While Halloween and Bonfire Night can prove fun, celebratory times for many people, those with pets are often left dreading the effect it can have on their companions due to fireworks fear, which can leave even the happiest and most confident of animals feeling anxious. But worry not, we have compiled together some key tips to help you and your beloved dogs survive and enjoy Bonfire Night and the fireworks season.
According to the RSPCA, it is estimated that 45 per cent of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. However, firework phobia can be treated, and with good preparation and planning ahead to ensure dogs have safe places to hang out and feel more relaxed, dog owners can make this time of year a far more calm and relaxing experience for their dog.
Doggy safe haven
before the firework season starts provide your dog with a safe haven: a quiet area where the animal feels it is in control. Train your dog to associate the area with positive experiences such as leaving a variety of toys in that area, and ensure your dog has access to it at all times. With time your dog can learn that this place is safe and enjoyable, so when fireworks happen it may choose to go there, knowing that no harm will come to it and therefre feeling more able to cope.
These disperse calming chemicals into the room and may be a good option for your dog, so talk to your vet to see if this might be a suitable option. In some cases your vet may even prescribe medication. If any medical or chemical therapy is chosen, it should be used together with behavioural therapy. The RSPCA recommends seeking a referral to a clinical animal behaviourist from your vet, or trying the ‘Sounds Scary’ therapy pack.
When the fireworks start close any windows and curtains and as much as possible black out you dogs’ safe haven to avoid flashing lights.
You must fight the urge to react or behave differently towards your dog during the firework season. Make you dog feel more secure by ignoring the fireworks yourself. You can pet your dog or play with them to keep them calm, but don’t force them to be with you if they are happier to be . Also, do not react to, and never punish, any erratic fearful behaviour that may arise during fireworks, as this will only reinforce the idea that there is something to fear and will make them associate this period with negative experiences, increasing their anxiety.
Find a fearless friend
If your dog has a canine friend that isn’t scared by noises and copes well during fireworks season, then arranging a playdate during the evenings may help your dog to realise that there’s no need to be afraid. The other dog should get on well with your dog to ensure there are no tensions. It may even been one of their fellow dogs who take part in the Green Dog Walking or Daycare programmes – feel free to speak to us if you would like to arrange something with a fellow Green Dog friend.
Treatment and Therapy – Sounds Scary
In the long term your dog needs to learn to be less afraid of loud noises. The RSPCA recommends Sounds Scary, an easy to follow therapy pack for dogs which includes a specially made set of high quality sound recordings and an easy to follow guide. Visit the RSPCA website pages Sound Therapy 4 Pets for more information.
For more information about protecting your pets during firework season and beyond, click this link to visit the RSPCA website.