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Keeping dogs calm around fireworks season

Fireworks season can be such a stressful time for our animals. The loud bangs and flashing lights can be so scary as they simply don't understand what they are and what's going on. To help them out, there are actually a few things we can do to prepare them and help them to be less stressed and more relaxed during the firework season.

1. Start desensitising your dog (or other pets!) early!

Desensitisation is a great first step into helping your dog settle whilst fireworks are going off. The way you do this is by playing the sound of fireworks through speakers starting at a low level and during the day for a while. If your dog is calm and comfortable, you can turn it up a level and if your dog is nervous you can turn it down one so that they aren't getting stressed and are learning to be calm with the noises going on. You can then slowly build up to full volume and then move onto doing the noise at night and even playing some fireworks with the lights on your TV so they can even see them for themselves. Starting early means you have plenty of time to help your dog become comfortable and eliminate as much stress as you can from them when the fireworks go off for real.

2. Play a game with your dog

If your dog enjoys a particular game, play that game with them when the fireworks start! For some dogs, playing a fun game with you helps them to not become anxious and de-stress if they are anxious already. Some games you can play are; ball, find it (with toys or treats), tug of war or treat games like snuffle mats and toys. This helps the dog to get a positive experience with the idea of fireworks and can help them to settle down and de stress by doing something fun and enjoyable.

3. Prepare yourselves for the night

If you know there are going to be fireworks a particular night, get yourself and your dog prepared early to make the evening as least stressful as possible. Take them out for a wee before it gets dark and before the fireworks start if you can, shut the curtains, put some music or a film on and if you need a toy or some treats make sure you have them to hand and at the ready. The better prepared you are, the more comfortable and relaxed your dog will be.

4. Make your dog a nice comfy den

If your dog is particularly nervous, a really good thing to do is create them a nice den that they can go to relax in if they want to. Something like a crate with a blanket over and a nice comfy bed in or a corner of the room you can put some blankets in and a cover over to allow them to have a nice covered and comfy space to go and relax in if they would like to.

5. Don't get angry with them, but also don't overly fuss them

Being scared of fireworks is a completely reasonable thing for a dog as they don't understand that the flashing lights and loud bangs are not going to hurt them and so we need to be aware and understanding as owners that they aren't simply being naughty for no reason. Don't get angry with them and tell them off as this isn't going to help them and is more likely actually going to make them worse. On the flip side, don't overly fuss your dog and be constantly cuddling and stroking them. Dog's don't understand 'being comforted' in the same way that people do and so you cuddling and stroking them is actually rewarding them for being scared and can solidify the nervousness making the anxiety worse. If your dog is getting really stressed, try some of the techniques we've mentioned to help lessen their anxiety rather than fussing and cuddling them.

6. Don't be afraid to use a lead if you need to

If your dog is getting really stressed and is struggling to settle, grab yourself a lead, pop it on and help direct them to something more relaxing for them to do. Ask them to settle on their bed, play a game or just get them to sit on their bed next to you so they aren't at risk or hurting themselves or running off. If you know your dog is nervous, make sure to take them out to the toilet on the lead so they are safe and can't run off and get lost if they do get scared.

7. Try some natural calming remedies

There are lots of natural calming remedies that can actually be really effective way to naturally help your dog relax and not be so anxious. Some of the remedies we use are:

-Valerian compound (dorwest herbs): valerian is a natural calming remedy and you can get it in a little glass jar with a pipette that you can squirt into your dogs mouth to give them a fast acting anti-anxiety

-Pet Remedy (spray and/or plug in): Pet Remedy is another great product that contains some natural anti-anxiety ingredients like valerian, vetiver, sweet basil and clary sage. They have lots of different products that you can use to help your dog or other pets in stressful situations. We use a plug in in stressful situations and also have a spray that we can use to spray bedding, bandanas or even just a little on their chest to help calm them down and de-stress

Other natural calming and anti-anxiety remedies include: rescue remedy (without alcohol content), aspen (Bach Flower Remedies), rock rose (Bach Flower Remedies) and lavender in a diffuser. Another great product you can try that can help a lot of dogs is a Thunder Jacket, these add gentle pressure to the dogs body and help them to feel less anxious and more relaxed.

The most important thing to do is be prepared. Although fireworks nowadays can be let off randomly, when it gets to November we know that fireworks are more likely than not going to be let off a lot and so we need to be prepared as owners so we can best help out dogs. Being prepared means we can support our dogs and help to make the time to be as least stressful as we possibly can.


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