Tips to keep your pet safe and calm during the party season
from our resident dog trainer Rowan Carter
Bonfire Night in November and New Years Eve in December are always the most frightening calendar dates for pets, especially dogs. Some dogs may seem unaffected by the bangs, but internally they can be confused and anxious even if they don’t bark or shy away. This is true more so with rescue dogs who are usually still processing everything that has happened to them, and don’t need the added stress.
There are plenty of ways you can prepare your dogs for the festivities. These take just a few moments of your time to set up, and will mean the world to your fur-baby, giving them a calm supported evening. Do not assume that because of Covid-19 your neighbours will not be using fireworks or having gatherings; be prepared.
Before we begin, you must check that your pet’s microchip details are up to date, and that they are wearing a collar (which is a legal requirement) with all of your current details. You can never be 100% confident that your dog won’t run off, and this allows you the best chance of finding them.
Top 5 Tips:
1) A tired dog is a calm dog.
As you won’t be able to walk your pup in the afternoon/ evening due to the fireworks you will need to ensure that they are fully ‘worn out’ in the morning and at at lunch time. Take them on a longer walk, and fit in an extra walk where possible so that by the time it starts to get dark they are relaxing in their bed or in a comfortable spot. If you haven’t been able to wear them out, try playing extra fetch games in the garden or the house, anything that uses their brain and gets them tired. Enrichment toys such as Kongs, puzzles and scent games can help burn off extra energy too.
2) Prepare a safe place.
You know your house better than anyone, and you also know your dog’s favourite place. This could be next to your bed on a blanket, in their crate, on an armchair, in a corner… just make sure their own bedding is there with their toys and anything else that smells comforting to them. It may be worth putting an item of your clothing down as well so they can ‘smell you’. This will be the place they stay when things start getting hectic.
3) Keep your doors, windows and curtains closed.
With a family it can be difficult to track the movements of all household members at one time, especially if you have little children running around in party-mode. It is critical that all members of the household know that the dog should be visible in it’s safe place, and that back doors, front doors, and windows should never be left open. These are perfect escape routes for a frightened dog who is trying to bolt from, what it views, as a terrifying situation. The best way to do this is to keep all curtains closed and elect a person to ‘guard’ the dog throughout the evening. This person will keep tabs on the dog, making sure they aren’t distressed, and check that the dog hasn’t been let outside in error.
4) ‘Cover up’ the sound of fireworks and shouting with music
It sounds obvious, but did you know that just by playing music at a slightly louder volume than usual it can mask a lot of the shock value of sudden loud noises. The music you are looking for could be on a loop on YouTube of Spotify so you don’t have to keep changing it, and it should be something that has prominent drumming and deep bass noises. A great example of classical orchestral music that uses timpani (kettle drums), or Taiko drumming videos (Japanese energtic drumming), one of our team even used a 1970’s classic motown/ northern soul mix with the bass setting turned up and that worked too.
5) There are medical and physical solutions available if you need them.
Pet remedies such as Adaptil can be purchased from Pets At Home and other stores. These use pheromones to keep your dog calm, and are often used in stressful situation such as trips to the vet or long car journeys. You can also use a ‘thunder shirt‘ if you have one, which is an anxiety wrap that makes them feel supported, like they’re getting a permanent hug. Lastly you could purchase a ‘stress band‘ which fits around your dog’s head and flattens their ears so that they hear less of the noise around them.
Whatever you choose to do this party season please be mindful of your pets. They don’t understand the difference between fireworks and thunder, they can’t distinguish the tone of a joyous shout outside to one of anger or threat. Have a wonderful, safe new year and we wish you all the best for 2021. – Rowan