Ask any animal welfare organization what their busiest time is and they will tell you the days following Guy Fawkes and New Years Eve. The fireworks let off during these holidays send many dogs into such a panic they will scale walls and fences to escape. I know one dog who even broke a sliding glass door as he tried to run away from the noise. Many dogs find themselves on the streets and end up in shelters where, hopefully, their owners find them. Here are some suggestions for keeping your pets safe on the 5th of November (Dogs tend to be more sensitive than cats to loud noises, but all of the below suggestions can be used for cats as well).
Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with your name and phone number. No one ever expects their dog to run away, but if you have a collar on, chances are much better you will get your dog home quickly if the unexpected does happen. Just like we don’t expect to get into a car accident, but we wear seatbelts anyway, keep your dog clearly labeled just in case.
Stay home with your dog if you can, especially if you live in an area close to fireworks being let off, or if you know your dog is very sensitive to the noise. One year we stayed home on New Years because we knew our new rescue dog was scared of loud noises. I still remember my husband reading a magazine in bed while our poor dog was sitting under the covers vibrating with fear over the sound of the fireworks. She learned to accept most loud sounds, but whenever she reached a certain fear threshold the only place she wanted to be was under the blankets with him. The funny thing was that dog never even tried to get near the bed under normal circumstances, but that became her safe place if she was really terrified.
If you have to leave your dog home alone keep him indoors and have the TV or radio on loud to muffle the sounds of the fireworks.
If your dog is mild to moderately stressed by fireworks, sit with him and stay as relaxed as you can, even if your dog is getting scared. Show your dog by your own behavior that you are not stressed by the noises. Getting worried about your dog will only make him more uneasy. He will think you are also spooked by the noises going on. Watch a movie or read a book, pretend you don’t notice the noises.
For dogs who get utterly panicked, wide-eyed panting, shaking, and unable to eat, you may need to do something more to help them. There are many calming products available from your vet; pheromone collars, calming tablets, etc. Ask your vet which product they recommend and make sure you have enough ahead of time. In the area where I live there is a lovely boarding kennel far out of the city in a farming area. Many people send their dog very phobic dogs to that quiet kennel for a few nights rather than have them experience the stress of Guy Fawkes.
If you have a puppy who is going to experience fireworks for the first time, lucky you! You have a chance to teach your pup not to be overly panicked about the noise. Be ready with yummy treats and any toys your puppy loves. During the fireworks play with your puppy! Do something fun; play fetch, tug-of-war or chase the squeaky ball. Have the TV on in the background to dull the noises, but each time there is a big sound reward your pup with food or a game. Associate the potentially scary noise with something your puppy loves and they won’t have time to get worried. Its the same idea as police or military dogs getting used to the sound of a gunshot; these dogs do intense, fun activities during their training while “gunshots” are happening in the background. After a while the dogs are totally accustomed to the loud noise.
Good luck to you and all the animals out there.
Karis – aka Rogz Wrangler
(c) Karis Nafte 2015