12 September 2010

Dogs and fireworks

A scary Saturday for Stevie
Fireworks are stressful for many dogs
Before I had dogs I always loved fireworks. The whooshes, fizzes, pops and bangs and glorious technicolour displays plus the smell of gunpowder always evoked childhood memories of bonfire night, eating jacket potatoes around the bonfire, making silly shapes with sparklers and generally having a great time. But not anymore.

Yesterday I was provided with an early reminder of the effects that fireworks can have on our dogs...

We'd spent the afternoon and evening at my Mother in Law's house and just as we were about to leave, at around 9pm, someone started letting off fireworks - the very loud kind that make the windows rattle and dogs howl, cower and shake.

The effect on Stevie was immediate and very distressing to see. The first firework went off while he was snoozing in the lounge. Within a nano-second, his ears pricked up, he stood up and started to shake. His heart was racing and he had nowhere to escape to. We managed to make it to the car between bangs and unfortunately, just as the hounds got into the car a loud bang went off, making poor Stevie even more fearful.  We drove away quickly and left the firework sounds a long way behind us.

Our drive home is a good half hour's drive away, yet Stevie was still shaking when we got home. He immediately ran up stairs to his dog bed, in the quietest corner of the house, and stayed there panting, shaking and with his heart racing.  It took a long time for him to calm down.

Stevie is very fearful of fireworks

It's only the beginning of September and bonfire night is about 8 weeks away.  New Year's Eve is even further off. However, last night's events were a salutary and somewhat timely reminder of what is to come

There are some great web resources to help all of us prepare our dogs for what is now turning into a weekend or even weeks of firework 'celebrations.' 

I've listed a few of my favourite sites below. They're all packed with practical and realistic advice to help us help our dogs, at what is a very stressful time for our pets.

  • Dogs and Fireworks is a fantastic site which was established last year by some great friends of mine. It includes a free e-book, packed full of practical advice, and a free MP3 of firework noises.
  • There's also the Sounds Scary CD which can be used in the weeks running up to bonfire night to help desensitise your dog to firework sounds

So, where does this leave me with Stevie?  Well, I'll definitely be following the advice in the websites I've listed above.  I'll begin with gradually introducing him to the noises of fireworks by using  prerecorded sounds of fireworks. I'll also be using a DAP collar and diffuser, and making sure Stevie has a quiet den that he can escape to and feel safe in.

I certainly won't be letting off any fireworks when the 5th of November arrives. I'll walk all the dogs early, close the curtains, turn the TV up loud and keep the house as calm as possible.

Most of all, I will breathe a huge sigh of relief once the weekend of 5 November is out the way and then take a deep breath to start preparing for New Year's Eve.

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