Helping dogs to cope with the stress of fireworks

By Rachel Spencer

Fireworks season is one of the most stressful times of the year for our pets – and owners and we wanted to help you and your dogs cope with the stress of fireworks

Research from the RSPCA found 62 per cent of dogs, 55 per cent of horses and 54 per cent of cats show signs of anxiety when they hear fireworks.

A spokesperson from the charity said: “This fireworks season could be the worst for animals for decades as lockdown cancels public events and Government restrictions prompt more people to have DIY fireworks displays at home.”

Their advice to help dogs with the stress of fireworks is to provide them with a safe haven, so a den or crate, consider a calming collar or plug-in, walk during daylight, soundproof your house by closing curtains and windows and try to desensitise them to firework sounds.

Small furries can be comforted by having extra bedding and the charity urges owners of horses and livestock to put them in barns or stables when fireworks begin.

There are lots of products and gadgets that can support animals too, and in this post, I talk about the things that have helped my pets and some other solutions for coping with fireworks.

1. Create a safe den or hideaway

Making a cosy den is something you can do for dogs and cats. A blackout crate cover with roll-up doors is ideal – you can have the cover down or up and it muffles sound.

Putting blankets over a regular crate has the same effect.

Fill it with a nice comfy bed, a blanket that smells familiar, and toys. Why not try giving your dog a stuffed Kong or treats to enjoy being in there so they see it as a positive place.

Place it somewhere like the living room, where they can go in and out whenever they please. Ideally don’t shut the doors so they can see it as their ‘bedroom’ and a place to relax and feel safe.

2. Exercise them as much as you can in the daytime

No matter where you live, kids will set off bangers and being in the vicinity of a firework is terrifying. Each year, you hear of dogs bolting off and going missing for days.

Website Doglost.co.uk say they deal with hundreds more cases of missing dogs at this time of year because they run away after being frightened by fireworks.

So ensure your dog has most of their exercise in daylight fireworks.

If you take them out in the garden to go to the loo later keep a close eye on them. If there is any risk of your dog escaping from the garden if startled you might want to put them on their lead.

It might sound over cautious but it’s best to be on the safe side.

“Website doglost.co.uk say they deal with hundreds more cases of missing dogs at this time of year because they run away after being frightened by fireworks”

3. Take them on a doggy vacation

For those of you who live close to a city centre, it often means loads of displays on the weekend before Bonfire Night and on November 5th.

It might be worth going on a mini-break to somewhere more remote such as a quiet village with barely any fireworks at all. Plan ahead and do your research. Sometimes our pets prefer to be in familiar surroundings though so this top all depends on your individual dog and how they react.

4. Play calming music

There is a great Spotify playlist called “Relaxing Music for Dogs” and it’s brilliant. It’s a little like the music you have in a spa.

I use this music for my dog Patch. It’s really easy to access if you have an Alexa or Google home, just tell it to play Relaxing Music for Dogs.

5. Try a herbal calming supplement or compound

Try a supplement like YuCalm Dog and YuCalm Cat. They’re tasty and you can put them inside some of their food in a Kong or chew toy, as the act of chewing calms your pet.

They contain Lemon Balm to help them relax but it’s not a sedative and can start to take effect in a few days. We used them to help Patch settle in after adopting him in August.

Lintbells worked with Bristol University to develop this treatment to reduce feelings of anxiety for dogs but to help them overcome the issue they were scared of by re-introducing them to it with positive rewards.

The supplements contain L-Theanine Green Tea extract and Whitefish protein extract which supports the feelings of reward and Vitamin B.

John Howie, co-founder of Lintbells explains: “You start by helping them feel calmer, and when they feel calmer they’re more receptive to training or the message you’re giving them, then the other extracts trigger the feeling of reward and playfulness.

“Because they feel better about the situation they’re in, there’s a positive cycle of calming and feel-good behaviour.”

If you need something fast-acting, try Dorwest Valerian Compound comes in liquid form and works in a few minutes, so you can give it to them if fireworks start unexpectedly.

Rachel Spencer, stress of fireworks

6. Help them get used to the noise

Dogs Trust has a ‘Sounds Scary’ programme developed by vets Sarah Heath and Jon Bowen and playlist you can use to acclimatise your pet.

It includes whistles and whooshes, bangs and pops, full fireworks and individual fireworks and it can help reduce fear by gradually exposing them to the noise in a safe environment.

Find out more via the Dog’s Trust Sound Therapy for Pets.

7. Use a plug-in diffuser or collar

Adaptil pheromone plug-ins and collars for dogs and Feliway diffusers for cats can be used in the weeks and even months running up to Bonfire Night and New Year.

It’s recommended that they’re used a month before you expect your pet to experience anxiety, so start using them now and expect to see a change in a week.

Dog appeasing pheromones – those released by their mother while in the litter, which dogs find comfort in throughout their lives – are released by both products.

These go via the nose to receptors in the brain to give a feeling of calm. With the collar, they are reassured whether they are indoors or outdoors.

The Adaptil Calm plug-in diffuser circulates the same pheromones in the home and creates a comforting and safe environment for dogs of all ages.

8. Spritz their bandana with a calming spray

Pet Remedy spray is ideal to spritz on bandanas. Created by vets, it’s completely natural and can be used for dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and small furries.

It’s made of a mix of Valerian, Vetiver, Clary Sage and Sweet Basil essential oils and works by mimicking the pet’s own calming mechanisms.

When they become anxious, Pet Remedy sends messages from nerve cells to the brain to calm and acts almost instantly.

Pet Remedy comes in a diffuser too, and the spray is organic so kind to skin and fur, and with a delicate scent that won’t irritate pets.

9. Feed them a neutral tablet to support them

There are two tablets for pets that can be given with food during times of stress.

The first is Zylkene which contains milk protein derivatives and magnesium to calm pets.

It’s designed to mix easily into your pet’s food and should be taken a couple of days before and after any event that might cause anxiety.

Anxitane chewable tablets are taken twice daily and contain natural L-Theanine to promote feelings of calm without making your pet drowsy.

They have a fish flavour to make them more appealing and can help pets stay alert and focused too.

10. Consult your vet

I’ve talked about some products I’ve tried and found helpful and medication that has been recommended by trusted professionals and organisations.

But the vet who sees your pet regularly is the best person to advise you and ensure you don’t mix any of the tablets or supplements suggested here.

Finally, I hope you and your pets have a safe and stress-free fireworks season.

Since the launch of The Paw Post Pet Blog in May 2017, they have told the stories of dozens of people making a difference in the lives our pets.

Entrepreneurs, pet business owners, charities, rescues and experts regularly share their insights on the blog.

The blog is carefully curated by freelance journalist Rachel Spencer who writes mostly about the pet industry for national newspapers, magazines and websites including the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Sunday Express and Closer.

The Paw Post has been featured in Media Analyst Vuelio’s Top Ten UK Pet Blogs every year since 2017 and is currently ranked 4th .

If you’re an animal lover and you enjoy reading heart-warming and inspiring stories you should definitely take a look at the blog and to get regular updates you can sign up to the newsletter via the website

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