Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Dogs and Fireworks

Having a dog that is afraid of fireworks is no walk in the park.  Quite literally.  Caesar is one of many dogs who suffer from the minute the bangs and pops begin and gets gradually worse as the fifth of November approaches.  Managing this time of the year has been a learning experience for us.  Here's what I've learnt over the past few years about owning a dog who is literally terrified of fireworks.

To begin with, it's important to remember that every dog is an individual and different things work for different dogs.  The reason I say this is because there is so much conflicting advice when it comes to fireworks.  And, you know what your own dog needs.  For example, where some dogs will appreciate having somewhere to hide, other dogs, like Caesar, feel comfortable being closer to their owner.  If a firework goes off, 9 times out of 10, Caesar will bring himself as close as possible to us.  Some advice will tell you to ignore the dog and act like nothing is happening.  Again, having tried this, I find that simply giving Caesar a cuddle and talking to him normally can ease his anxiety a little - and he actively seeks contact when he's afraid.

Today, for example, I returned home from work to find the house empty and Caesar sitting in the bathroom looking petrified and shaking like a leaf.  It didn't take me long to realise that, despite it only being 5 o'clock, people were letting off fireworks.  I took Caesar into my bedroom and lay on the bed with him and told him about my day at work.  I did feel a little boring when he fell asleep - but at least he had stopped being anxious!  And you can't please everybody...

"So you'll never guess what happened this morning Caesar.....Caesar??"

Anyhow, after seeking and gathering much advice on fireworks as well as now having a little personal experience with a dog that has a phobia, here are my top tips:

1.  DO NOT walk your dog on or around bonfire night past night fall.  (The same goes for New Year!)  - even if this means missing a walk or two.  It really is worth it for your own peace of mind!
2.  DO try natural calming aids such as rescue remedy, thunder shirts and plug in pheromone diffusers.  However, ultimately, if your dog is still afraid, seek advice from your vet - the sooner the better!
3.  DO give your dog somewhere safe to retire to - I use Caesar's castle or a crate with a large blanket over the top.
4.  DO NOT attempt to pull your dog out from hiding under furniture - I know it may seem obvious but I've heard more than one case of dog bites from this from first hand.
5. DO play music or TV to distract from the sound as much as possible.
6. DO listen to your dog.  And by that, I don't mean ask them to tell you what is upsetting them but follow their lead - they will let you know if they need closeness or a hiding place, some privacy or some attention.  Use your initiative to decide how much of each is needed.

After following lots of advice for fear and trying my best to ease Caesar, I finally took him to the vet.  He is now taking Valium for his phobia and I must admit I have seen an improvement already in that he is not shaking as much.

Further Information
Fireworks and the law -  https://www.gov.uk/fireworks-the-law
Advice from the RSPCA - http://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/general/fireworks

Have you got any advice of your own to add to the list?  Comment below to add your tips.