In the last ten years there have been hundreds of campaigns for various animal welfare charities from all over the world, most notably organisations such as PETA and WWF which have access to huge marketing budgets. They are able to raise global protests and boycotts with an advert on the TV or newspaper. The landscape of campaigning is changing though, now smaller causes are able to gain huge support using social media platforms to gain followers and exposure. It raises the question though, is this new access to social media a great way to change the world or does it dilute the action of welfare charities with virtual chatter?
Bang! Boom! Blast! These are not sounds that pets of all types are used to. November 5th bonfire night could certainly be the most fearful day of the year for all pets in the UK. While it can be a fun packed day for the family, unfortunately your dog will not see it this way and can be extremely vulnerable to stress. Hopefully the information below will help if your dog is one of them.
The main thing to ensure is that you are there with your dog, in times of fear all of us look onto others for reassurance and support and this and this is certainly no exception for your dog. There are levels of anxiety that your dog can express during this, various forms of anxiety your dog could express include; finding your dog pacing (continuously walking/running in circles for no reason) whining, flattening ears, trembling, tail between the legs or any other unusual behaviour your dog may exhibit that they wouldn’t usually do on a day to day basis.
According to Agria Pet Insurance, the number of dogs missing on bonfire night increases to 35% than normal while with cats the number increases by 22% (link here). This is important to understand and prepare early so your dog doesn’t become a statistic.
As such, here are some simple ‘do’s‘ and ‘don’t’s‘ of combating the fear of fireworks with your dog.
- Ensure your dog has that ‘comfort’ space they can always retreat to whether that’s a dog bed, crate, your bed, a cardboard box that they can always retreat to
- Make sure all windows, doors and curtains are shut to reduce the noise and flashes
- Express calm and assertive behaviour to reduce stress with low tone communication and calm body language.
- Always promote positive communication where possible, give that tone of assurance wherever possible
- If you can, try and engage your dog with other activities if possible in the house, play ball or other forms of reward based games to put their mind off what’s going outside
- Try and mask the sound with calm music such as classical music in the background. Try and not make this too loud as it can have the opposite effect.
- Do not walk your dog at the park at times when fireworks will go off. If your dog needs to go to the toilet let him in the garden for a short time with full supervision.
- If walking outside is necessary, do not let your dog off the lead and always ensure they have some form of identification such as a collar and tag or microchip (ideally both)
- Do not leave your dog alone in the house or locked in a crate
- Do not shout at your dog or fuss over them too much. This can cause additional anxiety
- It may sound obvious but do not take your dog out to any firework or bonfire events.
- If your dog goes under the sofa or table, do not try and force your dog out. Give them time to relax and if this means under the sofa, let them relax and they will come out when they feel it is safe to do so
- Avoid any locked doors, gates or rooms that your dog might get trapped in. Ensure your dog has as much freedom as possible around the house
Each dog will react differently to fireworks so it’s crucial to understand and identify how bad that reaction can get and work from there. Different methods work better than others. Just remember: a dog has one of the most advances senses of hearing, what may sound like a gentle pop to you might be terrifying for your pet.
Under any circumstances, if you have witnessed some of the more extreme behaviours always ensure you contact your local vet as early as possible, they may be able to prescribe medication or remedies for your dog if necessary.
Good luck and have a happy Bonfire Night!
I have a new guest blog up! This time it’s from Alice Crick at The Dog Blog giving advice on helping dogs that are fearful, shy or anxious.
You can view it here.
I thoroughly enjoyed the article. It reminded me of a rescue Retriever ‘Ben’ whom I had the pleasure of living with in the final 3 years of his life. Ben belonged to my partner, Jennifer. Unfortunately for Ben who was rescued and shipped from Ireland, he was thought to have lived in a metal crate for most of his life. When it came to the outside elements that he wasn’t used to he was absolutely terrified. Things from pots and pans, going through doorways, sticks – even flashing lights! His joints were work down from sitting on concrete for most of his life.
What Jenny and her family did when they first adopted him was to try to gradually introduce him to those things he was scared of to try and combat them. For example with wooden sticks, they had a pool cue and placed it around the living room so the dog would see and pass it everyday. Gradually as there were more pool cues around the house he got used to them and after about 4 months he had lost his nervousness, just as well as the amount of pool cues became a trip hazard!
As you can imagine, after that he was not only combating his fear of sticks but his trust grew within the family and his confidence grew. Reading and understanding your dogs behaviour in this process is key, not fully understanding the basic signs of dog behaviour could potentially make the problems worse so you have to be careful if you decide to apply this method. Alice’s guest blog describes how to identify the signs of stress and fear but explains how to control them and eventually eradicating them.