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Keeping calm through fireworks season

by Emma Lee

Another summer is over, and we are moving swiftly into my favourite, and worst, season. Favourite because of the colours, the drop-in temperature (better for long walks with the dogs) and the start of the festive feel. Worst because of the dreaded fireworks. For some, firework season is a time of bonfires and excitement. For those of us with pets that become terrified by the sounds and smells of this time of year, it is a constant battle of second guessing where the next bang is coming from and keeping our beloved pets calm. All is not lost though, and prevention is better than cure. There are many steps you can take to better equip your furry family members for fireworks season and steps you can take to minimise the stress and fear.

Desensitisation

This is something you can start from the beginning when you first get your puppy or dog. CD’s or downloadable alternatives are readily available online. You start by playing at a low level and gradually increase the volume. You can make sure tasty treats are available so that your dog associates the noises with something positive, or you can play their favourite game while the noises are in the background. Starting early is key, it needs to be introduced well before fireworks season starts.

Sometimes though, despite best efforts to prepare your dog, it can still be a scary time. A dog’s senses are more acute than ours, they will be able to hear bangs that are further away and smell the fireworks that are being let off.

Take steps to make things easier

Take them for a long walk earlier in the day to tire them out and help them settle in the evening. Let them out to toilet before it gets too late and then bring them in, draw the curtains and turn that TV up! Distract them as best as possible – try stuffing a Kong with their favourite treats or play their favourite game – and try to stay calm and relaxed. Do not get angry with your dog or tell them off. Comforting will help some dogs but for some this will increase their fear. Act normal as if nothing bad is happening. Your dog will pick up on your anxiety! Make them a ‘den’ out of cushions or a crate. This will provide a safe space that they can escape to. Thundershirts may also help provide some comfort.

Be prepared

Check with your local council and on social media for any planned events and talk to your neighbours to see if they are planning any festivities.

Make security a priority

Ensure that your garden is secure, a frightened dog will sometimes try to run away. Close cat flaps and shut windows. Make sure your dog’s microchip details are up to date, just in case.

In severe cases you may need to turn to herbal remedies or medication to help. Herbal remedies such as an Adaptil plug in or Valerian may help to keep your dog relaxed. Over the counter medications are also available, such as Zylkene or Calmex. For some dogs the fear may be so severe that a prescription medication may be an option. Discuss this with your vet before the start of firework season.

Remember that all dogs are different and will react differently to the sights, sounds and smells of fireworks. Stay calm and be prepared and you will make a stressful time for your dogs a lot easier to cope with.

by Emma Lee
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