Happy Bonfire Night?
Most of us love bonfire night and a good fireworks display but lets not forget our four legged friends who are normally less then impressed with the shenanigans.
Here are some tips on keeping them happy.
As an owner of a doggy that should have been called Scaredy Pants, I know all too well what it is like to have an anxious dog. Every noise or sudden movement and she’s running to hide under the bath or under the kids beds. From the 31st of October to the New Year almost every night fireworks can be heard in the distance and she is living off her nerves. However, through lots of reassurance, patience and getting to know how she ticks, we have come on leaps and bound over the last few years. Fingers crossed, we will soon be at the stage when fireworks night can be like any other uneventful night!
In my opinion for us owners to be able to help our pets during the firework season, it is important that we understand why they get so scared. Studies have yet to show the precise reason why some pets, nearly half of all dogs, suffer anxiety when presented with the noises fireworks pose, but it is believed that the main causes are: lack of previous exposure to loud noises, lack of understanding and social transmission i.e. the way we respond and interact with our pet at times of uncertainty and stress. Taking these into account I have put together some top tips on how to help your pet.
Outdoor pets (Guinea pigs, Rabbits, birds)
For an outdoor pet, fireworks night can be a very frightening experience as they have no protection from the loud noises and bright lights. The RSPCA recommend bringing your pets and their hutches into your home if this can be safely and easily completed. It stands to reason that your pet will feel less anxious inside as the sounds and noises will be muted in comparison. Understandably this cannot always be done, so the next best thing would be to cover hutches and aviaries in blankets which should help to muffle the noise and reduce the intensity of the lights.
Dogs and Cats
To me, reducing stress levels in cats and dogs is a lot to do with how you prepare for the event. For my dog I have found that both the thunder jacket and the ‘Sounds Scary Pack’ (CD with firework sounds) have helped her immensely. The ‘Thunder Jacket’ provides the closeness and reassurance as it is meant to act like swaddling a baby (and she sure is one!). And the ‘sounds scary pack’, which can be found on the dogs trust website is brilliant if you use in advance. We play the recordings at varying levels over the course of a few months and it seems to acclimatise her to the sound of fireworks. As nothing bad happens with this advanced therapy, the association with sudden noises and something scary occurring seems to dissipate. This is a long term fix though and you cannot expect the results to be instant. Fears don’t just disappear overnight and essentially this is what you are trying to achieve.
If you do not have much time to prepare for fireworks nights these tips from the BlueCross are likely to help limit the extent of the anxiety
Close all curtains and blinds- this will help black out the lights
Ensure all windows and doors are shut as this will reduce the noise level
Take your dog out for a walk before dusk to limit the risk of them being outside when a firework goes off.
Feed your pet earlier in the day as they are likely to not eat when feeling stressed.
For cats that are used to going outside get a litter tray.
Build a den for them, this could be in a crate or a space they feel is safest. Place some old items of clothing (things that smell of you) and some of their favourite toys/ treats in the den. This can then become your pet’s safe place for all firework nights. Ideally you should let them get acquainted with their den before the fireworks start so that they are already settled.
Offer praise and comfort when they are calm.
If everything else fails and your pet is unduly distressed I would recommend that you speak to an experienced animal behaviourist about the best way to calm your pet.
At this point I should also mention that there are three things that you really should avoid doing if possible:
Do not try to coax your pet out of a hiding space. They are following their instincts and they are likely to feel more threatened and this will only heighten their anxiety.
Do not leave your pet at home by themselves if you know they are scared of fireworks. Your presence is likely to be a source of comfort to them, even if they are not showing it.
Kennel Club advise that you should never assume your garden is dog safe. Keep them on a lead if they need to go out. I would hate to imagine how my dog would behave if she escaped from my garden with fireworks going off, not only would she be terrified but she would be a hazard to herself and others.
And now that you’ve ensured the pets are happy here’s a great list of local firework displays.
From Poppy (aka Scaredy Pants) and I, we wish you and your pets a stress free fireworks night.
KEEP CALM AND HAVE HAPPY PETS