Many setters don’t worry at all about fireworks but if you are concerned the following may be useful to you.
If you have a puppy or young dog that has not faced fireworks before think about getting a CD which gives a series of noises, from vacuum cleaners and noisy cars to fireworks. By playing the CD regularly and often, gradually increasing the volume, your dog gets accustomed to the noises. To distract him from the noises you can get him interested in other things such as games, training or chews so he is not concentrating on the sounds. Please follow any instructions carefully.
If he is particularly sensitive you can buy a DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheremone) diffuser which plugs into an electric socket and which mimics the pheromones released by lactating bitches which are calming and reassuring. It is recommended to start using the diffuser about a month before fireworks begin as it can take that long for it to be effective and should be plugged in 24 hours a day.
Many people use herbal products to help reduce anxiety and calm pets and you could consider Scullcap and Valerian, but not if your bitch is pregnant or lactating.
It is not unusual for a dog that is anxious to try and burrow into a dark corner or in the bottom of a cupboard. It is useful to make a den beforehand and get him used to it so that he can go into it and feel safe. If he already has a crate or cage you can cover it with blankets to keep out the light and muffle the noise. If he doesn’t have a cage then find somewhere else in the house, maybe a cupboard, under a bed or make a den out of cardboard boxes. He may even choose the place himself. Give him lots of extra bedding to burrow into and make sure he is away from windows or the door and put it somewhere in the house where the level of the noise is as low as possible. Don’t shut him in, as he needs to feel secure but not trapped and it might help if he has toys and new exciting chews to distract him.
On firework night the following are useful tips:
- Make sure he is not left alone and afraid.
- Follow your usual routine as much as possible.
- Make sure he is well exercised before it gets dark so he is tired and also has been to the toilet.
- Pull all the curtains and put the television and/or radio on high volume.
- Close all windows, doors and cat flaps so he can't get out and the noise is minimal.
- Make certain he can’t get out of the house in case he panics and runs away.
- Make sure he is wearing his collar with an identification tag.
- If he does get anxious don’t pay attention to him. If you make a fuss of him you are reinforcing his behaviour.
- Don’t scold him if gets anxious as that will only make matters worse.
- Remain calm yourself.
- If he normally sits with you then let him and pat him as usual but don’t make a fuss.
- Never take him to a firework party or take him in your car and leave him unattended.
- Don't leave him alone while fireworks are going off as he will be calmer with someone familiar around.
- Don't punish him as this will make him more distressed.
- Give him a distraction like a new toy or chew.
You will know if he is anxious if you see any of the following;
- Becoming restless: pacing and panting
- Becoming destructive
- Looking worried
- Listening for the next noise
- Clinging to you
- Barking, whining or howling
- Trying to run away
- Self trauma
These days firework parties often happen over several days or even a couple of weeks so be prepared before 5th November and if you are really worried about your pet then ask your vet for advice. Ask your neighbours to let you know if they are having fireworks so you can be prepared.
After the fireworks have finished don't forget to check there is no debris in the garden and that the ashes of your bonfire are not hot enough to burn his nose or feet.