How do you feel about fireworks? Or more importantly, how does your dog feel about them?!
We’ve been fortunate that for several years we have lived in places where fireworks weren’t an issue, either because our immediate neighbours had livestock, or because we didn’t have any immediate neighbours 😉
However, on a recent trip to ‘the big city’ (OK, small town, but it’s all relative) I spotted the fireworks for sale in the supermarket and I was reminded of our old dog Holly who was literally petrified.
During one autumn/winter we temporarily rented a house on a terraced street near the centre of town, and it felt like Guy Fawkes ‘night’ had turned into a whole season as the onslaught went on for weeks. And just as we thought it was all over, New Year’s Eve was upon us.
Poor Holly would spend most of her evenings hiding in the darkest corner of the cellar, and night after night I was up with her at two in the morning, because I couldn’t get her out for her bedtime wee at well, bedtime. We also had no garden in that house, so this involved a trip to the local park a few streets away in my pyjamas.
Afterwards, her fear response became generalised to any loud noises, such as gunshot and thunder. In her later years (she was almost 15 when she left us) it was genuinely a blessing that she went deaf and was able to remain happy and relaxed when things got noisy.
I’m kind of hoping that in the current social situation, there won’t be the same backyard parties and gatherings involving increasingly bomb-like fireworks – but who knows? Socially isolated firework displays might be a thing.
If your dog struggles with fireworks, and you’ve not been able to work through it during the year, here are a few tips. They won’t 'cure' your dog or prevent them feeling fearful, but hopefully minimise the effects, and help your dog recover more quickly:
- Play music to dilute the sound of the fireworks
- Close all blinds & curtains to reduce the visual effects and muffle the sound further
- Create a safe place (or den) for your dog using e.g. a crate, or a table. Observe where they normally choose to retreat to and make that the location. Don’t force them somewhere they don’t feel safe. Provide cushions and a comfy bed and if possible, cover the den with blankets to minimise the sound and visuals.
- It’s OK to comfort your dog – IF THEY SEEK IT. You are not ‘reinforcing’ scared behaviour. Fear is an emotional response. If your dog prefers to be alone and hide, leave them there. Not all dogs find touch comforting.
- Take your dog for a walk before it gets dark, so no risk of being frightened when out.
- Leave chews and filled toys in the safe space. For some dogs these can be stress-relieving. Although many dogs will not eat when stressed.
- Politely decline any invitations you might receive. Stay home and be there for your dog.
And finally, before next year:
If your dog does not recover quickly (i.e. after the noise has stopped), or appears to be getting worse, it might be a good idea to seek help from your vet and a certified behaviour consultant.
Stay safe. I hope your dog gets on OK over the next few weeks.
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