October has arrived and pet owners across the country prepare for the ever stressful holiday that is Halloween. While it’s my favourite time of the year, for our furry friends, fireworks often cause serious stress and panic.
The explosions of noise and light can be a time of trauma for many dogs and cats, even a mile or two away.
Unfortunately, fireworks being set off are not limited to one night, but rather the weeks coming up to the 31st as well. Not only are these noises scary and unfamiliar, but they can be deafening for sensitive animal ears.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to try to flee during fireworks to seek safety which can end up with them getting lost and into dangerous situations.
How to help your pet stay calm.
1. Give your dog a safe space.
If your dog is crate trained, a crate with soft blankets is a perfect way to give your anxious dog a sense of security. Leave the door open so he can come in and out as he pleases. An extra blanket to cover the cage will block out some of the sounds and feel extra cosy. If he’s not crate trained, putting his bed in an area that’s quiet and calm can help. My own pack love to snuggle up together in the box room with their beds and blankets. Don’t force your dog to come out or cuddle with you, let them hide if they want and just stay close by.
2. Distract your dog with other things.
If your dog is a playful pup, be sure to distract them with fun things to do. Toys with treats in them will keep their attention for a while. Fill a Kong with your dog’s kibble mixed with peanut butter and pop it in the freezer. This will make it harder for your dog to get the treat out, meaning it keeps them busier for longer. Just make sure your peanut butter contains no xylitol as it is toxic to dogs. Rewards are a good way to show your dog they’re doing so well during this unpleasant time. Some dogs take comfort in teddy bears or soft toys also.
3. Keep the outside out.
Have your windows and curtains shut to minimize the sound. Keep the lights on so the light from the fireworks doesn’t seem as bad. If you aren’t able to be there, leaving a TV, radio or soothing music on will make your dog feel as though he’s not alone. Online, Dog’s Trust Ireland offers free sound therapy tracks to help ease your dog into the sounds of Halloween but you will need to work with your dog a few weeks in advance to make sure he is firework ready. You can find the soundtracks here.
4. Scents Sense
Lavender has powerful calming, soothing effects on the brain and is a great oil for calming dogs. Dilute a few drops of the essential oil in water and burn it in a diffuser (make sure it’s well out of your dog’s reach), or rub it on his bedding or coat. Do not use essential oils around cats.
Flower essences are also known to help calm an agitated animal. Try rubbing some Bach Rescue Remedy on his ears or paws, or putting a few drops in his water. As always, consult your vet if your dog has any health problems or is taking any medication before giving remedies to help him cope with fireworks night, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
5. Check your info
Make sure your pets have up-to-date ID tags with your current phone number. By law, you have to have your pet microchipped in Ireland and it’s no harm to double-check the info is all correct in the event that they do get out. You should take a current photograph of your dog so if that awful scenario does come about, you have a recent picture of your dog to share online and on “lost” posters. Having a current and clear picture of your dog will help to get them home quicker.
6. Wrap that pup
If your dog is very anxious around loud noises, you might consider a wrap. There are two canine wraps on the market that reportedly help sound phobic dogs.
The original Anxiety Wrap uses acupressure and maintained pressure to reduce stress. The thundershirt provides gentle, constant pressure. Their website reports that over 85% of Thundershirt users see significant improvement in noise anxiety symptoms and I personally can vouch for the success of this particular wrap. We bought a Thundershirt for Ozzie when we first adopted him to help him with his anxieties and it was honestly the best purchase we ever made. We still have it 7 years later and put it on every now and then if he becomes anxious. It’s basically like your dog getting a giant big hug all the time.
Just keep calm and carry on.
The most important thing you can do is stay calm. If you panic and make a fuss, your dog will sense this and feel as though something is wrong and that there is, in fact, a cause for panic.
The above tips are just a guide. You can read more on anxious dogs and natural ways to treat their anxiety here.
I always recommend seeking professional help from your local dog trainer or vet should you have very specific issues that your dog needs help with.
Oh and if you’re considering a pet photoshoot you can read about how I work with nervous dogs here. Have a happy and safe Halloween from Pawtrait Ireland.
Bow-wow for now,