The nights are getting darker, the weather is getting cooler and there’s no mistaking it: Autumn has officially arrived. This means lovely long walks with your dug while they merrily jump in the falling leaves, and lots of extra baths if your dug is a puddle-lover!
But this time of year also comes with a downside. One that negatively affects many of our canine pals (and other pets, too!)
Yes, we’re talking about fireworks.
Bonfire Night (and the lead up to it!) can be a stressful one for dogs and as a result, for us owners too.
Back before we had Bruce, our previous dog Finn was terrified of fireworks. It all started when he was about 4 years old, we had gone camping in a friend’s garden and without our knowledge, the hotel next door let off a professional, full-scale fireworks display right beside our tent.
Poor Finn was so scared he wet himself, while our friend’s dog – a lurcher – bolted and managed to get five miles away before he was found and brought home half an hour later.
Every year since that incident, Finn had to be tranquilised every time we expected fireworks.
Our story isn’t an uncommon one, and it’s something we’re asked about a lot. And that’s why we hosted a live session in our Facebook group with canine behaviour specialise Aileen Stevenson and fireworks campaigner Danny Phillips (you can check out the full live video here)
So why do dogs react so negatively towards fireworks?
We asked Aileen who explained that there are a number of reasons why a dog might be fearful. There’s the “one time learning” experience when the dog has one terrifying experience that stays with them (like in our example above), or it could be that the dog itself is just more prone to anxiety.
It may also be that your dog has some underlying pain or tension somewhere in the body, and when they hear the loud bang of a firework is causes them to tense up which in turn increases the pain. This can lead to an increased sensitivity to the loud noises associated with fireworks.
How can you prepare your dug for fireworks season?
The earlier you can start, the better and if you have a young pup, it’s a great idea to include loud noises such as fireworks into their socialisation training.
However, even for the older dug, there are plenty of things you can do to ease their stress during this season.
Here at McDug HQ, we’ve had great success with special fireworks CD tracks – you start playing these at a low volume, and they gradually build up the component noises of a firework into a full display until your dug is used to all the different sounds (using this technique even meant we were able to stop medicating Finn!)
Take this process slowly, and remember the change won’t happen overnight, but this method can be incredibly effective.
Note: there are similar tracks available on YouTube but many of these go into a full-scale loud display very early on in the track. If you do decide to use this route, have a listen beforehand to make sure there’s enough time for your dug to get comfortable.
Make a safe space for your dug
If there’s a spot in your home your dug likes to retreat to, make sure everything is there to keep them happy including some of their favourite treats, a favourite toy or blanket and let them have the quiet time they need.
Use stress-relievers that work for your dug
This will require a little homework, but find out what kinds of things are anxiety-reducers for your dug. We love lick-mats here at McDug, but we’ve also had good results with Thundershirts – a tight coat that gives the dog the feeling of a comforting hug.
Consider calming supplements
If your dug is predisposed to nervousness or anxiety, you might want to try some calming supplements. Ours contain lavender and camomile to help bring calm in times of stress for your pet.
Consult an expert
Your dug may need the help of an expert behaviour specialist or a trainer if they’re experience high levels of stress or anxiety.
How do we deal with how prevalent fireworks are these days?
Fireworks are becoming easier and more cost-effective to buy, even for the casual consumer, and we’re seeing the effects of that as the nights draw in.
It’s increasingly common for fireworks to be heard as early as September/October and won’t stop until well into January, and campaigner Danny Phillips told us all about the excellent work he’s doing to bring about change.
After years of living in an area which was becoming blighted by fireworks being let off for longer periods, Danny decided it was time to stand up and look for proper regulation of the sale and use of fireworks.
Throughout his years campaigning he’s worked extensively to convince Scottish government to implement proper regulations so fireworks can be enjoyed by everyone without causing undue stress or alarm – to us, or to our canine counterparts.
And according to Danny, you can help too.
If you have concerns about the use of fireworks in your local area, contact your local MSP and let them know. Danny is hopeful that we’re currently working towards better regulation and by voicing your concerns, you’ll be doing your bit.
How do you deal with Fireworks season?
Join the conversation over on our Facebook group – we’d love to hear from you!