The nights are closing in and firework season has arrived, quite literally, with a bang. Although this is an exciting time of year for those celebrating Halloween, Diwali, Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year, it spells terror for many of our furry friends.
Some dogs have no problem with the bangs, screeches and booms that surround us during this time, especially hunting and gun dogs. But most can become anxious and unsettled. These helpful hints should help keep your dog safe and happy this holiday season.
- Close all windows, doors and curtains when it gets dark.
- Keep them indoors. As an automatic response, some dogs experiencing heightened anxiety may try to escape the home. Make sure this isn’t possible by keeping an eye on them and informing anyone else in the property that the dog needs to remain indoors. Remember to cover up cats flaps; it’s amazing what small spaces they try to escape through when panicked. If they do manage to escape, it’s important that they have a collar and ID tag with up-to-date information so they can easily be returned home.
- Create a ‘safe space’ for your dog away from any windows and doors. If she sleeps in a crate, throw a blanket over to cover the top and sides. Fill her bed with all her favourite toys and treats that take time to eat such as a pig’s ear or a filled Kong. Make it easy for her to get to you if she needs reassurance.
- If your dog does come to you for reassurance, be available. Do not scold them for being afraid.
- Act normally and ignore the fireworks. If you offer more attention than usual or fuss too much, the dog will pick up on your change in behaviour and assume his anxiety is warranted. If he is allowed on the sofa, cover him with a blanket next to you. Dogs like the closeness of smaller spaces when they are afraid and something as simple a blanket over them can provide that.
- If you, or someone you know, have dogs who aren’t afraid of fireworks, keep them together. They are pack animals and the presence of a dog showing no fear may reassure the anxious one.
- Take them for a long walk before dusk. If the dog is tired, it may take the edge off the anxiety and put them in a calmer state.
- Audio recordings of fireworks are available online and, at low levels, can help your pet get used to the noises in the months before October. Play them just 10 minutes at a time then give your dog a 5 minutes break before continuing. Noise desensitisation over a period of time can help solve the problem but take things slow. Too much too soon can make their fear worse.
- If the anxiety continues, your last solution could be a mild sedative medication. Obtain these from your vet who will advise the best course of action.