It’s fireworks season and time to think about our dogs, other animals and how the fireworks can affect them. Most of us find fireworks fun and enjoyable however our pets can often find them terrifying and unsettling, this is usually because they are loud and unpredictable.
Preparing your pet in advance for the firework season will make it a much easier experience for them to cope with the change in routine and hopefully the noise. What can we do to help?
Desensitisation training – this is something to do throughout the year and especially with puppies, not just in firework season. Some people play realistic firework sound effects to their dog whilst doing something they enjoy such as playing with them or doing normal training tricks in order to distract them and show there is nothing to fear. Starting quietly and gradually getting louder each time they do it. Remember dogs hearing is much better than ours so make sure to be careful not to have it too loud, make sure to speak to your vet or a trainer for advice on how to start using this type of training with your dog.
Early walks and lots of exercise – In the upcoming weeks make sure to get your dog use to walking during daylight hours. It is very rare to see people setting off fireworks during daylight hours but it is not unheard of to see and hear fireworks the moment it gets dark. Start getting your dog into a routine of walking and exercising earlier where possible, this will help to relax them before it gets dark. The more exercise before you relax for the evening the better as this will help to drain excess energy.
Feeding times – Some people feed their dogs during the fireworks as a distraction however this won’t work for all dogs as some will not eat of feeling stressed. A toy that releases treats or bones are a great distractions from the noise and a great way of keeping the mind busy.
Safe place – Making sure your dog has a safe place during firework season is a must! This can be anywhere in your house that your dog feels safe and comfortable. Maybe they have a space they go to all year round? Some people place a blanket over the area to help muffle the sound and keep the area dark and cosy for them to snuggle in. Remember to introduce the blanket/safe place to them a few weeks in advance so they have time to get used to it. If they hide somewhere, just leave them as dragging them out can cause more stress and some dogs my bite if frightened.
Stay indoors – Make sure you keep your dog inside during fireworks and close all doors, windows and curtains. This helps to muffle the sound from outside and reduce the sudden flashes of light coming into the room. Playing music or having the TV or radio on is often a great way of distracting your dog from the lights and noises outside.
Accidents happen – Some dogs get scared easily so could find a way of escaping the house. Make sure your dog’s chip is up to date with all of your information just in case the escape from a door left open etc. Even if your dog doesn’t normally wear a collar around the house and has the best recall it is always a good idea to be on the safe side in firework season because a frightened dog is not likely to listen when they are fleeing because they are frightened. Just make sure not to leave them alone with a collar on. Before letting your dog out into the garden make sure you do a quick check of the area to make sure no stray fireworks, discarded sprinklers or any other debris that may have made its way into the garden during the night.
Buddy up – Try not to leave your dog alone if you know there are likely to be fireworks in your area. If you are aware of a display nearby, sometimes having a friend over who will bring their calm dog with them is often good for dogs as they are pack animals and tend to be naturally much more relaxed when around other dogs. A calm dog or one that is not bothered by fireworks can often be a positive influence. If you spend time with other dogs and know your dog will be happy to spend time with another dog why, not ask their owners if they want to come round for a few hours or even ask if you can borrow the dog so they can go out!
Never tie your dog up outside at night during firework season, they could cause them self a serious injury trying to get away if scared by the noises and lights. Unfortunately there are also some very nasty people around and there have been reports of people targeting pets. If you see or hear about this kind of behavior be sure to inform the police of your findings.
Although some dogs show no fear of fireworks you should avoid taking any dog to a firework display, with a mixture of big crowds, strange noises and smells this could stress your dog out and cause them to panic and do something out of character.
And finally, have fun this firework season!
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