Imagine what firework night is like for your animal. Not the wonderful exciting display we enjoy, but a very scary, unpredictable series of noises and lights, especially with the new extra loud fireworks people use nowadays.
Dogs can hear noises at very different frequencies and levels to those we can hear at so the higher, louder tones of the fireworks is actually very painful for them.
It is getting late now to teach your dog to cope with fireworks, but advice from a qualified behaviourist may be worth investigating, so at this stage it is strategies to get them through the evening we will look at.
•Make sure cats are closed up indoors in plenty of time with a safe place to hide, a litter tray and food and water.
•Make sure all small animals and birds are safely enclosed in secure hutches. Either move the hutch into a shed or garage or quiet room in the house away from any windows and/or cover the hutch with light and sound proof coverings to shut out the fireworks. Make sure air can still flow around the cage. Provide plenty of bedding for the pet to snuggle under and make sure fresh food and water are available
•Make sure all windows are securely closed. This is especially important if you have cats as they may try to escape and run away from the fireworks, not realising it is worse outside.
•Draw your curtains to block out the flashes
•Turn on radio or television to provide another sound to compete with and distract from the fireworks.
•Provide your dog with a secure, sound proofed bolt hole. Find an area in the house with as many internal walls as possible around it and make a den. Fill it and cover it with blankets and duvets to absorb the sound as much as possible.
On the Day
•Feed and toilet your dog well before any fireworks start so they are physically comfortable and do not let them out into the garden until you are sure the fireworks are finished.
•Allow your dog to find the part of the house it feels most secure. This may be under a bed, behind a cupboard or even in the bathroom or shower. The bathroom seems to affect the sounds in a way that makes it easier for the dog to tolerate.
•On the day you must keep calm and breezy with your pet. Offer it comfort if it wishes, allow cuddles and laps but don’t over-fuss in case your pet picks up feelings of anxiety from you. Please do not tell your pet off or get irritated with it. It really is genuinely frightened. Your dog may enjoy distractions like treats or games but it may be too anxious for this.
•You can use calming plug in, collars or sprays such as Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats or Pet Remedy to help keep your pet calm. These can be bought from vets, pet shops or on line. Start using these a few days before so the house is prepared and keep them running until you are sure firework season is over.
•Herbal remedies such as skullcap and valerian can be very helpful from personal experience in taking the worst edge off the dog’s fear and help them to recover more quickly once the fireworks have finished.
•Your vet can prescribe sedative medication but make sure you take their advice. Some drugs need to have a trial run to ensure the dose is suitable and another commonly used drug will physically sedate your dog without reducing its sound sensitivity at all so although your dog looks OK it is just as scared but cannot do anything about it.
•Removing your dog to spend the evening with a friend living in a quieter village may be an option but make sure your dog gets to know its baby sitter and their house before the night.
•I have known people to drive their dog way out into the country and sit in the car until the fireworks are over!!
•Make sure your animal is microchipped just in case it escapes and runs away in fear. Dogs should have a collar with an identification tag on it
•In the long term, in preparation for next year, there are various ways in which a qualified behaviourist can help you to implement a programme of behaviour modification to help your dog to cope with fireworks in the future but this is a long term solution. Too late for this year.
•Please, please do not leave your dog home alone or take it with you unless you are absolutely sure your dog is very well able to cope.
And remember, if your canine friend - and feline - is safe and happy, you will enjoy your evening out so much more