Many of us are keen to see 2021 off with a bang, and fireworks are now commonplace at a lot of New Year gatherings. While these sparkly displays can draw ‘oooh’s and ‘aaah’s from the audience, someone who might not be so keen is your beloved pet.
Many of us notice our dogs getting anxious at times when there are lots of fireworks in the night sky, so how do you recognise they are causing your dog anxiety and what can we do to make them feel better?
If your dog isn’t a firework fan, they’re likely to let you know, and the following behaviours are signs that your dog is feeling anxious or stressed:
Try to avoid letting your dog out at times when fireworks are likely to go off, and ensure you’re taking them for their evening walk nice and early, well before dark. You can use this as an opportunity to tire them out so hopefully they’ll sleep through the evening display!
If possible, it might be a good idea to introduce these changes gradually over a few days so your dog can get used to it and their routine isn’t suddenly disrupted
Many dogs will instinctively try to hide from unexpected whizzes and bangs, so it’s good to create a covered area inside your home for them to retreat into. If your dog is used to being in a crate, you can cover it with a blanket and leave it open — or a table draped with a blanket works just as well.
Give your dog options so they can choose where they feel most comfortable, and don’t ever confine them to one space as this can increase stress levels. Some dogs will prefer to stay close to you or in their usual, familiar spot, so make sure this is an option too.
Long-lasting chews or puzzle toys can also help to distract your dog.
It’s not just the sound of fireworks that can cause distress, so make sure you close the curtains or cover the windows to minimise the impact of light and flashes across the sky. You can also leave the lights on indoors to reduce their dramatic effect.
Keeping the radio or TV on can mask the sudden bang of fireworks, and classical music can be particularly soothing. Just make sure you’re playing any music at a volume that your dog (and neighbours!) are happy with.
Dogs are highly intuitive creatures and will notice if you’re behaving unusually, so try your best not to be visibly nervous or concerned. You can reassure and comfort your pet without following them around or being overly affectionate — stay calm, act normal and give your dog lots of praise for good behaviour. You can try to distract them with cuddles or their favourite toy if they’re interested, but also ensure you leave them be if that’s what they need.
You should also never shout at your pet if they’re scared, even if they misbehave: this will increase their stress and also mean they may begin to associate fireworks with negative feelings.
Some pets flee when they’re nervous, so make sure your home and garden are as escape-proof as possible. It’s also important that your dog is microchipped, and that their microchip details are kept up to date in case the worst happens.
Although your dog may never become a firework lover, these tips should help reduce their stress over the New Year period. However, if they’re still extremely anxious after you’ve tried these tactics, don’t hesitate to consult your vet — they may implement a behaviour management plan, or consider medicinal treatment.
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