The fifth of November can be a nightmare for dogs who are afraid of fireworks – and for their owners. Unfortunately these days, fireworks tend to start in October and continue through to Christmas, in a seemingly never-ending celebration.
There are a variety of ways to help your pet stay calm during bonfire night and the festive season, using everything from plug-ins to pills. This year however, the first ever audio book is being launched to keep man’s best friend docile during the explosive night time activity.
Narrated by the dulcet tones of Simon Callow, the story is of a dog called Stanley “a very special dog, who is as brave as a lion.” It is entitled Teddy and Stanley’s Tall Tale <http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2012/oct/31/audiobook-cure-dogs-fear-fireworks> , and has been developed by experts to help keep pets calm during Bonfire Night.
The doggy audio book <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/pets/9645257/Dog-scared-by-fireworks-The-soothing-tones-of-Simon-Callow-could-hold-the-answer.html> was created by Karen Wild – a pet behaviourist – in conjunction with an insurance firm. It uses scientifically researched speech patterns, frequencies and sounds to soothe dogs without the need for medication.
Teddy and Stanley’s Tall Tale is free for pet owners to download in anticipation of fireworks celebrations.
The effect of fireworks on our canine companions
The RSPCA has issued advice for pet owners, for families who are concerned for their pets’ welfare during the celebrations. In 2011, the charity received 525 calls regarding fireworks and pets, with 300 of the calls made in November. Already, the RSPCA claims it has had 58 calls in 2012.
Like humans, every dog reacts to fireworks in his own unique way; but there are three basic strategies used for dealing with the fear of fireworks – running away, hiding or fighting. Dogs may become aggressive, have panic attacks or become depressed when they hear fireworks – they might even begin to show signs of fear when faced with other loud noises. The effects fireworks have on dogs can be incredibly distressing for their owners too – many of whom don’t know what to do when faced with an extreme phobic reaction.
Coping with fireworks
The RSPCA’s advice for owners of both cats and dogs is to ensure your pets are kept safe and secure inside the house, with somewhere to hide should they want to. It is vital owners make sure their pets can access this sanctuary at all times.
To protect dogs from the noise of fireworks displays, mask the loud bangs with calming music – or alternatively, you could play your pet the calming Teddy and Stanley’s Tall Tale. The RSPCA says you should never show any anger towards your pets when they appear frightened because this will make them think that something really is wrong. Shield your dog from bright flashes of light by ensuring windows and curtains are closed.
The RSPCA also advises the use of pheromone diffusers which can be plugged in to wall sockets. These send out calming chemicals to keep your pet happy. If your dog is severely affected, seek advice from your vet, who may prescribe medication.
Your dog can also benefit from behavioural training to abate their fears and phobias. Behavioural training can be used in conjunction with other techniques and medications.
Make sure you are covered
It is vital, especially during times of great distress, that your pet is covered by a comprehensive insurance policy. Paying out for medications and vets visits can be costly – especially if your dog causes injury to his or herself during frightening fireworks displays. Pet insurance <http://www.money.co.uk/article/1009442-how-to-find-pet-insurance-that-covers-pre-existing-conditions.htm> is a must all year round, but it can certainly help during bonfire night and the festive season when money any spare cash has been earmarked for Christmas.
If your pet has already been diagnosed with a firework phobia <http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/pets/general/fireworks> , you should look for a policy which covers him or her for their pre-existing medical conditions. Otherwise, you might find yourself lacking funds when it really matters.
Pet insurance also covers a family for the loss of a pet, which is common over bonfire night when dogs sometimes run away from home in fear, in an attempt to escape the fireworks. To minimise the risk of lost pets over this period, ensure your dog is kept inside and is micro-chipped so he can be found if he does manage to get out.
Blog post by Melissa Hathaway (contact email [email protected])