There are only a few weeks until the build up to the Firework season and every year, I see pet owners who have left it to the last minute to consider how they manage this stressful time for their pet. Now is the time to start preparations.
It is estimated that approximately 45 per cent of dogs become stressed and fearful while fireworks are going off, yet many owners are unaware of how to help their dogs with firework fears and the precautions that can be taken to help them cope with their fear of loud noises.
Dogs should have a safe haven or den to retreat to in the home; an area that they feel secure in. The den can be a place that the dog already uses and adapted to be as comfortable, dark and quiet as possible, or a manmade temporary option such as a cardboard box or crate. Preparing a den in advance allows the dog to get used to the area and accept it as a safe place. A towel or blanket can be placed over the den to dim the sounds and lights of the fireworks. The dog should have access to the den at all times.
The dog appeasing pheromone Adaptil has been shown to reduce anxiety and help dogs cope with challenging situations, including firework events. Adaptil is easy to use and it is available from Vets as a plug-in diffuser, collar and spray. It reduces the intensity of the dog’s fear response and using an Adaptil diffuser or collar from October can help to combat any anxiety build up the dog experiences in the run up to the fireworks event.
Using Adaptil spray on the dog’s bedding can offer additional support during stressful events. For short term support Adaptil Express tablets can be administered two hours before the fireworks.
Ensure dogs are taken out for a walk/to the toilet before it gets dark to avoid the need to be taken out later during the fireworks.
Soothing or punishing the dog may increase the intensity of the experience or reward inappropriate behaviour. Instead consider distracting them with a chew, toy, puzzle feeder or a game. Having a meal before the fireworks start can also help as a dog may not want to eat during the event if they are too anxious.
Ensure the dog has access to their water bowl as anxious dogs can pant more. Keep curtains closed, have the TV or music on and keep the dog company. Dogs with a more severe reaction to noises should be taken to the vet, as it may be that they need medication in order to cope with the firework season
Be aware that older dogs may find fireworks more challenging than they have before, as they can start to find changes to routine difficult. Alternatively, those dogs which start to develop hearing loss as they age can find fireworks easier to cope with.
In the long term, desensitisation and counter conditioning have been shown to be safe and effective methods for treating sound sensitivities. I recommend the ‘Sounds Scary’ CD (also available on iTunes). However, the dog needs to be relaxed during this training, which means that it needs to be started immediately to be effective by 5 November