My rescue dog arrived just before 5 November last year and showed signs of distress when the fireworks went off. Now that she’s settled in, she may not be quite so bad this year. Nevertheless, are there some precautions I can take?
Nik Oakley advises…
If only fireworks were just one night a year, then we could probably just about cope. Now fireworks can last throughout November with Diwali being celebrated and later, the New Year.
While our immediate reaction is to prevent a nervous dog being distressed, the biggest issue associated with fireworks is dogs bolting when a bang goes off unexpectedly. For this reason, it’s very important to take some really sensible measures. Even if your dog doesn’t seem to show any obvious aversion to fireworks inside the house, that may not be the case outside. The sudden blast from a firework, which may ricochet, can make a dog bolt and even leap a fence. So, if your dog needs to go out for a pee, simply take her out on a lead. That way she can’t bolt out of fear.
I never fail to get astounded by people who walk their dogs at night when fireworks can go off at any time. Just don’t – it isn’t worth it. While many dogs who go missing as the result of fireworks return home after a day or two, or are found in a field or barn, the fatality rate is high. All too often, a dog bolts into the path of a car or a train and is killed instantly. A horrifying scene, and all too preventable.
Inside the house, I recommend providing your dog with a safe space. Pick a spot furthest away from windows and exterior walls, and build a little bunker. My favourite has always been to throw a few rugs over the dining room table and build up the sides with solid boxes or crates. That way your dog has a little hidey-hole and if necessary, you can crawl inside, too. Other people have tried ThunderShirts for fireworks with some success. These wrap-around jackets work by providing gentle, constant pressure to your dog’s body, producing a calming effect. They cost about £25-£40 depending on size. There are other brands, such as the ZenPet anxiety vest and Anxiety Wrap – both of which are a little cheaper.
Alternatively, you could try an Adaptil diffuser for the whole month of November. This mimics a natural appeasing pheromone to help dogs feel safe and secure when they encounter new or challenging situations, whether it be fireworks, thunder or separation.
There are tablets available, but they are only of use if you know about an event in advance. You could try your dog on a course of Nutracalm, but this is only available through a vet. Other treatments are also available – consult with your vet as soon as you can.