How to survive the festive season
With the crisp autumn mornings making an appearance and many of our customers tentatively mentioning the “c” word, we wanted to share some ways to cope with fireworks and the stresses of the festive season. It’s estimated that almost half of the dogs in the UK are frightened of fireworks, so it’s a problem many of us face this time of year!
Please note that if your dog has developed a phobia of fireworks and their fear symptoms are severe, there are some great behaviourists locally that will be able to help you with counterconditioning and desensitisation techniques.
In the lead-up to a stressful event, there are a few things you can do to prepare. Consider which calming remedies you’d like to use. Supplements such as Dorwest Scullcap and Valerian tablets are best taken three weeks or so in advance so they have time to work in your pet’s system.
Slightly amend your routine. Try and make sure your dogs have their walks during daytime hours, and cats are limited to their time outside during daylight only. This keeps them safer and will mean there isn’t such a big change when the fireworks begin.
Make sure your pet’s microchips and collar tags are up to date with the correct information. If your dog slips the lead in a panic, or your cat gets disorientated and loses their way, you want them to be able to get home quickly and safely. Ensure your house and garden are “escape” proof.
While your pet must be physically exercised before the fireworks begin, make sure that their brain is settled too. Take a walk that has plenty of sniffs, or do some training and brain games during the day. With cats, try hiding treats around the house so they can forage, or use a tickler/wand to engage their hunting instincts.
With a fear response, you’re essentially trying to reassure your pet that they are safe. Fear and distress can show themselves in many ways*, including but not limited to;
- Excessive vocalisation – whining, barking
- Self-injurious behaviour- paw licking, over-grooming, nibbling
- Fidgeting or pacing
- Rapid breathing
- Salivating, panting, trembling
- Destructive or nesting behaviour
- Displacement behaviour- yawning, lip licking, excessive sniffing
*See our cat and dog body language guides on social media
If you are unable to plan for a stressful event, say if your neighbours let off some early fireworks, there are calming supplements that work instantly such as Dorwest Valerian Compound and Pet Remedy Spray. While these will not make fear symptoms disappear or sedate your animal, they essentially “trick” the brain- when adrenaline tells them it should be stressed or scared, the herbs redirect these signals to the calming receptors of the brain.
Chews and activity toys such as Kongs are a good idea for dogs who need an outlet for their stress and can serve as a great distraction. Some dogs and most cats will prefer to take themselves off somewhere quiet. We would recommend “proofing” their favourite room in the house, blocking out the light from flashes outside and using a radio or television to disguise some of the noise. Don’t shut them in, as they could injure themselves trying to escape.
If your pet does take itself off under the sofa, or the stairs, or their bed, don’t attempt to encourage them out as it can distress them further. Just knowing you are nearby is enough for many pets, so stay calm and provide them affection and reassurance if they ask for it.
Did you know it takes around three days for your dog or cat to decompress from a stressful event? Be patient, and be aware that their behaviour and symptoms may not be limited to one evening, and could continue throughout the whole firework season.
Try to be patient if your pet shows undesirable behaviours such as destruction and excessive barking. While this is very testing for us it is the only way our pets know to display and manage the stress they are feeling. Body language is everything, so the calmer and more compassionate we are, the more your pet will feel reassured.
This decompression period is the perfect time to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. After a couple of days when your dog has started to settle, try slow and quiet walks where they have plenty of opportunity to sniff and explore. With cats, try a gentle grooming session or a fresh catnip toy to boost their mood.
If you want to know which calming remedy or aids would work best for your dog or cat, why not have a free consultation with our trained staff? We welcome you in-store, by phone, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.