As you'll have seen from my previous blog post, I'm not a huge fan of fireworks. But as there's little point in stamping my feet and getting cross about the current regulations, I'm being proactive about how to deal with Kai's fears.
Here's a list of some of the things that I will be doing, plus others that fellow readers of the blog have found helpful. If you have a dog who suffers, then I hope that you'll find some useful advice and comfort for them here.
- Only head out for a walk during daylight hours, better safe than sorry
- Stick with lead only exercise towards the end of the day, just in case someone should let a firework off early
- ID tags on your dogs collar are a legal requirement, make sure yours are up-to-date and that you dog is wearing their collar at all times - even when just popping out in the garden to the toilet
- Better still, is your dog microchipped? Collars can be lost, but a microchip will stay with your dog should they get lost
- Contact your vets to discuss the severity of your dog's fears - there are a range of herbal (see below for my suggestions) and medical standbys that could help
- Make a safe space for your dog to hide in when the bangs start - Kai loves his crate which we cover in blankets which seems to help him feel better
- Have some raw bones in the freezer that you can defrost or something similarly interesting for your dog to chew on - we found that whilst Kai was still quite wild-eyed he was able to settle into chewing on a big bone (try your local butchers or pick up one of Natures Menus raw meaty bones either from their website or your local stockist)
- Should your dog go missing, fellow dog lovers from K9 Search Dogs may be able to help find them, but they'll need something which has the scent of your dog (and particularly that individual dog if you have more than one - see their advice about this on their website)
- Before it gets dark, get them outside to go to the toilet as they may well not want to come out later on
- Absolutely my mistake at the weekend and one I'd encourage you to avoid - try not to leave your dog alone, even for a short period as it gets dark. You never know what time someone might be setting off a firework locally.
- Draw the curtains and have something noisy on the TV to watch - X-Factor at the weekend works quite well in our house :mrgreen:
- Whilst I wouldn't want you to panic with your dog and add to their fear, please don't ignore your dog if it's looking to you for comfort - you're the person they trust to keep them safe, and whilst you can't stop the fireworks your presence will be important to them
- Provided it's safe, let them decide where they'd like to hide during the bangs outside - don't aim to coax them out, let them be until it's all over
- Personally I like to have us all shut up in our front room together rather than have Kai dashing from room to room in a panic, he seems to settle better like this. But play it by ear - watch your dog's body language closely and 'listen' to what they're trying to tell you
- If you can get them to join in a training game or mad 5 minutes of tugging, then this might distract them from being frightened. If he's not too frightened that has worked quite well with Kai - playing with our other dogs was enough to create a bit of jealously which had him focus on me and not being scared
Socialisation CD's that are recordings of different sounds including special fireworks editions are quite popular as a way of preventing fears. With young puppies and dogs seem to work quite well, but having had the CD player blaring at full volume and Kai showing no reaction - my personal experience is that they don't seem to work so well with a dog who has developed a fear.
One suggestion for this from research that I read recently is that dog's hearing is far superior to our own - therefore they can tell the difference between a recording and the real deal.
But once we're safely out of the danger period, perhaps in the spring next year I might look to revisit this to research it further.
Here's some affiliate links to Amazon for the products I'm using this fireworks season with Kai. I would LOVE to be able to offer a magic wand, one size fits all solution, but unfortunately different things seem to work for different dogs.
My personal feeling with the products I've suggested below is that they all have a marginal effect on Kai's fears, so combined they offer him a level of comfort that we can manage together.