As Bonfire Night draws closer and fireworks are starting earlier than ever, dog lovers may be fearing for their pets.
But animal expert Sharon Bolt, Founder of Good Dogs, has said with a little planning and practice, firework season doesn’t have to be a nightmare.
She said: “Of course, the main problem is that the 5th of November is just the start of the firework season with a lot of displays starting before the 5th and continuing long into the New Year.”
So what should dog owners do in order to best support their four legged friends and turn a stressed dog into a calm and happy dog? Check out Sharon’s suggestions below.
Sharon says: “Contact your local council and ask for details of local firework displays so that you can be fully prepared.
“It would also be good to know if your neighbours are planning any firework displays in their garden, so you can be ready for the celebrations that are happening closer to home.”
She added: “You can buy CDâs that play firework noises to help desensitise your dog to loud bangs or download these noises from the internet.
“Sounds scary! has a range of different CDâs that can be helpful when de-sensitising your dog to fireworks, thunder, gunshot noises, traffic and even baby noises in preparation for bringing a new baby home.
The Dogs Trust have partnered with vets Sarah Heath and Jon Bowen from Sounds scary! to offer their range of sound based treatment programmes for free. www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/dog-behaviour-health/sound-therapy-for-pets
You start by playing the noise at a low volume while doing something that your dog likes, such as playing with his ball or giving him treats – this will create a positive association. You gradually increase the volume until your dog adjusts to the noise without showing fear or anxiety.
This isnât usually a quick fix but it gives you control of how loud the firework noises are. The other benefit is that the desensitization training can also be done during the day when it is not dark, which can be helpful to many dogs.
Ensure that your dog wears a collar and ID tag and that his microchip details are up to date just in case he panics and somehow manages to escape.
The appeasing pheromone mimics the pheromone produced by lactating mothers which gives comfort to her puppies and helps reassure and calm anxious dogs in stressful situations.
This can also be affective for dogs who suffer from nervousness and separation anxiety. D.A.P can be purchased from a vet (or Internet) either as a plug in, collar or spray.
This is a coat or vest that is put on a dog to help calm and comfort them.
It is thought that the gentle pressure applied by the Thundershirt has a calming effect on the dogâs nervous system and reduces symptoms of stress and anxiety.
The shirt can be used before, during or after fireworks in order to help calm and reassure a dog. Thundershirts can be purchased at places such as Pets At Home, Amazon and ebay.
Bach Rescue Remedy for pets (can be purchased online and at some pet shops) is an emergency remedy which consists of 5 different natural solutions that help calm and reassure pets.
Skullcap and Valerian can also be helpful – These are licensed herbal medicines which are used to relieve stress, nervousness, over excitability and travel sickness in dogs (and cats).
Dorwest herbs offers this combination in tablet form and it can also be purchased from other animal herbal stockists.
Some homeopathic remedies can also be helpful such as: Aconite â this works with dogs that have been frightened badly, particularly by thunder. Borax â this works for dogs that are frightened by sudden noises.
Gelesium â this is for fear and anxiety from loud sounds and for trembling and shaking. These remedies can be prescribed by a homeopathic vet.
Ensure that your dog is well exercised both physically and mentally so that he is tired.
Feed him a few hours before the event and ensure he has access to plenty of fresh water.
Plan the last walk or toilet break just before it gets dark, this is likely to be the last toilet outing of the day.
Some dogs like to go to a den when fireworks are being let off. This could be a crate, a wardrobe or even under a bed.
If using a crate you could cover the top and sides with a blanket in order to buffer the loud bangs.
Some dogs like to elevate themselves when frightened, if they are not normally allowed on the furniture and jump up they are not being naughty they are simply finding the best way to cope with whatâs going on outside.
This will help defuse the firework noise and block out the firework lights.
Turn on the TV or put the radio on â choose a radio station that plays classical or soothing music to help drown out firework noise.
The best thing you can do for your dog when fireworks are going off is to act as if nothing is happening, demonstrate that you are not upset about the fireworks and take no notice of any stressed behaviour your dog demonstrates.
I know this sounds crazy but itâs good to remember that your dog is an animal who speaks a different language to you and that itâs your calming presence that will non-verbally soothe him.
For dogs that pant, pace and run towards windows and doors, place them on a lead and keep them gently by your side. By keeping them still will cause them to calm down quicker as the pacing creates more stressed behaviour.
Itâs essential that you stay calm. Try not to feel sorry for your dog, or try to get him to understand fireworks or even become frustrated as this will communicate to him that he has something to worry about.
It may take a little while, but you will notice that your dog will gradually relax and that your calming presence is the reassurance that he needs.
When you remain calm and pay no attention to his shaking and upset you will allow him to move on much quicker and come back to balance. Once your dog has calmed this is a good time to offer gentle praise and comforting strokes.
For more dog training tips and to get a free dog training eBook go to www.good-dogs.co.uk