Helping your dogs cope with Fireworks
With 5th November/ Christmas/ New Year just around the corner we want to help YOU and your pooches make this time of year as calm as possible which is why Simply the Pets have created this free guide!
- Acute Hearing – which causes physical discomfort
- Sound sensitive – lack of exposure
- Lack of confidence
- Previous Traumatic experience
- Life changes
- Age/ Pain
- OR you may never know
Spotting the signs
- Spotting the early signs of stress is key to prevent the anxiety and fear manifesting into something bigger
- Look out for: barking, yawning, lip licking, freezing, clingier to you, hiding
- Become your dogs’ expert!
- Don’t forget to check your own projections! If you become annoyed or irritated when a firework goes off your dog may think this is because of them. Remain calm, confident and carry on normal
What can I do when fireworks are going off?
- Work with your pet throughout the year. Don’t wait until fireworks are going off. To set them up for success do the prep work!
- Don’t walk after dusk, this includes letting them out in the garden. Keep dogs on lead whilst out walking during this time. Consider setting up a ‘potty station’ and teach them a spending command such as ‘go potty’ in your garage or utility room. You could place some turf in there, a play pool filled with dirt or sand etc. If you’re unable to walk your dog during the day consider hiring a dog walker or asking a friend to take your dog out during the day at this time.
- At night, keep them in the bedroom with you so that you can monitor and reassure
- NEVER leave your dog alone in a room. Ensure all of your tasks are done prior to the fireworks starting so you can dedicate your time to them
- If you need to go out, speak to friends and family to see if they can pop by to sit with your dog
- Ensure your dog has their collar with a tag on at all times throughout this season and check your microchip details are up to date
- Stick to your normal routine as best as possible to avoid additional stress
- Your dog may benefit from being in a smaller room with the curtains closed, music or TV on.
- Consider using a white noise machine. Begin to use this in the months leading up to the fireworks season to create a calming environment
- Check all windows & doors are closed properly. Don’t forget to check garden gates and fences. If someone comes to your door, shut them in a room whilst you answer it to prevent escape
- If settled, leave them be but if they want reassurance give it to them. You cannot reinforce fear with affection. Be confident and calm.
- Check their water intake. If they stop drinking, try adding water to their meals or make them some dog friendly gravy to prevent dehydration
HELP! I’m out walking & a firework goes off!
- Keep your dog on lead throughout this time. Use a long line to give more freedom to explore safely
- Walk your dog in hi-vis or with a flashing collar so that should they escape they will be seen if they head towards traffic
- Head for home
- If they’re pulling, stroke the lead to settle, refocus and redirect them
- If they drop to the ground, give them a moment, stay calm and encourage them to walk on. If necessary and safe to, pick them up and remove them from the environment
- Teach your dog to associate food with bangs to create a positive association – timing is key on this one though!
What can I do to help my dog?
The key to success is to do the prep work with your dog all year round. To create new behaviours, you need to invest time working with your dog to desensitise them. This should be for at least a month before, but ideally worked on throughout the year. So, what options do you have…
1. CD’s/ Video clips - Try pairing the sound of fireworks (use a CD/ YouTube) with something nice like their food or favourite game. Be mindful that CD’s and YouTube clips are not able to replicate the exact acoustics of real fireworks so whilst they may be fine with these playing when it comes to the real thing expect a different reaction. They are a great tool however for testing a new dogs’ reactions or helping those who are mildly anxious.
2. Create diversions during fireworks such as a snuffle or licky mat, practise their training/ tricks (previous learnt not new ones as they won’t be able to focus on new things), getting a ball pit which you can throw treats in for them to dive in to find.
3. Set up a crate or den for your dog if they like to ‘den up’. Put this in a place a few weeks ahead and be sure not to force your dog to use it. Placing it in the area your dog likes to ‘den up’ as opposed to where you would ‘like it to be’ will mean your dog is more likely to use it. Never shut the door on a crate in case your dog feels the need to run away or move around. You could even get a kids pop up tent, throw a blanket over a table or move your sofa a little further away from the wall to allow them to get behind it.
4. Consider adding some carbs such as pasta or rice to your dog’s meals leading up to and on fireworks night. Additional carbs can make your dog sleepier and calmer. [NB. Only suitable if your dog does not have allergies. Should also be introduced gradually over several weeks]
5. More ‘out there’ suggestions are dog earmuffs or snoods. The success of these will be dependent on whether your dog is happy to wear them. If not, this could cause additional stress. The idea behind them is that once pulled up over the ears they will deaden the sound of the fireworks.
6. Holisitic Options: with all of these options it is worth consulting a professional such as a homeopathic vet to get the correct advice for your dog.
a. Herbal supplements such as Zylkene, YuCalm, Adaptil
b. Essential Oils such as Lavender, Hemp and Sandlewood (ensure your dog is able to move away from the scent if they wish)
c. Bach flower remedies
e. Tellington TTouch
7. If your dog is still struggling after trying these things and is extremely distressed please seek the advice of your vet ahead of time who may be able to prescribe medication to help.
In summary, there is so much that you can do to try and alleviate and reduce the level of stress your dog feels during fireworks. The important thing to remember is that for the best chance of success you need to be working with your dog throughout the year. And do not be afraid to try and combine any number of these suggestions. A multi-tool approach is much more likely to lead to success than focusing on just one. We really hope you have found this post useful and we wish you and your dog the best of luck!
Do let us know how you get on.
All the best,