Guy Fawkes night can be a time filled of fear for our furry friends. Now is the best time to start thinking about how best to prepare your pet. But firstly I want to start with the signs you should be looking out for that indicate your pet is showing those tell tale behaviours that they are feeling fearful of fireworks or loud sounds in general. The first signs you might see are more subtle like - exaggerated yawning, lifting a paw, turning away or walking away from the direction of the sound, your dog may have his head lowered along with ears down, and tail down or tucked in between his legs. Then if the fear is increased you might see panting, shaking or pacing around, maybe trying to hide under something, or he could be sticking very close to you. Any of these signs indicate a fear response and should be acted upon to help prevent the behaviour escalating further.
What can you do? You know that your dog hates fireworks, so the best thing to do is to plan ahead. Set up a crate, put a nice heavy blanket over it to make it nice and dark. If you haven't got one, getting one from a second hand shop is a good option. Make sure your dog has access to the crate at all times, encourage relaxing in this area, by putting in a nice comfy bed, familiar toys and chew toys. Consider using an Adaptil diffuser plugged in near the crate, or an Adaptil collar. If you have a dog under 15kgs you could also start feeding Royal Cainin Calm food. For this to have the most impact it is recommended that this is fed for at least a month before fireworks are expected.
On the night fireworks are expected keep your dog indoors early, and when taken out to the toilet keep him on a lead. Pull curtains to help black out any flashing, have the TV on low or play some calming music (such as classical), to help block out the sounds. Consider a vet visit to purchase some calming medications.
A word about Reassurance
Back in the day, dog trainers, vets and other animal care professionals would recommend not to reassure dogs showing fear from fireworks. It was thought that by reassuring was also reinforcing the behaviour. This has since been shown not to be the case. In fact it has been shown that if you refrain from reassuring your dog they are more prone to developing a fear from fireworks. Simply speaking to your dog in a quiet voice, and slow patting may help to keep them settled.
When to get help
Just like us, dogs are individuals and the fear they feel will be unique to them. In some cases the things I have mentioned above will not be enough to help them get through the fear. If you see the following behaviours -- your dog is continually jumping on furniture; pacing, digging or chewing at the carpet at a door way trying to escape (even to the extent that they are damaging their own teeth or nails) -- I recommend you get further help by contacting your local vet clinic, or a veterinary behaviourist. Some may escape homes and get themselves in to all sorts of terrible situations.
Ultimately you are your dog's guardian, and with that comes the responsibility to help keep your pet feeling safe and secure. Understanding the first the signs to look for and making a safe place for them will help them feel more comfortable. It is really important you reach out to your vet if the response is more serious, and being prepared for what is to come will help greatly.
Your dog and other pets all deserve to feel safe and secure, they are totally reliant on you to provide that environment. If you need help don't hesitate, to ask and start preparing for it now.