We are approaching the time of year when it seems fireworks pop off into our skies every evening. Expert DAN SALLISS offers his tips for keeping your pet calm amid the noisy rockets and bangers
With Diwali (the week from November 2) and Bonfire Night (remember, remember, the fifth…) creeping up fast, it is important for us to think about how we can help our dogs stay safe and calm. Anxiety over loud noises and bangs of fireworks affects nearly two-thirds of the dogs in this country.
Through Croydon Companion Dog Club, I have worked with numerous dogs both in the home and within the rescue setting to ensure they become well-mannered and obedient members of the family.
This time of year, we see many dogs who are traumatised by fireworks and also owners who are traumatised by witnessing their dogs in so much distress. I have known dogs to die because of their reaction to fireworks, so it is important for us to educate ourselves as much as possible to ensure we can help our dogs.
Dogs have a natural fight, flight or freeze reaction to situations they find difficult or distressing. As owners, we most commonly see the fight or flight response. All too often I see dogs being walked while fireworks are going off. I can only imagine how they must be feeling.
I want everyone to think about bringing our dogs up like we do our children, with boundaries, praise and helping them to feel safe and secure.
If your dog is fearful of fireworks, there is plenty you can do to support them at this time of year. Better still, we can make a plan to desensitise and train your dog to cope better in the future. I’m not saying every dog can be miraculously “cured”, but most dogs can be improved, or at the very least be supported to be able to cope better.
Here are my 10 top tips to help your dogs feel safer and help them be more settled:
Don’t walk them in the evenings
Take them out earlier in the day so they are not being made to walk during the loud bangs and bright flashes going off around them randomly.
Avoid letting them in the garden whilst fireworks are going off
This will reduce the risk of flight through or over a fence or gate. This is one of the most common ways dogs get lost during the fireworks and Diwali season.
Turn the television up to drown out the sound of the bangs
Draw your curtains to avoid the bright flashes shining through your windows
Provide your dog with a safe space like a crate that they can go to and hide in
Alternatively, you can create a den somewhere in your home, such as a dining table covered with blankets.
Give them a long-lasting chew
Use a baked knuckle bone or a beef marrow bone as a special treat which will absorb your dog’s attention, distracting them from what’s going on outside. But make sure they are supervised at all times.
Avoid creating too much fuss
Dogs often don’t see things the way we see them. By stroking our dogs and giving them lots of fuss in instances like this, we are effectively telling them it’s okay to be scared. Even though we believe we are helping them through it, as owners, it is far more beneficial for us to act casual and pretend that there is nothing for our beloved dogs to be worried about.
Young dogs should be getting lots of play and fun during this time
With puppies and younger dogs, teach them that fireworks are not something to worry about but in fact means that much more rewarding things are coming such as playtime.
Be a considerate neighbour
Not everyone owns a pet, obviously. Anyone who might be thinking about having a fireworks display in their garden, please let your neighbours know about your plans, so they can plan for their pets. Better still, go to an organised display and make an evening of it.
Natural calmers and pharmaceutical medications can also help
It is important you get your dog to be seen by a vet before administering any medication.
For more serious cases, you may need to seek help from a behavioural consultant – but try not to leave it too late.
Every dog is different and may need a slightly different programme which may include desensitisation, effective reward, rehabilitation, proofing the training and other supporting factors like sound therapy discs or on smartphone Apps, Tellington Ttouch, body wraps, Bach’s flower or other homoeopathic remedies.
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