Dogs (and other animals) are terrified of fireworks. How can you enjoy your celebration while also being sensitive to your canine companions’ needs?
If your dog simply experiences a more run-of-the-mill variety of fireworks-related stress, rather than a full-blown diagnosable noise phobia, you can still take some steps to keep him or her safe:
1. Leave your dog at home. Taking them to a fireworks display is a bad idea.
2. If you’re home with your dog during fireworks time, calm reassurance is a good idea. Studies have found that reassuring a dog (without becoming anxious yourself) does not reinforce the dog’s own fear response.
3. Lock your doors and windows. Some pets have been known to escape as a result of their anxiety.
4. Be sure your dog has on the appropriate tags and microchips so that if he or she does manage to escape your house or yard, you can increase your chances of a happy reunion.
5. Don’t punish your dog. Some dogs react to stress with digging or scratching behaviors, and punishing your dog for them will not help. As Julie Hecht says, “Remember that those behaviors are part of an emotional response. Change the underlying emotional state and you can change the resulting behavior.”
What about cats, rabbits and other pets?
Cats should be kept indoors during fireworks displays. Most cats will find somewhere safe to hide and will usually venture out when the noise stops. Make sure you cat is microchipped and your details are up to date on the microchip register in case they wander and become lost. Rabbits and other small animals like guinea pigs should be safely housed during the fireworks display.
Horses are particularly vulnerable to bolting when exposed to fireworks. If possible they should be securely stabled, or removed to a different location away from the fireworks display, and the risk of physical harm minimised. Remove any sharp objects that might injure a panicking animal, cover stable windows to hide the sight of the fireworks and dim the noise, and make sure you supply plenty of food and water.