It’s that time of year again when fireworks are abundant and dogs and other animals get totally freaked out.
Whether you’re in India, celebrating Diwali, or perhaps in another country where there are autumn or winter festivals, remember to prepare for your pet who may be struggling with the loud bangs.
It’s important to realise why dogs are scared of fireworks. They perceive the loud noises as a major threat; their nervous system lights up and the fight or flight survival response kicks in. Never punish or shout at your dog for barking or acting up — it’s not their fault and they need you to stay calm.
To encourage our readers to bear this in mind throughout the autumn and winter seasons, when firework parties are at their peak, we’ve put together a list of advice to help you and your pet have a cosy, calm time, without too much anxiety.
Here are our top tips:
If you remain calm, it helps to sooth your dog. Act as normal as possible and try not to get upset by any of their unusual behaviour such as continuous barking. Of course, this applies all year round and in everyday life, but it’s even more pertinent on nights when there are a lot of fireworks going off.
Stick on the TV or Radio
It can help to drown out the noise of the fireworks by putting on some music or TV. You might already know what kind of music soothes your dog; classical music is normally a safe bet and I find that the ‘Miracle Tone’ frequencies (432Hz, 528Hz etc) send my dog off to sleep in a jiffy!
Manage your time well on those days when you know there’s going to be fireworks. Tire your dog out in daytime hours so that they will be safe and sound in the evening at home with you. If they need a final nighttime pee, wait for the fireworks to be over (I know this is extremely difficult in India because the fireworks are never over, so if they need to go, make sure they can’t escape and dart off into the night).
Create a safe space in the house, or even a ‘den’ where they can run too if feeling anxious. You may even want to set it up weeks or days before so that they get used to being there with their favourite toys and perhaps a tasty chew treat for those noisy firework-induced nights. If they prefer to snuggle with you, of course stay close to them but give them the run of the house so that they can choose the place where they feel safest.
Feed your pup a bit earlier on fireworks nights — they might lose their appetite if they get too nervous or agitated. So, even if they normally eat in the evening, try to switch it to an earlier slot so that they can enjoy their grub.
Shut The Curtains Or Blinds
Sounds obvious right? Yes, but it’s important. Heavy curtains may help to muffle the sounds and if you forget to close just one window, it could make all the difference. If you don’t have heavy curtains, try to improvise with thick blankets or invest in some blackout blinds.
If your dog is particularly anxious, you could talk to your vet about using a pheromone diffuser to help sooth them, especially during heavy periods of firework parties. These diffusers plug into wall sockets and release, well…pheromones to calm their nervous systems. Your vet may even prescribe medication to help if nothing else works.
Many of you probably live in countries where there are stray dogs, who undoubtedly suffer a lot throughout firework festivals. We know it’s a serious problem, with dogs getting injured, burned or sick from accidentally ingesting some toxic leftovers. What can you do to help? Be as vigilant as possible and try to deter people from deliberately putting dogs in harm’s way (we know this isn’t easy because the fireworks are so unregulated). If you can, create a hiding place or den near your home for dogs to shelter in if they’re scared. Ask your local dog rescue or vet to recommend some ways you can give First Aid to dogs, or report any injury as soon as possible. If you have your own dog(s), follow the above guidance and make sure your dog is microchipped in case they run off.
Autumn and Winter are beautiful seasons full of colour, tradition, amazing food and celebrations. But, as we celebrate, we must remember our canine family members, whether they live in our home or outside as part of our community. Let them enjoy some of that friendship and warmth that fuels our seasonal festivals, so that they also know light in the darkness.