With 73% of owners saying they have a pet who’s scared of fireworks, inevitably this is a time where the help and support of vets and behaviourists can play a key role in helping your pet cope.
Left unmanaged, the reactive behaviour displayed by your cat or dog, be it hiding behind the sofa, digging up the carpet, soiling the house or barking incessantly to name a few reactions, may have a cumulative effect over time. Subsequently when a loud noise happens this may result in an increase in seemingly irrational and uncontrolled behaviour; it can also have the effect of elevating their response to other sudden noises such as doors slamming, thunder etc.
To manage this situation it is important to consider short term and long term management.
Just before firework season starts:
Planning ahead can help your dog cope with the firework season. Talk to your vet about pheromone diffusers. These disperse calming chemicals into the room and may be a good option for your dog, in some cases your vet may even prescribe medication. If either of these options is used they should be used in conjunction with behavioural therapy.
The day of expected fireworks:
- Make sure your dog or cat always has somewhere to hide if he or she wants to and has access to this place at all times. For example this could be under some furniture or in a cupboard.
- Walk dogs during daylight hours and keep cats and dogs indoors when fireworks are likely to be set off
- Make sure your cat or dog is always kept in a safe and secure environment and can’t escape if there’s a sudden noise. Have your pet microchipped in case they do escape.
- Each evening before the fireworks begin, move your dog to the play area and provide toys and other things that they enjoy. Make sure that there are things for you to do too so that your dog isn’t left alone.
When the fireworks start:
- Close any windows and black out the ‘doggy play area’ to remove any extra problems caused by flashing lights.
- Put on music or the TV to mask and muffle the sound of fireworks.
- Ignore the firework noises yourself. Play with a toy to see if your dog wants to join in, but don’t force them to play.
- If you know a dog that isn’t scared by noises and which gets on well with your dog, then keeping the two together during the evenings may help your dog to realise that there’s no need to be afraid.
- If your pet shows any signs of fear try to ignore their behaviour. Leave them alone unless they are likely to harm themselves.
- Never punish or fuss over your pet when it’s scared as this will only make things worse in the long run
Once this high risk time has passed it’s a good time to consider how you can best manage your pet’s situation long term. This can be done in many ways and one of the most common ones is using a sound desensitisation programme. There have been studies that have shown this to be effective for dogs and cats. The training is similar to programmes that police dogs and horses go through before being put into public work situations. The ‘Scary Sounds’ therapy pack can have excellent results – www.soundtherapy4pets.co.uk.
By managing the short and long term aspects of this situation you will enable your pet and your family to enjoy the festive season without the worry and stress of seeing your pet disturbed.