The leaves are falling off the trees and the autumn nights are drawing in. This means that Bonfire night is fast approaching. Most people have happy memories of bonfire night – toasty fires, sparklers and stunning firework displays. However, not everyone enjoys the noisy light shows, and fireworks can cause some pets distress. From simply trembling and drooling to destroying furniture, pets show their fear in a variety of different ways. In this article, we suggest a few ways in which you can prepare and keep your pets sane during firework season.
Firstly, preparation is essential. Leading up to fireworks night many towns and villages will advertise their local firework displays. Check the time and location of all your local displays and note down the ones that you may be able to hear or see from your home. In most cases, this will make sure you know when to expect fireworks, but do remember that people may hold private displays that might not be advertised.
Once you know the times of local events you will be able to plan to walk your pets before the displays start. Some dogs will run away in response to fear so the safest place to be during fireworks is at home. Not many people have truly escape proof gardens, so letting your dog out into the garden on a lead may be a smart precaution. To be on the safe side you may want to walk your pets before dark as most displays will take place after dark. If your working hours limit your ability to walk your dog before dark in the evening then consider a long walk in the mornings instead. Keeping up their normal amount of exercise during firework season is not only important for their health but will also tire them out and make them less excitable towards the displays in the evenings. It is important to remember that accidents happen and pets may still find a way to escape during an episode of fear. For this reason, it becomes even more important to ensure your dog is microchipped and has an ID tag on at all times so they can be safely returned as soon as possible should this happen.
When the fireworks do start, there are still steps you can take to minimise your dog’s fear. Importantly, you should not change your own behaviour. Giving your pet extra attention and babying them validates their fearful behaviour and may actually make it worse. Similarly, if you act tense and jumpy during fireworks your pet will pick up on this behaviour and make their own fear worse. The best thing to do is to act normal, stay calm and go about your evening as you usually would. If you need to go out and leave your pet then make sure that they are left in a secure and safe part of the house with plenty of water.
On these evenings a loud radio or television can be your best friend. Keep the windows closed and turn up the volume to try and drown out the sound of nearby and distant fireworks. It can be a good idea to do this before the fireworks start, to try and prevent your pet from hearing them in the first place. If the fireworks are close by then it is a good idea to pull the blinds down or close curtains on the windows and keep the house lights on. This will stop the flashes from outside from being visible from inside. If your dog chooses to hide, whether in their bed or behind furniture, then don’t force them to come out. They may feel more comfortable if they are allowed to hide and forcing them away from this can increase their fear and may invoke aggressive behaviour.
In serious cases, the best option is to talk to one of our vets. We understand that fearful behaviour can be very distressing for both you and your pet so it is best to get it under control as early as possible. Diffusers can be a very effective medication-free way to keep pets calm and our vets will be able to advise you on the best one for your needs. However, some pets may need medication to help them calm down and again our vets will be able to advise you on the best options for you and your pet. If noise phobia becomes too severe and disruptive for you and your pet then talking to a dog behaviourist may be a sensible long-term option.
We hope that you are now able to go into firework season better equipped to keep yourself and your pets happy. If you have any questions or concerns then feel free to pop in and talk to a vet anytime.