02 October 2018

Fireworks, Visitors and Parties – Tips for a Stress-free Dog

dog scared of fireworks

Alas, summer is over, and winter is on the way! But it’s not all doom and gloom (well, maybe a bit of gloom) as there are plenty of things to look forward to like Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas, to name but a few! With all these get-togethers jammed into the remaining months of the year, winter can be a stressful time for your dog. Loud noises from parties and fireworks, plus new people visiting can leave your dog feeling distressed and anxious.

Just like people, some dogs can be more anxious than others, and learning to recognise the early signs can make calming your dog a lot easier. Not all dogs show the same symptoms when they are scared but having a list as a general guide to set against your pet’s normal behaviour can help you decide whether you need to take action.

  • Body language: pinned back ears, low tail, leaning backwards. Cats may hide away, and outdoor cats may stay indoors more
  • Lip and nose licking in dogs
  • Excessive grooming or shedding (which can lead to fur loss)
  • Dogs may ‘stress yawn’ (more intense and more frequent than normal yawns)
  • Dogs shake themselves a lot (like they are shaking off after a swim)
  • Lots of whining or ‘crying’
  • Lower appetite, particularly in pets that are usually good eaters
  • Toileting accidents indoors in a previously reliably house-trained pet
  • Avoiding interaction. Don’t force interaction if a dog is turning its head away, showing the whites of its eyes or cowering, as the other option for a fearful dog can be aggression.

Keep Calm on Bonfire Night

Remember remember the 5th of November – a time for a toasty bonfire, a warming drink and glorious fireworks! For people, Bonfire Night is a great time, but your dog might not be so keen – and who can blame them? Loud, sporadic noises with no obvious source can be scary and confusing. With all these unfamiliar noises your dog might need some extra care during celebrations.

anxious dog - stressed dog

Bonfire Night, Halloween, Diwali and New Year’s Eve, as well as the days surrounding them, are times of the year when fireworks are most likely to occur. Mark these weeks in your calendar, so you can start preparing if needed. You will never be able to completely shield your pet from scary noises during this time of year, but with these tips and helpful products you can help your dog feel more comfortable.

  • Go for an early walk

The evenings are when firework celebrations are the mostly likely to happen, so take your dog on a walk earlier than usual when it’s still light out. This can be a little tricky with fewer daylight hours in the winter, but it will ensure that your dog is safely at home when the fireworks start.

  • Try to acclimatise your dog to fireworks and other loud noises

Training and acclimatisation, particularly when your dog is young, can help teach them that there isn’t anything to be afraid of. It may sound strange but playing CDs or online music clips of thunderstorms and fireworks can really help your dog understand that rumbles and bangs are nothing to worry about.

  • Positive association

Try and combine negative stimuli, such as strange noises, with a positive experience. The next time there are loud noises, give your dog a chew toy or treat, so they begin to associate those sounds with a positive experience. Food can also be a good way of distracting your pet from anything scary! If your dog is motivated by food, then distraction toys can help them forget about the bangs and booms outside.

  • Calming Treatments

There are certain remedies that can be helpful for treating canine stress and anxiety, especially when combined with training. Try using pheromone treatments, such as Adaptil, available in tablets, sprays, diffusers and collars. Adaptil works by mimicking the natural comforting pheromones released by a mother dog to reassure her puppies.

  • Set a good example

If you are stressed or anxious, your dog can pick up on your emotions and may follow your lead. Create a calm and relaxing atmosphere and spend the evening chilling with your dog. It is important to be patient with your dog and to reassure them but try not to fuss over your dog more than usual. Carry on as usual, so your dog knows that everything is fine and there is nothing to worry about.

  • Try an Anti-Stress Shirt

Using swaddling technology, these shirts help your dog cope with stressful situations. The Petlife KarmaWrap Anti-Stress Shirt wraps your dog in a gentle embrace, creating a secure and safe feeling. This proven wrapping technique has an effectiveness of 85% and helps soothe your dog in a natural way.

  • Muffle the noise

Keep your windows and doors closed and draw any curtains to try and keep the noise from fireworks and celebrations to a low. You can even try and mask the noise with music or the TV.

  • Consult your vet

If your dog seems to be constantly anxious and their behaviour doesn’t change then let your vet know. They may be able to recommend dog food that can help your pet feel more at ease. There may also be underlying medical conditions causing them to behave this way.

It’s Party Time!

Even the most sociable dog can find parties overwhelming with lots of strangers, new sights, smells and changes. As long as you are well-prepared your dog will be happy and comfortable, so both of you can have a good time!

  • Create a safe haven

Let your dog socialise on their own terms. If they need a bit of quiet time, then having a peaceful room to themselves can help limit their stress. Prepare a quiet room away from the party-goers with your dog’s favourite toys and bedding. You can set up this safe space a few weeks before the party, so your dog associates it with a comfortable and relaxing space.

  • A tired dog has less energy to be stressed!

Help your dog burn off extra energy, so when the party starts he’ll be too tired to be anxious. Go for a long walk or have an energetic session of fetch with your dog to tire him out. This also means that when your guests arrive, your dog has already had a walk and won’t need to go out again too soon.

  • Is your dog very sociable?

A well-socialised dog can easily be a happy participant in celebrations and may enjoy all the new people. Take the time to introduce your dog to your guests, so all are comfortable. If children are present, try to keep them calm and avoid excessive noises around your pet as this can increase stress levels. Make sure your dog doesn’t get over-excited by all the extra attention. Keep a close eye on him to ensure that it’s not all becoming too much.

  • Natural supplements

Keep your pet calm in stressful situations with natural calming supplements, like Zylkene. Zylkene capsules help your pet to cope with stress more easily, using only natural active ingredients, with a substance derived from milk that is also created in the gut of newborn puppies when they digest their mother’s milk.

You can also try Lintbells YuCALM supplements, which contain a combination of natural ingredients that help regulate neurotransmitter levels and create a calming effect that reduces stress for your dog.

When your dog is stressed, anxious or scared, remember to be a source of comfort. Be patient with your dog, because when it’s scared it can’t fully control the way it behaves. Try not to scold your dog, instead try to reassure them that everything is fine. If your dog behaves be sure to reward and praise him with treats and cuddles. You can also try a variety of calming treatments to ensure your dog is relaxed and happy.

At the end of the day, the biggest reward for your dog is your company and love. Just like dogs are there for us when we’re having bad days, be there for your dog!

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