There are many things that frighten our pets but none so deliberate as Fireworks.
Bonfire / Guy Fawkes night, birthdays, Chinese New Year, Diwali, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and more… Yet whilst many of us are ooo-ing and aaah-ing at the pretty spectacular our poor pets are often beside themselves with utter panic.
You see, it’s not just the flashes. It’s not just the bangs. One thing I never realised – and I bet you didn’t – it’s the vibration!
Animals are tuned into nature.
Flashes = lightening = storms = look for safety. Bangs are the same = thunder. The vibration through the air all but sends them insane as their sensitive ears AND bodies pick up this unknown phenomenon.
Just imagine (or remember) something you have never done before – going on a plane for the first time, going in a glass lift when you’re nervous of heights, your first driving lesson, even perhaps a roller coaster ride. The first time you do something like that your heart races, your pulse pounds in your ear, you feel slightly nauseous, yet you know that at any point you can stop what you’re doing.
Well for our dogs they have all of those feelings of fight or flight but no real comprehension – they DON’T KNOW it won’t hurt them, or that it isn’t a massive storm rolling in… they can’t understand and they can’t stop it happening.
I have learned that we have to understand them and work with them to a more comfortable situation.
There are many dogs who never fret and that’s usually because their experience of such ‘danger’ was dealt with matter of fact and calmly. Most though have some degree of discomfort with the whole fireworks idea.
Having adopted 2 Romanian rescued dogs I see both sides. Tess, the newbie at 6 month before her first exposure simply chewed her chew or slept through each night – only a little anxious when she desperately needed to go out to pee and someone set offf a loud banging firework. To counteract this, AS SOON AS SHE’D DONE HER BUSINESS we got her in and instructed her to sit on her mat. No treat, no fuss, just back to the mat with her chew toy. If we’re not bothered she isn’t. We did not leave her out any length of time to become agitated.
Now for the big baby Annie, coming up to three years of age. She was 9 months before she was rescued and had lived out on the cold streets, in fields in storms, no pack, no protection, then months in a public shelter and UK kennels. She came to us terrified of everything. Rustling leaves sent her into a panic, cars going by freaked her out… even the TV caused a panting and hiding effect the first week we had her. So no surprise Fireworks send her panic rating off the scale.
I didn’t want to have a constantly drugged up dog every time celebrations were afoot so I investigated, google, read books, took advice from vets and friends with experience and now I share to you to see if you and you dog can benefit.
1) DON’T tell you dog he/she is a good dog when they come to you for reassurance. This, I have learned does not as we think reassure. It reinforces that fear is good. The exact opposite to what we want to achieve.
2) DON’T try treats and food to calm your dog down unless they would normally be having food at the time. Again, treats for nerves say it’s ok to be nervous. Plus, if you dog is very upset it’s likely to give them stomach pains too.
3) DON’T EVER shout at your dog even if they go toilet inside or go into a room that is “out of bounds” … They are not using their knowledge they are using their instinct and fight or flight = release bladder/bowels and hide if you can’t run. We’ve all heard the saying “so scared he pooed himself (or variants of)”. Well that’s EXACTLY what happens to your dog.
4) DO act as normally as possible, no extra fuss, no treats etc UNLESS your dog is comfortable with that. What you do want to do is say “hey I’m here, you’re safe” but without the “it’s ok to panic” message.
5) DO try and walk your dog, a long walk or good runaround before dusk when you are expecting fireworks to happen. Exercise not only settles them, but sends a calming hormone round the body and so stress levels are zero to start with. A stressed dog to start with will be hyper-stressed later.
6) DO try and invest in a Thundershirt if you can. It will not work for all dogs but I went through literally hundreds of reviews before I paid a hefty £40 out and the majority (I’d say 98%) said it worked for their pet. It works for Annie. Basically it wraps around them like swaddling a baby and they have a sense of security from it. I would recommend it.
7) DO look at using technology such as DVD’s and CD’s that are available playing sounds to desensitise your dog. You play a few minutes every day and your dog gets used to the noise. They work for many and come highly recommended but I had no success with Annie.
8) DO research and use herbal remedies. There are doggy versions of Kalms, diffusers to plug in, sachets of mixtures to put with food. They on their own will not probably solve the issue but combined with a steady routine, a Thundershirt, exercise and a place to hide, your dog should be a lot happier when coping with the fact that we think loud bangs and flashes are fun.
Last year Annie spent 3 weeks freaking out at everything that wasn’t quiet and ordinary each time fireworks were going off around us. This year we have had one night of panic (because I forgot the Thundershirt until fireworks had started). Last night – 2 weeks into the flashing and banging, Annie, no shirt, no herbs, just a long walk and a steady routine, just lay on her mat and dozed.!! SUCCESS with my baby girl does make me smile.
I hope you have some success with your furry friend without resorting to a trip to the vet, but if the vets it is, at least you tried.
for plug in diffusers
for herbal tablets to calm.
Love your dog, keep your dog safe and you have a friend forever.