If you're new to pet ownership, you may not have given much thought to bonfire night and fireworks season in general. But it's believed that over half of all dogs have firework-related anxiety, presenting as trembling, panting, pacing, destructive behaviours and abnormal toileting, to name just a few signs. If your pet has never experienced it before, it's hard to know how they will respond to the loud noises and bright flashes that fireworks bring.
While it used to be that firework displays only happened on or around the 5th of November, now they're springing up throughout the year, which makes it a lot harder for us pet owners. That said, the majority of firework events will take place between now and the New Year, so if your pet is going to develop anxieties and fear-related issues, it's going to be soon.
Preventing firework fear is a lot easier than trying to manage or treat it when it arises, so it is worth knowing the steps you can take now to prepare them for the coming period, but also, how you can act on the day itself to help keep them calm.
Things you can do now:
- You can get them used to the sound of fireworks by playing a CD in the background, such as the CLIX Noises & Sounds CD, or even YouTube videos of firework sounds, increasing the volume gradually until is is fairly loud. If you do this early and gradually enough, by the time the volume is turned up high, your pet should hardly even notice it. Turning up the TV may work just as effectively. While this is happening, go about your normal life, paying little attention to the noise and acting as calmly as possible.
- Build a den or safe space for your pet to retreat to. A crate containing a soft, cosy bed with a blanket over the top to block out sights and sounds, will provide a reassuring space for your dog to go when things become too much. For cats, make sure there are ample places for them to hide, such as cosy cubby holes and beds placed up high.
- Make any routine or environment changes early. If you know when a planned display is happening, you might decide to walk your dog earlier in the day so you're not outside when the fireworks start. While this is sensible, the change to the normal routine may actually contribute to or exacerbate your dog's anxiety, so make the change early and get your dog used to the new routine well ahead of time. Likewise, if you are drastically changing something indoors, introduce it as early as possible.
- Start introducing calming aids. Room diffusers and sprays can be used in advance of a stressful event and some calming supplements need to be given a few days in advance, so bear this in mind as not all will be effective if just given on the day.
Things you can do on the day:
- Maintain your pet's routine as much as possible, including feeding times.
- If fireworks start, close the curtains and/or doors and turn on the TV or radio. These measures should dampen the sounds and prevent flashing lights coming through the windows and spooking your pet.
- Offer affection only if your pet comes looking for it. Avoid fussing your pet and checking up on them excessively, as this will only reinforce their fear.
- Reward positive behaviours with a pat on the head or a treat. If your pet is behaving calmly, praise them gently so they know they're doing the right thing.
- Ignore negative behaviours and try to distract them instead with toys and games. Reward the good behaviour that follows.
- Remain calm. Even if your pet starts behaving agitated, refrain from giving affection as this will only play into the anxiety and fear. Go about your life as normal and avoid doing things differently as this may send a warning signal to your pet.
Hopefully, by following these measures and advice, fireworks season will be no different to any other time of year for your dog or cat. If you are worried about your pet, it is worth speaking to a vet now so they can advise on special measures early. For more information on calmers and other calming solutions, please don't hesitate to get in touch with the team at [email protected] and we will happily assist and answer your questions.
Written by: Hannah