworks or become frustrated as this will communicate that he has something to worry about. It may take a little while but you will notice that your dog will gradually relax and that your calming presence is the reassurance that he needs. When you remain calm and pay no attention to his shaking and upset you will allow him to move on much quicker and come back to balance.
Once your dog has calmed this is a good time to offer gentle praise and comforting strokes.
Turn on a TV or put on a radio with classical or soothing music to help drown out firework noises.
Use your dog’s favourite toy (or get an interesting new one especially for the occasion) to distract him from the firework lights and noises. Playing a game of ball inside the house for example will help create a positive association if he finds it fun to do.
Do you have a friend who has a dog who is not afraid of fireworks that you could invite round for the evening? One of the best ways to show a dog they have nothing to worry about is to be around another dog that does not have any fear. Just be aware that the visiting dog could learn the stressed behaviour from your dog, if there are any signs of this, discontinue.
I hope that helps and let me know in the comments below how you get on 🙂