How to Help
Dogs During Fireworks
Summer is generally associated with sun, fun, relaxation and celebration.
During this time people celebrate different things in different ways.
Unfortunately for many (if not most) dogs, one of the ways people
celebrate is to set off fireworks.
The South African summer starts approximately mid-October and ends mid- February. Many people make use of fireworks during this festive time, especially on Guy Fawkes Night, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and of course New Year’s Eve (into New Year’s Day)..
For humans, fireworks are mostly considered exciting and beautiful. For many cats and dogs the display, especially the associated sounds and unpredictability, can be terrifying and stressful. There may even be accompanying smells that contribute to the panic. The point is: they shouldn’t be expected to cope with that level of stimulation.
Dogs react differently when scared and anxious. Some will cower and hide; others might become destructive or aggressive. Trembling, drooling and barking are not uncommon either. Reactions we don’t notice include increased heart rate, adrenaline rush and increased circulation of stress hormones.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING FIREWORKS
• Microchip your pets and make sure they’re wearing ID tags.
• Take your dog for a long walk/run before the fireworks start.
• If pets are socialised early enough and exposed to a variety of loud noises and stimuli, fireworks may not be an issue. Think car horns, whistles, thunderstorm recordings, etc.
• Desensitisation: gradually help your pet get used to fireworks by playing audio recordings of fireworks and/or showing videos with audio. You have to start early and gradually increase the intensity of exposure. This process can take weeks, even months.
• Calming music designed to reduce canine anxiety (sound therapy) is available. It should be introduced as early as possible, played before fireworks and during.
• You can also take your pet to a family member, friend or dog sitter where they can avoid the display. Just make sure your pet feels comfortable and safe there.
• Ask your vet about calming medications, natural mists and homeopathic remedies that can help ease anxiety.
WHAT TO DO DURING A FIREWORKS EVENTS:
• Firstly: you need to stay calm.
• Secondly: you need to make your pet feel as safe as possible.
• Choose and provide treats that will keep your dog busy for hours.
• Calming wraps can help some dogs feel secure during this stressful time.
• If you haven’t prepared your pet for fireworks, create a safe space in your home. Some dogs feel safe in their crates. You can also cover the crate with a blanket.
• Remove visual stimulation and play calming music in the safe space you’ve prepared.
• Keep your dogs inside, preferably with company. Make sure the space is well ventilated.
• Make sure their bed, favourite toys and other comforting items are nearby.
• Close the windows and curtains/blinds, without compromising ventilation, do it.
• This one might seem obvious, but don’t bring your dogs to a fireworks display.
Most puppies arrive at their new home at 8 weeks old. By this time, there are only 4 weeks left to help your puppy get used to as many sights, sounds, smells and experiences as possible. This is the ideal time to introduce visual and audio stimuli for fireworks, thunderstorms and other intense occurrences. For older dogs, try to start desensitisation as soon as possible and introduce calming music to create positive associations.