by Caroline Hearn
The firework season can be such a stressful time for dogs and their guardians. What used to be one disruptive day a year now drags on from November through to early January.
Dogs can show their fear through obvious signs such as shaking and whining but often they also exhibit behaviors such as digging and tearing at carpets, furniture and doors, excessive panting and drooling as well as vomiting and diarrhea.
There are a number of ways to help your dog cope with the stresses of fireworks and early preparation is the key to success.
A change of routine: It will probably be necessary to change the time of day that you walk your dog and limit it to just the mornings with short toilet breaks in the afternoons. Dogs that are suddenly spooked by fireworks are likely to bolt so added precautions are advisable such as wearing a secure harness and staying on a long line as well as having a collar on with an ID tag. You could also try interactive or scent games in the garden instead of walking as “nose” work can be very tiring as well as giving a scene of fulfillment and stress relief.
“Thundershirt” or Body Wraps: The “Thundershirt” works on the principle of compression or swaddling to provide a feeling of comfort. It can be extremely effective but does need to be introduced a number of times before there is a stressful situation in place. It has an accumulative effect and ensure that each time it is worn the dog finds it a positive experience. Alternatively, body wraps can be used or a snug fitting T –shirt may have a similar effect.
Build a den: Many dogs like to hide away when they are frightened. This can be behind the sofa, under the bed or table or in tight spaces. As long as it is a safe place for your dog, then adapt the area to make them feel safe and comfortable. If your dog enjoys being in a crate then you can cover the crate with a heavy blanket. Keep the door propped open and easily accessible, as a dog that panics and feels trapped can seriously injure themselves.
Flower remedies: Flower remedies can be very helpful in supporting the effects of emotional trauma. I particularly like the Creature Comforters range as they are specifically for animals and do not contain alcohol.
T-Touch: Tellington Touch is a very effective bodywork therapy which uses specific techniques to calm, relax and reassure our dogs. This light touch therapy is ideal for around firework time and can be used in conjunction with the Thundershirt or body wraps.
Calming herbs and sprays: Calming herbs can be very helpful if introduced a number of weeks before a stressful event. Hedgerow Hounds have a blend called Tranquil which has helped so many dogs with stress, nervousness and everyday anxiety. If you chose to use calming sprays then it is import that they are not put onto the coat of the dog. Dogs have an extraordinary powerful sense of smell and if they can’t escape from the aroma this can in itself cause stress. Instead put sprays or drops on small pieces of cloth or in an area that the dog can chose to inhale or avoid should they wish too.
Distractions: There are Cds available which aim to desensitize the dog to the noise of fireworks. These are used at a very low volume initially and need to be introduced weeks or in some cases months in advance of an event. It can also be very useful to increase the volume of your television and radio and make sure all the curtains are drawn to deaden any noise and block out flashes of light. If your dog loves to hunt for treats then hiding a few very high value treats in a snuffle mat can helps as a distraction.
It is also vital to be there for your dog in a supportive and upbeat manner, keeping your own energy and stress levels down to create an atmosphere where they feel safe and protected will really help them cope with this potentially stressful period.