Are you worried about how your dog will cope with Bonfire night? Don't worry you are not alone, it's estimated that 45 percent of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks.
I feel like I'm going to a counselling session when I say this but it's good to both acknowledge and accept that "we too have an anxious dog". By recognising anxious behaviours in your dog it is one of the first ways that you can help your dog overcome their fears, secondly you can then prepare for events and environments that your dog may find fearful.
We both understand and prepare for the environments that can cause Moo Moo anxiety. We deal with noise phobia and its symptoms on a regular basis so our top tips we want to share come from our own experience (we have had guidance from a fully APDT qualified behaviourist) and research within the area on how to keep your dog safe and calm this fireworks season.
Our top tips are:
Build a Den: Is there a place your dog takes themselves too if there is something uncomfortable happening to them? We have 3 happy places for Moo Moo when something as simple as the kitchen extractor fan or the bacon starts cooking (yes it sometimes is the most simple things that can cause anxiety). Daddy's pillow, her own dog crate or the corner of the sofa are all Happy places for Moo Moo.
Identifying your dogs 'Happy Place' is the first step to keeping your dog calm, always make sure they can access that place in times of need. Maybe consider a dog crate, dog bed under a table, and sheets and blankets covering all sides.
Moo Moo & Bear both have crates but prefer to be on the sofa with us. Luckily its just turned chilly and so our snuggle sacks made by Slumbering Hound are out on the sofa already and they will be tucked inside these all snuggly, toasty and calm for the weeks to come.
Long walks: Last year we arranged a schnauzer walk on the Saturday afternoon, the night we predicted most fireworks to be going off. It worked a treat. We all know dogs love their walks, especially with others, so an early afternoon long walk can often tire your dog out which will help, even better if you can arrange a pack walk. It's never too late to arrange, if you have a local dog walking group, I'm sure people will all be happy to join in an organised walk. Avoid the evening walk if possible as fireworks as we all know can be all too unpredictable.
The unpredictability can make toileting in the evening a bit of an issue. We try and keep late night pee pee's til very late, we keep the door open and always pop them on a lead to ensure should they become startled we have control of them. If not using a lead, keeping the door open allows them, should they consider bolting to seek the comfort of your home. Its always best to check your garden gates, fences are safe especially at this time of year.
Keep them Busy: Enrichments toys, and chews are ideal offerings at this time of year. Keep them busy, focussed and calm with a healthy long lasting activity such as a stuffed kong, lick mat or long lasting chew.
Chewing is good for dogs, it's a completely natural behaviour. Chewing helps relieve stress and mild anxiety by triggering the release of endorphins. Choosing a low fat and long lasting chew can help ease mild anxiety, keeping them both busy and focussed for some time. You will often find your dog more relaxed after having a chewing session. We give both Moo Moo & Bear long lasting chews at the weekend, hence we have called a selection of our handpicked range of healthy chews 'weekenders'. You know the time, when you want your dog to settle as you sit down, feet up with a glass of wine and watch the last part of the drama series you've been looking forward to. The weekender is the equivalent guilt free entertainment and enjoyment for your dog. Check out our range of healthy 100% natural 'weekender' chews here.
Turn the Volume up: We hope you have already tried firework desensitisation available through the internet. The Dogs Trust has a free programme with essential information and a downloadable sound resource. Desensitisation and counter conditioning combined, when done correctly, can have significant positive effects. I have used both these methods in the past for Moo Moo with great positive consequences and permanent behavioural changes, but it's a programme that needs to be taken very slowly and in the correct manner to gain the best response.
You can also join in with Bill Turnbull on Classic FM who will for the second year be creating special animal friendly soothing music to help calm nerves and ease stress during the unfamiliar noises firework season brings.
If you do have to go out to celebrate with friends and family, then make sure your dog is in it's 'Happy Place' and that the TV or radio is on turned on to attempt to distract from the noises outside.
Natural Remedies: There are a huge a range of natural remedies which can be helpful to ease mild anxieties on the market today which is fantastic. Personally we have used and explored a whole range of different products, some with positive effects and some that didn't work. from Thundershirts to wholistic medication and everything in-between. It is really dependant upon the level of anxiety your dog displays as to whether these over the counter products will work, and in the midst of an anxiety episode, they are unlikely to be of massive great benefit. It's all about planning and preparing to combat any fears from happening in the first instance.
We love out Pet Remedy products as personally we have found them to be significantly beneficial at times and will most certainly have the pet remedy aroma floating around the house for the forthcoming firework season and beyond ( in order for it to work to its maximum effect we always use prior to any signs of anxiety or distress). Check out our Pet remedy package which offers you not only a bandana and mini trial sized spray bottle but 20% off any future purchase should you find it a useful tool.
The Wholesome Hound have just brought out a Happy Place candle....perfect to add to our Happy Place too. It's a soy wax candle ( great for the environment) filled with calming essential oils such as Geranium, Cedarwood and Lavender, all known to have calming and relaxing properties.
Hey...did you notice that everything we have suggested has been totally natural and chemical free? Great news don't you think?
Its all about ensuring you have everything in place to simply allow no anxiety over firework noises to creep in. We are very lucky in that although Moo Moo is noise phobic, she nor Minny Bear have ever struggled with the noise of fireworks, but we prepare all the same as the noises are so unpredictable, loud and so irregular in a dogs life that they may suffer one year when previously hadn't. Proactive and not reactive is our motto.
If you are worried about your dogs behaviour and have tried these simple remedies, then please do seek your vets advice as they are best placed to offer you the correct advice on your dogs health and wellbeing.