Fireworks are good fun and most of us enjoy them however our furry friends can find them scary and unnerving. It is not just dogs that can get scared as cats and other small animals are also susceptible.
Reading the signs!
As dog owners we are very in tune with our pets and most dogs will have certain signals that we can pick up on. Stress is often shown by pacing, trembling and shaking, excess licking of lips, persistent barking, digging or hiding. Cats are very clever at disguising problems but excess grooming or meowing, hiding and refusing food are often signs they are not happy.
All pets are different but keep a look out for signals and should your pets feel unsettled here are some tips and things we can do to help reduce any stress caused by fireworks, these can be simple things that don’t mean much to us but can make a big difference to our pets.
What can we do?
Desensitisation training – training throughout the year and especially as puppies will help them to get used to the sound of fireworks and learn that they are not in danger. This involves playing sounds of fireworks alongside distraction training or ignoring any behaviours, speak to you vet or behaviourist for advice on how to go about this training.
Safe place – provide somewhere to hide that is quiet where they feel safe, this could be could be in their bed under a table for example. Show them an area you have made or that you think is suitable, perhaps somewhere they automatically run to and leave them to it; forcing them in or shutting them away can increase panic. Covering an area with a blanket to make it dark can also make it cosy and more of a den.
Close windows and curtains when it starts to get dark to mask the flashes, you could even play some music or leave the TV/radio on; this will help muffle the sound of fireworks.
Exercise & Distraction – Exercising your dog and feeding pets before it gets dark will also help them to relax, removing excess and unwanted energy. Try to walk your dog before it gets dark and although some animals will refuse food, for others it may be enough to distract from the noise outside. Toys that dispense food or bones are a great way to keep the mind busy.
Stay inside – For smaller pets that live outside, try to cover part or most of the cage or pen with a blanket, this will keep a corner dark and quieter where they can feel secure. Providing extra bedding or a blanket if appropriate will give them something to burrow in and so muffle the noise. If you dog is nervous of fireworks keep them inside as much as possible.
Don’t fuss – If your cat or dog becomes scared it is best not to encourage the behaviour by fussing over them however discipline will only make things worse in the future. Leave them alone to get settled unless they are likely to hurt themselves. Some products such as compression vest and lavender diffusers help to relieve anxiety.
Buddy up! – Try not to leave your dog alone if there are fireworks in your area, if you are at home and the dog is not too stressed, play and cuddles are always welcome. Finding them a friend can also be helpful has dogs are pack animals and are naturally more relaxed when around others; if you have or a family member has another dog that gets along with yours and preferably isn’t scared of fireworks, keeping them together during the evening may make them feel more at ease with most younger dogs learning from their elders.
Identification – make sure your pets are wearing a collar with easy to read identification, even if your pet is microchipped or you are not planning on opening a window or door anything can happen.
Check your garden – make sure you do a sweep of your garden before letting your dog out, there could be sparklers, stray fireworks, all sorts your dog could hurt themselves on so be sure to clear your garden of any debris before allowing your dog outside.
Many dogs will not be bothered by fireworks but you should avoid taking your dog to a firework display and don’t tie dogs up outside whilst fireworks are being set off.
Please take the time to do something to help your pet whether they show it or not. We are sure they will be grateful! Enjoy everyone!