With Halloween and Bonfire Night approaching it’s important to remember how fireworks can affect our pets. Our partner, The Kennel Club, is urging dog owners across the country not to ignore their four-legged friends. But cats and other pets can also be spooked by the loud noise and flashes of light from fireworks. Halloween costumes can be fun to dress up in, and some pets enjoy the attention they get when they are also dressed up, but many pets can be totally spooked and confused by them.
The Kennel Club advises that in the run up to the fireworks season, playing a CD or video with firework noises at a low level can help to acclimatise your dog. When fireworks are being let she suggests closing the curtains, turning the television or radio up and behaving On Halloween, make sure to walk your dog before trick-or-treaters start their rounds and keep a firm grip on the lead in case your dog is frightened by people in costumes.
The Kennel Club has put together some steps that can be taken to minimise a dog’s levels of stress but many of these tips can be applied to all pets:
Things to do:
Acclimatise your dog to noises prior to the big night. There are many noise CDs on the market which give you the opportunity to introduce your dog to a variety of potentially disturbing noises in a controlled manner.
Make a safe den for your dog to retreat to if he or she feels scared. Alternatively, let your dog take refuge under furniture and include an old, unwashed piece of clothing like a woolly jumper so that your dog can smell your scent and feel comfortable.
Distract your dog from the noise by having the TV or the radio switched on.
Try to act and behave as normal, as your dog will pick up on any odd behaviour. Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog. Reward calm behaviour with doggie treats or playing with toys of interest.
Check where and when displays are being held in your local area. Also ask your neighbours to let you know if they are planning anything.
Consult your vet if your dog has any health problems or is taking any medication before giving remedies to help him cope with fireworks night, and always follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
Feed your dog a while before you expect any disturbances, as once the fireworks start your dog may be too anxious to eat.
Walk your dog before dusk. It may be some time before it’s safe to venture outside again for your dog to relieve himself.
Make sure you shut all doors and windows in your home and don’t forget to draw the curtains. This will block out any scary flashes of light and reduce the noise level of fireworks. Don’t forget to block off cat flaps to stop dogs (and cats) escaping.
Shut your dog safely inside a room before opening the front door.
Allow your dog to hide if he or she wants.
Things NOT to do:
Don’t take your dog to a firework display, even if your dog does not bark or whimper, don’t assume he or she is happy. Excessive yawning and panting can indicate that your dog is stressed.
Don’t tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off.
Don’t assume your garden is escape proof. If your dog needs to go out keep him on a lead just in case.
Don’t leave your dog on his own or in a separate room from you.
Don’t try to force your dog to face his fears – he’ll just become more frightened.
Don’t forget to top up the water bowl. Anxious dogs pant more and get thirsty.
Don’t change routines more than necessary, as this can be stressful for some dogs.
Don’t try and tempt him out if he does retreat, as this may cause more stress.
Don’t tell your dog off! This will only make your pet more distressed.
If all else fails, contact a Kennel Club Accredited Instructor. They are experienced in different aspects of dog training and behaviour – to find one in your area, visit www.thekennelclub.org.uk/kcai. You can also visit The Canine & Feline Behaviour Association for advice.
Most importantly, make sure your pets wear a collar an ID tag from Pet-TagsUK, just in case they do escape. Make sure they are microchipped too. These important measures will ensure that you are reunited as quickly as possible.