With New Year’s Eve fast approaching, many dogs will again suffer terror and stress at fireworks and displays ringing in 2020. It’s become so normalised that many pet owners feel helpless, thinking there isn’t much they can do.
But, starting now, there are lots of things you can put in place to reduce the effects of fireworks on your pet, like these top ten tips!
Top Ten Tips
Tip 1: Plan & Prepare
Start putting these things in place now!
Think about where you will hang out with your pet, think about where your pet will be, plan for toilet breaks and exercise.
Put together a shopping list or to-do list based on our recommendations here and tips that help your individual dog.
Bring your dog out for exercise early in the day, in daylight, while all is still calm and quiet. Don’t prioritise high-octane exercise that might contribute to your dog remaining wound up for the evening. Instead go for a sniffathon and make your dog’s day about rollercoasters.
Tip 2: Safe & secure
Make sure your dog’s microchip details are up to date and that they are wearing a collar and tag with current details. It’s a good idea to check fences, gates and boundaries too.
When out with your dog, have them wear their normal walking equipment, plus back-ups. An extra lead on a collar, along with their normal lead and harness, for example. A slip lead or martingale collar and lead along with their normal collar or harness, to prevent escape from a slipped collar.
Walk your dog on lead around times associated with fireworks, just in case there is a stray firework let off and your dog flees.
Tip 3: Toilet break safety
Your dog will need to go out to toilet, probably several times so start to plan for that now. You might be lucky and be able to avoid fireworks displays by going out at quiet times, but fireworks are unpredictable as not just official, public displays will be on during the festivities.
Start taking your dog out to the garden, on lead, to toilet. If your dog doesn’t like to toilet on lead, use a long line with no tension. You will need to start practicing now so that it’s not another weird thing on an already scary night for them.
Have your dog drag a lead from a regular flat collar in the house so that you can step on it and restrain them should they attempt to bolt. Only do this while they are supervised though, otherwise they might chew the lead or become tangled.
Tip 4: Where will you set up for the night?
Ideally, you are there with your fearful pet but that might not always be possible. Think about setting up for your pet in a room that is closer to the centre of the building, with a person with whom your pet is comfortable.
It’s best to have one secured door between this space and the comings and goings.
Even though you might still have Christmas decorations and lights up for all to see, close blinds and curtains to minimise noise from outside.
Practice spending time there, with your dog, now too.
Tip 5: Stock up on your pet’s favourites.
Get your dog’s absolutely irresistible favourites and have them ready. I am not talking about any run-of-the-mill treats, I mean the hottest of the hot like meats, cheese, pate, cream cheese, tinned fish. The yummiest!
You might try these Lick-e-Lix treats that I have seen used recently and have tried out:
Get your dog’s favourite toys too; toys that really keep him busy like squeakies and toys for dissection.
Start practicing presenting your dog’s favourite foods in toys or devices that require them to lap, chew and sniff. These are calming and engaging behaviours for dogs so will help to keep them occupied and happy.
Tip 6: Play music and TV louder
Start playing everything louder now to help drown out outside sounds. Playing music with lots of bass and lower frequencies might be more helpful so using good speakers and good quality recordings may be better.
Tip 7: Treat Party for Loud Sounds
Carry chicken, cheese, hotdog or something really yummy in your pockets at all times. Every time, you hear a noise outside, no matter what it is, talk excitedly and toss treats onto the floor – a treat party!
For this to be effective, it doesn’t matter what your dog is doing, even if they are barking and even if they didn’t appear to respond to the sound. Get the family involved too so there will be plenty of treat parties happening between now and New Year’s.
Tip 8: Set up a safe bunker
Maybe your dog has a safe place where they take refuge but if not, set one up now and start to use it.
Throw a blanket or towel over a chair or table, or over their crate to make a blanket fort. Give your dog a yummy stuffable or chew there a couple of times a day to make it a pleasant place for your dog to be.
Tip 9: Talk your dog’s vet
Have a chat your dog’s vet about calmatives and medication that may help make fireworks more bearable for your dog. There’s lots of further information on medical contributors and help for fireworks fear, with more complete detail on our Dying of Fright piece.
Tip 10: COMFORT YOUR DOG
Contrary to popular belief, you can and should comfort your dog when they are scare. But, do so in a manner that is actually comforting to your individual pet. Not all dogs will be helped by hugs and petting, even though that’s what we think will work.
Ask your dog!
For some dogs, it’s just enough to be in the same room as you. So, be there.
Sit in the room, and calmly invite your dog to join you. If they don’t approach, leave them to decide what they would like to go next.
If they do approach, that doesn’t mean they want to be touched. Sometimes, just leaning against you or resting close to you, is enough.
Pet your dog for a three count, withdraw and see what they want next. Them staying close to you, doesn’t mean they want petting or hugging, necessarily.
Although we won’t miraculously “cure” your dog’s firework fear, implementing these tips might just save the day!
For a full covering of fireworks fear and preparing your pet for Halloween and other noisy celebrations, check out Dying of Fright.
There are lots of other safety issues presenting themselves during the festivities. Prepare your pet with our Christmas Bites.