At this time of year it can be quite stressful for dog owners, due to fireworks. The situation in some ways shows signs of improving and in other ways it seems to be getting worse. Our own dog Archie is very noise sensitive so we have plenty of experience in trying to help him through this time of year. Hopefully some of these tips will prove helpful to others trying to cope with dogs and fireworks at this time of year.
Dogs and Fireworks – Some positive signs
First let’s try and look at some positive signs over recent years. This year for example one of the major supermarkets Sainsbury’s decided not to sell fireworks. They have not given a reason for this decision so we can’t say they are doing it due to concern for our pets. One town in the Italian province of Parma called Collecchio has gone even further. It has passed legislation which says firework displays must use silent fireworks. Indeed fireworks that are set to explode in time to music can be amazing displays to watch.
Finally in recent years we have seen more and more online petitions relating to restricting the sale and use of fireworks in an effort to make things less stressful for our dogs, and indeed other pets and wildlife.
Dogs and Fireworks – The negative signs
If you speak to most dog owners however they will say things are getting worse rather than better. When I compare the situation now to when I was a child growing up I would tend to agree with them for a number of reasons, as follows:
- The fireworks season seems to be extended these days. As a child fireworks happened on November 5th in your back garden. Organised displays took place at the weekend closest to this date. Now though people use fireworks to celebrate a larger number of events. If you have a large Hindu community for example they will often use fireworks to celebrate Diwali (festival of lights). I don’t think Northampton has a large Hindu community and Diwali usually takes place very close to early November thankfully. Unfortunately it’s now possible to buy fireworks at any time of year and more and more people seem to use them to celebrate birthdays, New Year and sporting events.
- Over time as consumers we have become accustomed to greater choice. In relations to fireworks this can mean more places to buy fireworks and a greater choice in type of fireworks. There are a number of retailers for example who will specialise in selling extra loud fireworks.
Dogs and Fireworks – How to cope
There are a number of things you can do as a dog owner to try and make things less stressful for your dog. It’s fair to say we have tried most of these and will give our thoughts on what we feel works for us.
Before we get on to discussing specific products we find the following things help. Making your dog’s cage feel more like a den can help. Our dog Archie spends his evenings in his cage with the door open. We add extra blankets on top of the cage and banked up on the sides to make it feel cosy and to darken the interior. It may also help reduce the noise a little. All interior doors and windows will be closed when fireworks are going off which certainly helps reduce the volume. We will also increase the volume of the TV or will play some relaxing music on the radio at a volume that will mask some exterior sounds.
The strategies above may not be enough on their own in some cases so we have also tried the following products.
- Thundershirt – As the name suggests this product is sold to help dogs cope with the noise of thunder but can also help with fireworks. A tight fitting vest, the constant pressure these apply is supposed to have a calming effect. There are many positive reviews online so they are probably worth trying but we didn’t really see any change in Archie.
- Adaptil – Sold as a plug in home diffuser, collar your dog wears and a spray. The product is a synthetic copy of a pheromone a mother dog releases to help comfort and reassure her puppies. We never tried this for an extended period of time so can’t say that we noticed a big change. Also we are usually using a combination of products at the same time which makes it harder to be sure which is having the most positive impact. I should also mention that we have mainly used the spray version of this product. Again there are lots of positive reviews for Adaptil so you might want to give it a try.
- Dorwest products. Ewelina is a big fan of Dorwest products. They only sell herbal products and have a number of products to help with dog anxiety. The two that we use are Scullcap & Valerian tablets and Valerian Compound. The latter I’m guessing is a more concentrated form as in the marketing they say ‘calms and relaxes in super quick time’. We have seen some positive results using these products but I’m not sure they would work for everyone. The compound liquid for example has a very distinct smell which some dogs might find off putting. Archie is raw fed and loves his food and despite the obvious smell this adds to his meat it does not stop him enjoying his food.
In extreme cases I’ve even known owners who take a holiday somewhere remote. My colleague Andrew for example takes a week off early November to a remote farm which is a few miles away from civilisation. An alternative to somewhere remote might be holiday accommodation with a basement level as the noise of fireworks is unlikely to travel underground.
Another interesting product I heard about this year was a kennel made by car company Ford which is still in prototype at the moment. It uses technology used in cars to help mask engine noise as well as technology used in some noise cancelling headphones. I suspect this would be a very expensive product if it made it to market but you can read more at the following link:
Hopefully for those of you struggling to cope with dogs and fireworks at this time of year this has helped. Often it’s a case of trial and error to find what works best for your dog.