Fireworks season is upon us - staring with Diwali, the festival of lights, one of the major festivals celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists, and reaching a crescendo with Bonfire night on November 5th.
Fireworks can be overwhelming for our dogs, no matter how old they are, with frightening and unpredictable loud noises and flashing lights. RSPCA research suggests that as many as 45% of all dogs are scared of fireworks.
So with bonfire night just around the corner here are our top tips to help keep your dog calm and stress free.
Getting your dog used to fireworks can be a long-term process. You’ll need the patience to slowly introduce louder noises in the house for periods of time. You can teach them to associate these sounds with something positive, instead of something to be scared of.
Is there anything I can do to make fireworks less of a worry for my pets?
There are things you can do to minimise your dog's stress levels. Here are our top tips for managing dogs and fireworks.
Avoid letting your dog outdoors at times when fireworks are likely to go off.
Take your dog for a long walk well before dark, this way they’ll use energy and should relax later that evening.
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.
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 them options so they can choose where to hide.
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 high bass will be ideal for masking bangs when played at a volume that your dog is happy with.
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 their impact.
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.
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’s been microchipped. Microchipping your dog is a legal requirement, as of April 2016.
Check out what’s happening locally.
Fireworks can go on for days but you can be better prepared if you find out when and where the local displays are happening and if your neighbours are planning to let off some rockets.
It gives us an excuse to chat to people who live close by and you can explain that while you don’t want to stop their fun it’s helpful to be ready, especially if you have an anxious pet.
Most people will respect the fact that you’ve spoken to them in advance rather than complain after.
Make sure all doors and windows are secure and 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.
You might want to consider purchasing an easy to install safety gate.
Check out. www.dog-g8.com
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.
Provide dogs with a long-lasting chew to help keep them distracted.
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.