Supporting your Dog through Fireworks Season
Fireworks may be kind of pretty I guess (can you tell I'm not a fan?) and it is a tradition that many people do still enjoy, however most of our pets really do not!
In this blog I'll share some tips on how to prepare for this time and help your dog feel as calm as possible. Of course, this will also depend on your pups personality too as to how much it can help them, as long as we are doing our best that is all we can do... my little Ash can be quite stressed as he has anxiety, so we do what we can to prepare him and manage our surroundings to support him.
The first thing we need to be aware of is what the stress signals look like in our dogs. This will also be dependant on your dogs personality, breed and what is normal for them and then we will have a better idea of how they are feeling.
The bigger and more obvious ones are barking, running around panicked and whining/howling, then there are smaller ones that we can sometimes miss either from not knowing about them or Anthropomorphising (attributing human characteristics to a different species - a natural trait in most of us). (Note- barking a few times at a noise or something is a normal reaction, when barking goes on for longer it is due to higher levels of stress)
When we notice the smaller signs then we can do what we can to help them not get into the more exaggerated states (this is more difficult with sudden stressors). The smaller signs to watch out for are;
moon/whale eye (showing whites of the eye or more than usual)
These are all signs that your dog is getting uncomfortable with the situation they find themselves in.
Preparation for the fireworks;
plan to walk your dog earlier in the evening (before dark if possible) so its before all the loud noises start happening
if you can't walk them earlier please make sure your microchip is up to date, they have a flashing light on their collar, a flashing collar or a high visibility something on and a tag on them with your current details. This is so if they do get spooked and run off they are more likely to be found safely by you or an other person. Its better to be prepared and these things not happen, than to wish you had prepared.
create a comfy, safe space for them to go to if they feel they need to take themselves off.
You can get calming dogs sprays and collars to help that contain calming hormones.
During the events;
Close your curtains
have the TV or music on a bit louder so they noises mix in a bit
if they do run and hide, let them be in their safe space
use distraction to take their attention away if they do react to it, this will help to create a positive association. So for that you could;
play with them with their favourite toy be it fetch or tug
use treats to get them to do tricks if they enjoy that or play scent games (just sprinkle and hide treats around for them to find)
have a snuffle matt, kong or lick matt for them to enjoy - sniffing and licking reduces the stress hormone, cortisol in dogs
give them a special chew that they can really get into, chewing is also a stress reducer, (avoid rawhide - they are not good for dogs digestive systems even though there is loads sold in the shops still)
The main thing to remember is not to get frustrated if they do bark, as one of my favourite dog trainers I follow says "They're not giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time" ~ Kathy Kawalec
Bottom line is to make it a fun and bonding evening for you and your dog and you'll both look forward to spending time like that together again.
Thanks for reading and congratulations on being a thoughtful dog guardian.
Wags and Woofs
A Dog's Tale