Pets and fireworks

Summer festivities often include fireworks for everyone’s pleasure… over here.pets excluded! Very loud and unexpected noises are not a good association with our animals’ acute and sensitive ears. Here are some advises to turn fireworks events into less stressful times for your dog or your cat:

  1. Leave your pet home – Even though you think fireworks are really beautiful, chances are that your dog will not appreciate them as much as you do. Why not spare him an event that he will most definitely not appreciate? If your dog has been used to fireworks since his puppy years or if he is not reactive to loud noises, perhaps he will not find fireworks very scary and could join you. You are the judge; you know your pet the best! You should however be ready during the event to leave the beautiful sight above to look down at your dog and make sure that he is in a good stress-free zone during the explosions. You should also be ready to leave the event if your pet panics, as panic mode and crowd do not mix well.
  2. Close all doors and windows – To limit the explosion sounds that your cat or your dog will hear, AND to limit the chance of your pet escaping from your house. Yes, this happens often during fireworks: Pets that have never been known to run away do as they are basically running for their life in a total state of panic.
  3. Turn on the TV and the radio – More soothing sounds inside the house means less room for stressing explosion sounds. Simple math!
  4. Provide a safe haven for your pet – Before you leave, make sure your pet has a safe place to hide when he gets scared. You could for instance leave him in his cage if he is used to the cage or leave him in a quiet room. For instance, some cats and dogs will want to hide under the bed. You will also want to limit any accidents that can happen. Even dogs that are not destructive can eat random things in order to manage the excessive stress they are feeling. Toilet trained pets can also have accidents. You absolutely do not want to punish them if you find one of these “accidents”: Remember that your pet was in a panicky state, basically fearing for his life, and that this is what he had to resume to do without having better options available. It is your “job” to manage his environment or his stress level to avoid such accidents.
  5. Act “cool” and reward cool behaviors – If you decide to stay home and to not attend the fireworks event, then you get a chance to train and to manage your pets better. When you hear the first explosions, act cool like you do not find this alarming at all. Pets turn to their owners to judge the seriousness of a situation: Seeing you are not worry might calm your pets. You could also reward your dog during the fireworks when he is acting calm, to teach him that this is the behaviour you are looking for. You could finally help him not worry about the noises by playing with him at his favorite game!
  6. Train him around loud noises – If your pet is not reactive to loud noises, chances are he will not be reactive to fireworks. Believe it or not, there are even fireworks soundtracks that you can play to desensitize your scared dog, like these: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC2757C4F3C9501E5. What is so great about them is that you can play with the volume by starting at a low volume and then gradually increasing as your pet becomes more comfortable with the sound. Again, you will want to reward calm behaviour and teach your pet that there is nothing to worry about by acting normal and fun whenever he hears loud noises.

 

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