Neighbours letting off fireworks is unavoidable around 5th November and the New Year. Unfortunately, the lead up to Bonfire night can be more traumatic than the night itself with the occasional firework being let off at unpredictable times. It is estimated that around 40% of dogs in the UK are scared of fireworks.
Around a month before, you should ensure your dogs microchip details are up to date (www.petlog.org.uk) and that your dog wears a collar and ID tag. Dogs can react very badly to the unfamiliar sights and sounds of fireworks and may run off. Currently 53% of microchips have incorrect owner details, meaning that if a pet goes missing around fireworks night many dogs may not be able to be returned to their owners.
Consider starting a firework desensitisation programme as introducing the sound of fireworks to your pet gently in advance may help them when they hear actual fireworks. You may also consider creating a safe area for your dog to hide, such as a crate covered with a heavy blanket to reduce the noise.
There are supplements you could try and it is advisable to check with your vet before beginning any supplementation, particularly if they have an ongoing illness or are taking any medications. Supplements may include Vevian, Valerian, Misletoe, Scullcap and Gentian. These supplements can help relieve anxiety and help calm your dog but never underestimate supplements. Just because they are advertised as 'natural' or as 'herbs' does not make them safe! White willow bark sounds holistic but it is actually asprin which can be harmful. There are reputable companies in the UK that can offer advice on their products, such as Dorwest Herbs and Hilton Herbs, but ultimately it is your vet that should advise you or at least agree the supplement is suitable for your pet.
Before the fireworks begin
- Keep your dogs water bowl full as an anxious dog will pant more and get thirsty.
- Feed your dog a little earlier in the evening as once the fireworks start your dog may be too anxious to eat.
- Walk your dog before dusk as they may not want to go in the garden if there are fireworks.
- Make sure you shut all doors and windows in your home and don’t forget to draw the curtains. This will block out any flashes of light and reduce the noise level of fireworks.
- Don’t forget to block off dog and cat flaps to stop dogs (and cats) escaping.
- Make a safe den for your dog to retreat to if they feel scared.
During the fireworks
- Leave the TV or the radio switched on.
- Try to act and behave as normal, as your dog will pick up on any odd behaviour. Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog.
- Your dog might choose to hide under the bed or behind furniture. Never try and tempt them out if they do retreat, as this may cause more stress.
- If your dog comes to you for comfort, make sure that you give it to them. Ignoring your dog would only make things worse as they wouldn’t understand your withdrawal from them.
- Always reward calm behaviour with dog treats or playing.
- Never try to force your dog to face their fears – they’ll just become more frightened.
- Never tell your dog off. This will only make your pet more distressed. It is important to remember that it is natural for a dog to be scared of loud noises and unfamiliar sights and sounds.
- If you need to open the front door, shut your dog safely inside a room first.