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Firework season... HELP!

 I will go into this with my hands up that I am incredibly biased when it comes to people letting off explosives at random intervals... I spent many year sitting at home with my dogs from about mid-October to New year with the odd local firework going off most nights, with huge unexpected displays on nights completely unrelated to any celebration, most nights with my dog and I both hyperventilating from the surprise and panic. If that wasn't stressful enough, neighbors to our horses decided one year to have a professional level display about a metre away from the horses without telling us, resulting in a long drawn out stress related illness in one of our ponies, followed a year later, when they had another display, by death.With this in mind I would like to see a ban on all fireworks, but I would happily settle for organised and licenced displays only so we have warning and are able to prepare ourselves and our animals so as to stay safe. My Birthday is also in November, and I am not ashamed to have a woe is me moment and tell you that I have not spent an evening in November out of the house, nor celebrated my birthday for several years now. All, yes, because of fireworks... Anyhoo, you're here for your dogs, not my sad tales, so here are a few things you can do to help yourself and your dog during this time of year that I truly understand can be frustrating at best and devastating at worst. 



Here are a few ideas and tips for you to try to help your dog through.


 

Got a puppy? PREPARE! 

Regardless of if you have a puppy from a breeder or a rescue the best thing you can do is make sure that you utilise their socilisation periods as pups to habituate them to various noises, and help them build positive associations. You can use every day noises, youtube or amazing tools such as the dogs trust Sounds Scary resources for this. 


 

Doggy Den

Regardless of if you think they will use it or not, create a space that your dog can hide in. This could be a covered crate (never shut the door on them!) or just a blanket over one end of a table so they can feel unseen. The key is to choose the quietest and least disturbed part of the house, and make sure that your dog knows how to access the space BEFORE the fireworks begin. To help them learn that they can utilise the area, you can give them chews there or puzzle feeders in the day to help them build a positive association.  


 

PLAY 

Play inhibits fear. If you can find a toy or game that your dog LOVES then once fireworks have started see if you can encourage them to play with you. This will work for some dogs, others will simply be to afraid. But, give it a go. Tug games, treat chasing, chaser toys I will even put aside my dislike of fetch and ball games aside and say give it a go if that's your dogs thing! Anything to get them in a mindset of goofing around and playing rather than trembling with fear.


 

SEEKING

This fits with play, a curious dog who is focused on exploring is not going to be as fearful. If you can create an environment for your dog where they have things to search for then this can also help reduce some dogs anxiety. Look at simple games such as scatter feeding or treat searches if you've not done anything like this in the home before.


  

Exercise

 Make sure that your dog gets sufficient exercise in the day time so that they have less anxious energy when it comes to evening firework. This doesn't mean make sure they run around like mad things, but a good hour or 2 of walking in the afternoon. where they get to spend plenty of time using their noses and exploring will often help. (obviously each dogs breed, age and ability will affect what amout of exercise is appropriate)


 

Classic FM, White Noise or Dog Tv

Playing covering music and sounds can help some dogs. Other dogs it just adds to the stimuli and makes them more stressed out. It is however, always worth a try!  Classic FM usually have a Pet Classics show on bonfire night specifically for pets to help with the firework season, alternatively, you can find white noise on spotify and youtube and Dog TV videos on youtube.


 

Thunder shirt 

I honestly have no idea of the success rate with these, but I recently bought a low cost version from B&M Bargains and despite being skeptical, my gosh, what a difference it made for my dog with thunderstorms! I have no Idea what other brands are like, and i'm sure as with everything, it may work well for some and not at all for others but I think it is worth listing as something to try if all other avenues haven't helped too much. 


 

Use a box fan!

Choose a room your dog feel settled in, and place a fan (or 2 or 3!) toward each window. When the fan is on it disrupts the sound currents traveling through the air and reduces the sound of bangs from outdoors. This has been our number 1 most useful tried and tested 'trick' to help us get through the season! Personally I use 2 fans in our living area; one directed at each window - I usually have them on full speed to maximise the effect.



The BEST treatos

 Stocking up on the most amazing yummies is vital at this time of year. Prepare some treats such as JR pate into small bitesized chunks. Have them ready in a container. Each time a firework goes off, get so excited and offer a treat (hand feed or toss for them to catch/chase) - See if the tasty treats and your excitement/enthusiasm rubs off. Again, as with all of these points, they may or may not help. It depends on your dogs level of fear. 



A weekend away

If your dog is terrified to to point you are worried about losing them, be it through desperation to escape or heart attack etc then if you have some quiet countryside nearby I have known people to take their dogs away for the weekend, or even the week when they know fireworks will be at their worst. A night in the woods, at a farm or by the coast tend to offer more solace than in villages and towns - though obviously always check that there are no planned displays near to wherever you are staying! 

 


 Always comfort your dog if they ask for it

Telling your dog 'they're ok', cuddling them and stroking them if they ask for it will NOT, I repeat, NOT make their fear worse. It is absolutely fine to comfort your dog as and when they need it. Please do not ignore them if they are asking for your help. Be there for them, and help them through it as best as you can.

 

Speak to your vet! 

This comes last, but it should really be your first port of call. So many people put off asking for prescriptions for their animals, but medications for fear related issues and anxiety are really becoming much more understood now, and have had an increase in popularity. With good reason! I have personally been prescribed Diazepam and Sileo for my own dog with fear of fireworks and I have to say, it was a game changer in terms of helping with his behavioural modification work, as it helped him relax enough that his counter conditioning was able to be more effective. Without the meds, he was simply too afraid to learn anything. Now I rarely need to use these meds for him at all, but we do keep them in just in case. 


 

Additionally for safety:


Keep your dog on lead, even at night when they are just going in the garden. If they are scared it is amazing how high they can jump to try and 'escape' the noise. I know of a few people who have sadly lost their dogs due to them taking flight when fireworks have randomly gone off, and you hear of many each year who spook and run out in front of cars etc too. It's just not worth the risk.  

 

Keep on a dog tag and have their microchip details up to date - If they do end up trying to run away, then at least anyone who finds them will be able to easily contact you. 

 


Campaigns 

 

RSPCA have a Bang Out of Order campaign that can be found here

And if you are driven as mad by fireworks as we are, then you can support F.A.B firework campaign here. This is an amazing campaign which is truly worth giving your support.   

 

I hope you all make it through firework season safely. 

Please reach out if you need any help or support. 

 

07505000709

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