Solutions for dog fright on firework night
Many dogs experience severe worry during firework season. Any solutions need to be planned and should ideally start around the middle of October at the very latest. Don’t expect anything to work perfectly, if your dog truly is freaked out at this time of year you really need to think of a combination of things to help alleviate his fears.
For some dogs firework season is terrifying. If sedatives are suggested be aware that they won’t necessarily take away the terror but they can take away the ability to move. If these type of drugs are used the association between fireworks and fright can actually escalate and become more intense by the next firework season. Alternatives, in the form of the following suggestions are much better as the dog is allowed to make his own decisions which allows him to choose where he wants to be when the bangs are at their worst, and you can help by experimenting with different types of holistic type therapies.
Please be aware that no one thing is going to take the distress away-but the following can reduce the fright even if it is not totally eliminated.
The following suggestions are worth trying;
Canine Bowen therapy-Bowen therapy is a perfect firework season therapy. It is gentle and the dog can take as much as he likes. Bowen is never forced onto a dog and it consists of a series of gentle moves over specific areas of your dog’s body. Several of my clients have said that Bowen has reduced their dogs’ anxiety by 50%.
Thunder shirts or wraps-body wraps were first “discovered” by Temple Grandin. Temple Grandin has a feeling for animals and has a unique insight into animals as she is autistic. Some of the most recent developments in animal welfare have come directly or indirectly via her ideas and outlook on life. She realised that if she was “contained” she was less fearful in certain circumstances. So from this point many different products were developed for dogs. As with all of these suggestions they should be experimented with before your dog is seriously distressed-so start to work with these before any fireworks are set off. Before you invest in a thunder shirt for your dog you might just want to try by using one of your old tee shirts or cardigans that will wrap around your dog’s body so that it hugs into him. If the tee shirt doesn’t seem to have any affect then at least you will not have invested in a more expensive thundershirt. The other thing to think about before purchasing a thunder shirt is that they are fastened with Velcro-so if your dog is worried by these kind of noises then don’t invest in something that will worry him even before you start.
Lavender and geranium oils-essential oils can cause irritation to your dogs’ sensitive nose so before you put lavender (or any oils) anywhere near your dog ,offer a small amount for him to smell. If he likes it he will turn his head towards the smell- if not he will turn his head away and show signs of dislike. If you are thinking of using any essential oils please make sure that your dog chooses each one and you give him the choice to move away. Otherwise there are now many people who have been trained and can help you to choose the right oils for your dog.
Camomile tea-many people have had really good results with this. Try putting 2 bowls down for your dog beside each other, one of plain water and the other of camomile, this allows the dog to choose. Definitely do not force the dog to drink the chamomile by taking his water away.
Adaptil Diffusers-these simulate the pheromones given off by the mother while the puppies are in the womb and are comforting for many dogs-the collars can be particularly helpful at this time of year.
Pet remedy-is a product which you can buy which contains a blend of valerian, vetiver, basil sweet and sage. This is a different product to an Adaptil diffuser. Available as a plug in or as a spray which can be used on beds and blankets, bandanas or coats that your dog may wear. You can also spray it onto your own clothing when you are spending time with your dog to help calm both of you!
A den-a den is a must, but let your dog choose where he feels safe. If he seems to want a den to hide away in, find out where that he feels safe and build a den for him there. This place may be somewhere odd-perhaps in a bathroom, or he might want to stay close to you, but to prefer to be in a cave like place that you built for him. Many people use fabric type crates for their dogs at this time, so they are less threatening and easy to put away but don’t lock him in or he will panic. Blankets can also be used to cover the den so it feels more secure.
Do comfort and soothe your dog– do not ignore him as many people still advise. After all you would comfort your child, or another person if they would worried. Dogs are no different and they need our help and comfort to build confidence, and to help them feel safe.
Homeopathy-each remedy is very specific to a certain type of problem so it is hard to advise on which remedies will be most effective, so you will need to do a bit of research into which ones might be appropriate.
Bach flower remedies can be very useful as they work on an emotional level-for instance rock rose is for terror. Alternatively buy rescue remedy which is ready mixed for use and includes the remedies which will help for distress and anxiety. Use it directly onto your dog’s tongue or add a few drops into his water.
Carbs in the form of rice/milk pudding/ pasta-good to use on firework night itself to induce relaxation, there is nothing more restful than a full stomach!. Filling your dogs’ stomach with starch and carbs can often help and provide a feeling of comfort and warmth as so many of us are familiar with. Unless your dog is allergic to wheat or rice a pasta dish or rice pudding might be really appreciated and have a calming effect on your dog.
Chews-are stress relieving and if your dog has something that he loves to chew then stock up for firework season. It is recommended that a dog spends at least 30 minutes per day chewing.
Rest-is imperative during these kinds of times. Encourage him to rest by staying in a room with him and do something quiet ….watching the telly, reading, cooking.
Music-can also be soothing and helpful. Try using music from sites such a “Through A Dogs’ Ear”. They produce soothing and quiet music which has helped many dogs with their firework terrors.
Avoid at all costs
Darkness/night– dog’s often associate fireworks with night so don’t take your dog out in the dark until well after firework season is over. Many dogs become terrified of the dark, so don’t make the mistake of asking him to walk in the dark at this time-you can easily be caught out, especially at dusk when people start their firework parties
Open windows– even during the day. People are apt to let fireworks off at any time of day, and if you are out he may well try to jump out of the window in an effort to find you. This happens to many dogs every year-with or without fireworks.
Going out and leaving your dog-never leave your dog at any time while fireworks are going off. If you do have to go out and he is very frightened get someone to sit in with him.
Stressful activities –if he is already worried about the possibility of fireworks going off, then cut down on any training or activities that will over excite him. Even “nice” activities can raise stress levels and stop him being able to cope over this time. Mental stimulation is really helpful too- puzzles and nosework have a calming effect on dogs.
Too much exercise– short relaxing walks where you encourage your dog to take his time and use his nose are recommended at times of stress
Any big changes –changes are stressful, so please avoid making major changes to routine or lifestyle during these times. Your dog thrives on routine, therefore stick to it and any changes need to be put on hold.
Horses also suffer from fireworks, they may not be affected as much as dogs purely because they do not generally live in urban areas, but this does not mean that they are unaffected by them. It is worth trying many of the remedies that have been discussed above, including Bach flower remedies and homeopathy and Bowen therapy is especially useful for horses. As discussed above Bowen needs to be started a few weeks before firework season.
- It is best to check with any neighbouring houses or farms to find out whether they are likely to be letting fireworks off. If so make sure you check the dates and leave horses in a secure and comfortable environment.
- As with dogs if you know that fireworks upset your horse it is best to be somewhere nearby to make sure they are not too distressed but please be careful around panicking horses, they react quickly if they get upset. It is not unusual for foals and young horses to take fright especially if they are out in the field. Bangs can cause panic and horses can be horribly damaged by going through fences.
- leave plenty of hay for them to eat as this will help to settle, horses are trickle feeders and also benefit from something to do when stressed.
For more help with an anxious dogs please do email me – firstname.lastname@example.org