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How to calm your dog during fireworks

Bonfire Night is just around the corner and many of us are already looking forward to wrapping up warm as we watch the sky above us light up with fireworks. However, this can be a very distressing time of year for pets, whose hearing is much more acute than ours. Even if you are not planning to let off your own fireworks, you will not be able to escape the explosions and bright lights from your neighbours’ gardens. 

At best, your dog or cat will simply retreat indoors for the night – however, if they may become very anxious so it’s worth following our advice for a stress-free Bonfire Night.

Prepare carefully
We all know it’s coming so make sure you start planning early. The RSPCA recommends creating a safe space for your cat or dog, filled with familiar cushions and toys.  They may already have a favourite spot but you should think about whether it’s suitable for Bonfire Night. If it is close to a window, for example, you could consider moving it somewhere more hidden such as under the bed or even in a wardrobe with blankets inside.

Distraction is important so you could leave the radio or television on to drown out the noise. Choose soothing music or a sedate film to help your four-legged friend feel as relaxed as possible. If you have a dog, take them for a long walk during the day to ensure they are tired enough to sleep in the evening. This is also a good time to make sure your pets are micro-chipped as the sound of fireworks, especially if they are let off before 5 November, may cause them to seek refuge elsewhere by running away from home.

On the night
Despite your best intentions, you might experience a sense of panic when the night comes. Animals, of course, pick up on how we are feeling and this can heighten their fear so it is important to remain calm and put what you have rehearsed into place.  Shut all the doors, windows and curtains and encourage them to go into their safe space. Use their toys to distract them or soothe them off to sleep with background music. Cat owners should also lock the cat flap to prevent them bolting outdoors when the festivities begin.

Looking ahead
It’s almost taken for granted that pets are frightened of fireworks – but did you know there are long-term solutions? The Dog’s Trust has produced a series of free sound clips ranging from individual fireworks to full displays, along with an information booklet. Known as ‘sound therapy’ and available on the website, this is a good way to expose your dog to different noises in the weeks and months beforehand.
However, if your pet suffers extreme anxiety you should speak to your vet who may recommend behavioural therapy or sedatives. 

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28 October 2015

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