Bonfire Night and Fireworks – advice

bonfire_night

Keeping cats and dogs secure;

• During firework seasons, walk dogs during daylight hours and keep cats and dogs indoors when fireworks are likely to be set off.
• At nightfall, close all windows and curtains, and put on music to mask and muffle the sound of fireworks.
• If your pet shows any signs of fear, try to ignore their behaviour. Leave them alone – unless they are likely to harm themselves.
• Never punish or fuss over your pet when it is scared, as this will only make things worse in the long run.
• Make sure your cat or dog is always kept in a safe and secure environment and can’t escape if there’s a sudden noise. Have your pet microchipped in case they do escape.
• Try not to walk them at night and certainly not off lead and to supervise in the garden and only go out for toilet visits. Dogs can easily bolt out of fear.
Just for dogs – before the firework season starts
Planning ahead can help your dog cope with the firework season.

Talk to your vet about pheromone diffusers. These disperse calming chemicals into the room, and may be a good option for your dog. Or in some cases, your vet may even prescribe medication. If either of these options is used, they should be used in conjunction with behavioural therapy. We would recommend asking your vet to refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist, or using the Sounds Scary! CD therapy pack (see below).

Before the firework season starts, provide your dog with a ‘doggy play area’. This should be a quiet area, so you might want to choose one of the quietist rooms in your home. Train your dog to associate the play area with positive experiences, e.g. by playing games with it. Use a variety of toys and swap the toys regularly, putting them away when not in use so that your dog doesn’t become bored with them.

Some dogs also appreciate being able to hide when frightened, so providing a ‘doggy den’ in the play area may help them to cope. For example, this could be a wardrobe or a cupboard, packed with old duvets and blankets to make it more comfortable and to help sound-proof the area. It is important that your dog has access to its ‘doggy den’ at all times, even when you’re not at home.

Just for dogs – when the fireworks start
• Close any windows and black out the ‘doggy play area’ to remove any extra problems caused by flashing lights.
• Each evening before the fireworks begin, move your dog to the play area and provide toys and other things that they enjoy. Make sure that there are things for you to do too, so that your dog is not left alone.
• Ignore the firework noises yourself. Play with a toy to see if your dog wants to join in, but don’t force them to play.
• If you know a dog that is not scared by noises and which gets on well with your dog, then keeping the two together during the evenings may help your dog to realise that there’s no need to be afraid.
Sounds Scary – for dogs
In the long term, your dog needs to learn to be less afraid of loud noises. With proper treatment this is possible, so that the next firework season will be less stressful for you and your dog.

We recommend Sounds Scary! an easy to follow CD therapy pack for dogs, which includes two CDs, an information booklet and an easy to follow guide. The amount of training needed will vary from dog to dog, and the RSPCA recommends that owners start training with the Sounds Scary! CD well in advance of firework seasons.

Just for cats
• Make sure your cat has somewhere to hide if it wants to. For example, this may be inside a cupboard, under some furniture or in a quiet corner.
• Don’t try and tempt your cat out, as this will cause it to become more stressed.
Don’t forget small animals
• If your pets live outside, partly cover cages, pens and aviaries with blankets so that one area is well sound-proofed. Make sure that your pet is still able to look out.
• Provide lots of extra bedding for your pets so that they have something to burrow in.

Read further information from the national RSPCA here.