How To Deal With Fireworks Season
Our canine companions have an amazing array of senses, chief amongst them of course is their incredible sense of smell… but a dog’s hearing is also more sensitive than ours. Dogs can hear a wider range of sounds which they have evolved to determine if they are dangerous, or not.
Dogs are likely to be tolerant of sounds from a predictable source, e.g. loud noises from the TV, or passing cars because they have learnt to accept these through prolonged familiarity. Frequent exposure to sounds, particularly from a young age, will usually help but it’s not uncommon for dogs to develop fear of noise later in life, if associated with a negative experience.
Noise phobia can affect your dog’s quality of life and cause unwanted behaviours in your home. Recent research suggests that fear of loud noises are very common in the dog population. In fact almost half of dog owners reported their dog reacted to loud noises by showing signs of fear or anxiety, such as trembling or hiding. More on the signs to look out for below - it’s not always that obvious.
Fireworks are loud and bright, and from your dogs’ point of view, occur without any warning… so it’s worth being ready in advance.
Good news is, with some training tips and preparation, you can help your dog get used to them.
But First: Spotting Anxiety
Sometimes, we wait until our dog is showing extreme response to noises, or when behaviour impacts us, before acting. Some responses are clear, such as hiding in cupboards or under the bed, running from room to room, trembling, shaking or toileting indoors. This can be dangerous if it induces a run across a busy road, or escaping from their collar.
But signs can also be more subtle, which means you may need to look more closely to recognise there is a problem. These include moving under the table or sofa, being very ‘clingy’ with owners, salivating or licking lips. These dogs may be just as stressed.
Options For Desensitising A Dog To Fireworks
Longer term, a great option is to use a ‘noise and sound’ media clip when your dog is otherwise engaged in something enjoyable or low-stress. Start quietly and build up the volume, using it in different scenarios (e.g. car, garden)
Games can be a great way to create a positive association with unusual sounds; bang a ball against walls/doors during playtime. Similarly, making noise with household objects, such as taking out the rubbish, or emptying bottles can increase their tolerance.
Keep in mind that comforting, reassuring, or offering sympathy is more likely to be perceived as approval of the nervous behaviour. Likewise, subjecting an obviously frightened dog to more stimuli is counter- productive, dogs do not “learn” or process information well when they are overly stressed.
What To Do On The Night
Use your dog’s powerful senses to overcome anxiety.
“Anxiety wraps” (elasticated jackets) apply pressure to key points on the dog’s body (similar to acupuncture) helping to calm distressed dogs. Massage can activate the function of cells and awaken cellular intelligence, as well as provide comforting ‘us time’ between the two of you.
Harnessing your dog’s sense of smell is also powerful. From calming sprays to pheromone-emitting devices, when used in combination with a ‘safe place’ your dog’s anxiety levels can be reduced. Allowing access to a ‘high value’ area (probably your bedroom!) is a great way to combine these tools for maximium effect. We believe natural ingredients are the best and need only be used in small amounts, because your dog’s sense of smell is so powerful. Several of the oils we use in our WOODLAND WONDERFUR aroma have calming and soothing benefits for dogs.
10 WAYS TO HELP YOUR DOG THROUGH FIREWORKS SEASON
(From Battersea Dogs & Cats Home - we love these simple and practical tips!)
1. AVOID LETTING YOUR DOG OUTDOORS AT TIMES WHEN FIREWORKS ARE LIKELY TO GO OFF
Take your dog for a nice long walk well before dark. For most of the year it’s against the law to set fireworks off after 11pm, but this curfew is extended to midnight on Bonfire Night so try to tire your dog out before it gets dark and then take them out for final toilet walks once the fireworks have stopped. If your dog is particularly scared of fireworks, you may want to feed them early too. If you have time, introduce these changes gradually over a few days so you don’t suddenly disrupt your dog’s routine.
2. CREATE A ‘SAFE PLACE’ INSIDE YOUR HOME FOR YOUR DOG TO HIDE FROM FIREWORKS
A table draped with a blanket is a great retreat, or if your dog is used to being in a crate, cover it and leave it open with blankets inside. Don’t lock your dog in the crate, as this can be even more stressful for them. Give your dog options so they can choose where to hide.
3. KEEP A TV OR RADIO ON
The sudden bang of fireworks can be masked by keeping a radio or TV on, which can reduce the impact noises may have on your pet. Classical music will help to calm dogs in general, and music with quite a h4 bass will be ideal for masking bangs when played at a volume that your dog is happy with.
4. ALWAYS DRAW THE CURTAINS OR COVER THE WINDOWS TO MINIMISE THE LIGHTS FROM THE FIREWORKS
It’s not only the sound of fireworks that can cause distress for dogs, it’s also the light and flashes across the sky. Leave lights on indoors to reduce the impact of the flashes too.
5. ALLOW SOME SPACE
Don’t confine your dog to one room as they may hurt themselves trying to get out, particularly if they become stressed. Dogs may also be most comfortable curled up in their usual spot with you rather than a designated ‘safe place’, so allow them access to all safe areas of the house.
6. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR DOGS ARE MICROCHIPPED AND THAT THEIR MICROCHIP DETAILS ARE UP TO DATE
In the worst-case scenario, any dog that does get out or run away from home while fireworks are going off can be reunited with its owner much more easily if it has been microchipped.
7. STAY CALM YOURSELF!
If your dog can see that fireworks have no effect on you, this may help decrease their anxiety. Animals are highly perceptive and will notice if you’re behaving unusually. Following your dog around or being overly affectionate may cause them to feel nervous or confused. You can still reassure your pet, by playing with their favourite toy for example but try to behave as normally as possible. The more you change your behaviour, the more anxious your dog may become.
8. MAKE SURE YOUR HOME AND GARDEN ARE AS ESCAPE-PROOF AS POSSIBLE.
Make sure all doors and windows are closed firmly. If possible, make sure your dog doesn’t have access to doors that lead outside, especially when people are coming in or out of the house. Secure any escape routes in your garden, just in case, and make sure everyone in the house knows they need to be quick opening and closing external doors.
9. PROVIDE DOGS WITH A LONG-LASTING CHEW TO HELP KEEP THEM DISTRACTED.
You could also try stuffing a puzzle toy with layers of food and treats to keep your dog occupied.
10. IF YOUR DOG IS STILL EXTREMELY STRESSED BY FIREWORKS AFTER FOLLOWING OUR ADVICE, YOU MAY WANT TO CONSULT YOUR VET.
A vet may be able to provide medication to help reduce your pet’s anxiety – however, any medicinal treatment should always be accompanied by a behaviour management plan.