It may still be September but if you have a dog or dogs who are frightened of fireworks then it may sound crazy but, NOW is the time to start preparing them.
Preparing for the unknown!
I personally am very much against members of the public being able to buy fireworks, purely because gone are the days when they were only let off on the 5th of November! If this were still the case then it would be much easier on our pets and I would not have to be writing this post. But here we are and firework night has turned into firework season. It can start any where from mid October through to the middle of November and start from 4:30 pm through the night up to 11 pm or midnight on the 5th November itself.
Be good enough to let your neighbours know.
If you are intending to hold a firework party it would be nice and resepctful if you could let your neighbours know, especially if they have animals, so they can prepare them for the worse.
How to prepare your dog - Give them a den.
I am lucky in that right now none of my dogs are frightened of fireworks except for the crazy ones that sound more like landmines and shake the whole house, which thankfully are rare. But if you have a dog which is frightened then start by giving them a den. This is a crate big enough to house your dog comfortably; it can be a wire or soft-sided crate; in this case it doesn't matter.
Place their den (crate) where you normally like to hang out in the evenings such as in the kitchen or lounge. Cover the den with a blanket - this helps to make it nice and cozy and also provides some noise insulation from the outside world.
Place your dogs favourite bedding in the crate and attach a coup bowl or water bucket to the side of the crate, should your dog become thirsty.
Now in the weeks leading up to the fireworks get your dog used to using it. I feed their meals in their den and provide stuffed knogs or marrow bones for them to munch on in the evenings whilst I watch tv or blog post. I also provide them with their favourite toys to play with or some exciting new ones.
Their choice of den.
If your dog decides he/she has their own favourite hiding place and it is safe for them to use that place of their choice then let them use it. One of my friends said her dog went under her bed when frightened but she dragged him out because she didn't think he should be able to choose where he wanted to go! I had to ask why and explained her dog obviously felt safe there so she now allows him to choose and he is much more relaxed around her.
Talk to your vet
There are quite a few remedies that can be used to help your pet through firework season and they need not be anything that will make your pet drowsy; infact these type of remedies are very much frowned upon in most veterinary practices. But there are quite a few homeopathic remedies such as scullcap and valarian or Pet Remedy that can be used, but you need to start these now for them to be effective. I hear of many dog parents only starting to administer these products on the first evening they hear fireworks and then claim that they do not work. They do but you really do need to start now so that when the time comes your pet is ready for anything.
Prepare your garden
This sounds mad but every year I see on facebook or read in the dog paper of dogs that have esacaped from their gardens when panicked by fireworks. Whilst we still have good daylight thoroughly examine your fences, walls and gates to make sure they are high enough and secure enough to contain your pets should they become panicked by a sudden loud bang.
Adjust your dogs exercise schedule
I am always shocked when I see dog parents exercising their pets with fireworks going off all over the place. Especially when they let them off of their leads. You may think your dog doesn't mind firewaorks but it takes just one, unexpected bang to frighten your dog and they could be gone into the night before you know it. So I adjust my dogs' walking schedule during this period making sure they are given a good run either first thing in the morning or mid-afternoon at the latest. If you are unable to do this because of work or other commitments then consider hiring a good dog walker over this time to help out.
These are like a snug-fitting dog jacket that some of my friends have found to be very effective for their dogs which were anxious for a whole host of reasons such as during thunder storms; for seperation anxiety and fireworks. There is no need for training or medication. Here is the link for further research https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thundershirt-Anxiety-Coat-Dog-Grey/dp/B0029PY7SK?tag=dandb09-21
This is when you obtain the sound of fireworks and play them in and around your home on low volume, at first and increases the noise over a period of time. This is supposed to desensitise your dog to the sound of fireworks and make them less frightened and stressed. I have mixed feelings about this but if you would like to give it a try Dogs Trust has a free booklet and downloadable sounds for you to use at https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/dog-behaviour-health/sound-therapy-for-pets
Engage them in activities that they love
This may sound crazy but one of my dogs was petrified of fireworks but if I was playing with him or working him with his dog dancing or competition obedience during a particularly noisy firework evening, he coped much better. It was as if engaging with me and giving him a "job" to do took his mind off of his fears. We had loads of playing tuggy, running through his exercises and more tugging games. This also helped if he heard a sudden noise and was worried at shows such as Crufts; he immediately tugged on his lead and engaged with me rather than going into fright and flight modes.
Prepare your home
My energy provider must love dog moms like me over firework season! If I hear fireworks going off I close all windows, draw the curtains and switch on all of the lights in the rooms where the dogs are located to prevent them from seeing the sudden flashes that usually occur prior to the noise fireworks create. I also turn on the tv's and radios in every room where the dogs are to disguise the firework noise and I give them marrow bones or stuffed kongs to distract them. If they want to go to their dens I let them, whatever makes them feel comfortable. I would have exercised them mid afternoon and given them their evening meals, this can make them sleepy too.
Don't leave them home alone.
Never leave a dog that is fearful of fireworks home alone. I can not remember the last time we went out on new years eve or new years day purely because I know people will let off fireworks on these dates and I need to be at home with my dogs just incase any of them become worried.
Because one of my dogs was so petrified of fireworks I was finding this time of year was having an adverse affect on other times when we were at shows too if he heard sudden loud noises. So for several years if firework night fell mid week and we were going to have a series of very noisy nights over the weekend before, during the week and the weekend after the actual event I would pack up the dogs in their warm dog jackets, line their crates in the car with warm bedding and drive out to the country where we would park up for the evening in the peace and quiet. We would leave at around 6pm and return home by 9:30pm and I quite enjoyed the evenings drinking hot chocolate and catching up on my reading. The dogs quite enjoyed their marrow bones too. It might sound an obsessive thing to do but when you see your dog in such a state you will do anything to relieve that stress if you can.
Stay calm yourself
No one likes to see their pets in distress but it is important that you stay calm and try not to react to their fears. I usually work at my computer where I can concentrate on something other than what is happening outside of my front door and any dogs that are worried can sleep under the desk. They will follow your lead - you stay calm, they will stay calm.
A dog that is scared of fireworks will normally not want to go to the bathroom before bed time. Outside has been like a war-zone for the past few hours; the night sky is filled with smoke and firework smells and going outside to do their usual nightly business is just too scary. So be forgiving of your pet if you come down in the morning to a mess on the kitchen floor. It's not their fault and you need to be understanding. Don't make a big thing out of it, clean it up and get on with your day.
Only you know your dogs and what will work best for them. I hope I have given you a few ideas that you might want to try out, but if you are reading this and it is already firework time then still try some of the ideas and make a better plan for next year. Dogs don't normally grow out of this type of fear so you will need to be better prepared for next time. Good luck.
If you have lost your dog during this time please read my post in the index entiltled "What do I do if I lose my dog".