Bonfire night is just around the corner and it’s NOW that we should be preparing our pets for the event.
As a veterinary nurse and animal behaviourist, I see lots of owners asking for help about a week or a day before bonfire night, which sadly is a bit too late.
Here are some top tips for helping prepare your pets for the firework season:
- Start by desensitising your pets to the sound of fireworks whilst doing something that they find pleasant. That might be grooming them, playing or giving them treats.
- The sound effect should be realistic. (see the free download below)
- Use a good sound system. Larger, better quality speakers produce a better sound.
- It must not be too loud. Remember that animals have much better hearing than us.
- GRADUALLY increase the sound. This process shouldn’t be rushed and may take some weeks.
- If your pet shows any signs of fear, go back to the volume setting where they were comfortable. Proceed more slowly.
- The aim is that with gradual increments, you can play the sound effect at a high setting without them showing fear.
- On the night make them a comfortable den in the quietest part of the house. Animals like to hide so let them.
- Close the curtains, turn on the lights and put on some music with a steady rock beat.
- Make sure that pets can’t escape. Keep doors, cat-flaps and windows closed.
- Make sure that you let your dog out to toilet before darkness falls and the festivities begin.
- If they show fear don’t try and cuddle them too much, this can reinforce the fearful behaviour. Instead provide support in a more upbeat/cheerful way.
- For dogs, give them something to chew to keep them occupied. Stuffed kongs are good.
- There are some good, natural products that have been shown to help calm stressed animals. Zylkene is one (see my previous blog). Pheromone therapy is another -Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats.
- Sarah Heath, a World renowned behaviourist (who I was lucky to study under) and Dogs Trust have teamed up and provided free downloads of firework sound effects. I have made them available for you here:
If your pets are scared of fireworks or already have a phobia of other loud noises, take a look at my download on Systematic Desensitisation and Counter-conditioning.