It is safe to say that 2021 has been a bit of a roller coaster year, culminating in a quieter Christmas and New Year for many.
The huge firework display in London, England will be cancelled this year, to prevent the spread of any Covid 19 variants; and this is likely to be the case for many organised fireworks displays in your home city town or village, which could result in Fireworks being much closer to home and in your gardens or neighbourhoods.
Fireworks can be very loud and very scary for your dogs and puppies, especially if it is their first New Year’s Eve, so I have put together a few handy hints to keep your doggies comfortable.
- Break Your Doggy Before It Gets Dark
Make sure your dog has been out for a walk or at least been able to “take a break” before it gets dark. New Year’s Eve can be dangerous for both of you. Stray fireworks may find their way to you and your dog may be scared by a large bang and try to bolt while out on a walk. If your dog does try and bolt, martingale collars can be very useful at keeping them at the end of the lead. Martingale collars gently close on a dog if they pull, so they cannot slip over the dog’s head. This should not be confused with a choke chain which I do not recommend in situations like this as they may cause harm if used incorrectly.
2. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar WITH A DOG TAG ATTACHED
It is your legal obligation as a dog owner that your dog wears a collar and tag at all times. It is especially important when you have lots of people coming in and out of the house or on nights like New Year’s Even when your dog may be scared of fireworks and bolt. The quickest and easiest way for a dog to be returned to an owner is through a dog tag. Dogs must also be micro chipped by law, but getting a dog to the vet so the chip can be read over the holidays may be tricky. Please make sure as a minimum your dogs tag has your address and phone number on it.
3. Prepare a safe place for your dog to go to
If your dog is crate trained, this may be the best place for your dog to chill out on New Year’s Eve. It will feel very safe in its crate as it will replicate that canine urge to den when it feels uneasy or scared. You can place a heavy blanket over the top of the crate to help it feel more secure, but make sure your dog is not able to pull it in to the kennel and destroy it.
- Music for dogs – YouTube has lots of music choices for dogs. I have chosen some for you, click here to access them. Play these at quite a high volume to drown out the loud fireworks. They are actually quite relaxing for humans, too!
- Pheromones to chill out your pup – Adaptil have a pheromone spray or diffuser that replicates the smell of a puppy’s mother between 3-5 days old. This also works with adult dogs. When I flew my dogs from the Cayman Islands to the UK, I made sure to spray this in their crates and bedding. The diffuser is useful for keeping a room calm for a dog over a period of time.
- Soft lighting or a TV – darkness will only illuminate the flashes from fireworks and will create more anxiety.
4. A Thunder Shirt
It would be wrong of me to finish this blog without mentioning the ThunderShirt, especially as the thinking behind it was pioneered by one of my hero’s Temple Grandin. The Thunder Shirt applies a constant even pressure to your dog which is supposed to make them feel secure in times of stress. I have never had to use one of these, but through anecdotes from other dog owners I have not heard that they have helped a great deal. That could be because the most important part of keeping your dog calm during fireworks is ignored (See Step 5 below)
5.DO NOT HUG YOUR DOG
If you have trained your dog with me, you will know we ignore unwanted behaviour and reward desired behaviour. If we hug, coo and try and pacify our dogs when they are exhibiting unwanted behaviour, we are actually promoting it. I know some of you may feel I am cruel when I say this, but if you follow the 4 preceding steps, you will not need to comfort your dog. He or she will be in a safe place where he can feel free to exhibit the behaviour he is feeling, without the risk of bolting out of the door or getting lost. None of my dogs are scared of fireworks, simply because I give them their own space to feel comfortable in.
It should go without saying of course, NO DOG should be left outside when fireworks are expected. It should also NOT be tethered inside or outside. Crates are a great way to allow a dog its own space and to feel safe. I use crates to transport my dogs in the car as well as safe places to stay if we have guests in and out of the house and the door may be left open accidentally. ( I love opposite a Fish and Chip shop and Rosa is just DYING to get in there ha ha.)
Remember, any serious behavioural issues should be discussed with your vet. This article should not be used in place of veterinary advice.
May I take his opportunity to wish you a wonderful and safe New Year’s Eve and a happy and prosperous 2022.
If you have any tips you think I have missed about this dog training related topic please feel free to add them below: