Dogs and Fireworks: Dealing with Anxiety

Dogs and fireworks © Tom Harris
 

Remember, remember dog safety in November

As Bonfire Night approaches, people will be busy buying sparklers and fireworks but may forget about the traumatic effects the noisy evening can have on dogs and other pets.

In the run up to Halloween and 5th November, the Kennel Club is urging dog owners across the country not to ignore their four-legged friends. Halloween costumes and the loud bangs and flashes created by fireworks can be exciting for humans but very frightening for dogs, and owners will need to plan ahead to keep their dog safe.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said:  "In the run up to Bonfire Night, try playing a sound CD with firework noises or firework sound videos on Youtube at a low level to let your dog get used to the sound in the background. On Bonfire Night itself it's best to close the curtains and turn the television or radio up and try to behave as normally as possible to encourage your dog to do the same.

"It's also important that we don't forget Halloween as this can be a very frightening time for dogs too. Make sure to walk your dog before trick-or-treaters start their rounds and keep a firm grip on the lead as many dogs are frightened by people in costumes.

"Speaking to a Kennel Club Accredited Instructor in your area about any potential behavioural issues that may arise around this time of year is recommended, as they are experts in the field and can offer invaluable advice which will help to safeguard the health and happiness of your dog."   

The Kennel Club has put together some steps that can be taken to minimise a dog's levels of stress:

Do:

  • Acclimatise your dog to noises prior to the big night. There are many noise CDs on the market which give you the opportunity to introduce your dog to a variety of potentially disturbing noises in a controlled manner.
  • Seek help from an experienced animal behaviourist. If your pet is severely noise phobic, sound CDs are likely to make the situation worse. Kennel Club Accredited Instructors are experienced in different aspects of dog training and behavior - to find one in your area, visit www.thekennelclub.org.uk/kcai.
  • Make a safe den for your dog to retreat to if he or she feels scared. Alternatively, let your dog take refuge under furniture and include an old, unwashed piece of clothing like a woolly jumper so that your dog can smell your scent and feel comfortable.
  • Distract your dog from the noise by having the TV or the radio switched on.
  • Try to act and behave as normal, as your dog will pick up on any odd behaviour. Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog. Reward calm behaviour with doggie treats or playing with toys of interest.
  • Check where and when displays are being held in your local area.  Also ask your neighbours to let you know if they are planning anything.
  • Consult your vet if your dog has any health problems or is taking any medication before giving remedies to help him cope with fireworks night, and always follow the manufacturers' instructions.
  • Feed your dog a while before you expect any disturbances, as once the fireworks start your dog may be too anxious to eat.
  • Walk your dog before dusk.  It may be some time before it's safe to venture outside again for your dog to relieve himself.
  • Make sure you shut all doors and windows in your home and don't forget to draw the curtains. This will block out any scary flashes of light and reduce the noise level of fireworks. Don't forget to block off cat flaps to stop dogs (and cats) escaping.
  • Shut your dog safely inside a room before opening the front door.
  • Your dog might choose to hide under the bed if he or she comes to you for comfort, make sure that you give it to him/her. Ignoring your dog would only make things worse as he or she wouldn't understand your withdrawal from them.
  • Keep a collar and ID tag on your dog. Make sure your dog is microchipped and your contact details are up to date, this will ensure you are reunited as quickly as possible if the worst happens and your dog does go missing, from April 2016 it will be a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped. For further information on compulsory microchipping and to check your contact details are up to date visit  www.petlog.org.uk. 

Don't:

  • Take your dog to a firework display, even if your dog does not bark or whimper, don't assume he or she is happy. Excessive yawning and panting can indicate that your dog is stressed.
  • Tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off. 
  • Assume your garden is escape proof.  If your dog needs to go out keep him on a lead just in case.
  • Leave your dog on his own or in a separate room from you.
  • Try to force your dog to face his fears - he'll just become more frightened.
  • Forget to top up the water bowl.  Anxious dogs pant more and get thirsty.
  • Change routines more than necessary, as this can be stressful for some dogs.
  • Try and tempt him out if he does retreat, as this may cause more stress.
  • Tell your dog off! This will only make your pet more distressed.
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