Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Fireworks and Dogs - Advice

Safety Tips I Dogs & Fireworks Survival I Long-term Action I Fireworks & the Law

Every year many dogs (and other animals) will be affected as a direct result of fireworks. Fireworks legislation exists but for many the fireworks are still extremely loud and the mayhem seems to start earlier and earlier each year, depending on where you live, with Nov. 5th as the 'main event' there are also other celebrations involving fireworks such as Diwali, Chinese New Year and increased popularity in some areas around Christmas and New Year.
For many of us, there isn’t just one evening of Fireworks, sounding like World War III to cope with, but a whole run up of weeks leading to it which doesn’t end with the loudest blitz on Bonfire Night.
Here we have collated some information regarding the safety of your dog, coping suggestions to help get you through it, long term treatment and current legislation.
Safety tips for you and your dog(s):
Around this time there will be a steep increase in the number of stray dogs picked up and handed in, dogs which have become scared and bolted when out and off leash or having escaped from the home, here follows a few tips to help you and your dog:

Please check the following today:

Collar & ID Tag: Your dog needs to be wearing an ID tag or a collar with Identification clearly inscribed on it (this is a legal requirement) - check it can be read - can you actually see what it says? The information on it needs to be up to date and securely attached to your dog’s collar.
Make sure your dog’s collar is in good condition and fits properly.

Microchip: Is you dog micro-chipped?
If not now would be a good time to get that done. It’s a simple painless procedure that your vet can do and is relatively cheap – it will make all the difference if you lose your dog.
If your dog is already chipped check that you have the number to call should the worst happen. Also make sure your contact details are up to date.

Bonfire night is coming and for many dogs it’s terrifying. You may think your dog is bombproof but maybe, this time something will surprise him and he may bolt. If the details on his tag are wrong, or if in the panic he loses his collar, your chances of being reunited with your pet are greatly reduced.

Keep your dog inside the house with you during the worst times, check your garden fencing – is it secure? Does the gate(s) lock?

Don’t leave your dog out in the garden unattended or leave your dog tied up outside the shop or alone anywhere, e.g., in a vehicle, yobs throw bangers & fireworks at animals and find it amusing to wind them up, keep your dog safe.
Keep your dog leashed when out. If you use a flexi leash be extra careful, as your dog suddenly running full throttle to the end of it will cause a jolt which can pull the lead right out of your grasp-you end up with a dog running in a panic with the equipment bouncing along behind, the sudden bang of a rocket etc. can cause the most laid back of dogs to bolt; before they know it they are lost.
Dogs that are known to have a problem with fireworks and are affected are best not left alone at home. As dogs are pack animals, stay with your pet and keep inside when the fireworks are being let off. A dog under stress can sometimes become unpredictable and panic, so double check how safe the inside of your home is, e.g., ornaments, glass doors, open fires.

Never take your dog or any animal to a Firework display, it may be fun for you to watch but keep your dog away and safe.
Getting through it – some survival tips:

Preparation is the key, if your dog has a problem remember your dog feels the need to escape from the source of the fear, your dog may become destructive and/or aggressive, panic, go off its food, have diarrhoea, vomit etc., - your job is to minimize the effects as much as you can, keep your dog safe and seek long term professional help so that fireworks are less of a problem in the future. If you’re worried about your dog’s reactions to fireworks it makes sense to go and visit your veterinary clinic for advice and help.

  • Exercise your dog earlier; try to have him tired out ready for the evening.

  • Is the house secure-windows closed, cat flap locked (keep the cat safely inside as well), doors secured etc. and both escape proof and safe should your dog panic?

  • Draw the curtains/blinds to keep out visual reminders-flashing lights etc.).

  • Have some familiar calming music on or turn up the TV (not too loud) to help block out some of the noise.

  • Make sure your dog has access to an area where he feels safe - a 'den' which is away from windows with his bedding and toys inside. Place some of your clothing in here so there is a familiar comforting scent, don’t move his bed suddenly, if you are going to set up a safe area in a specific part of the house, do it a few weeks in advance to give him time to adjust and familiarise himself. To make your dog’s den a place where good things happen - you can feed him in there, hide treats in there, favourite chews etc. so that your dog should want to go into his den-don’t ever force him in.

  • Offer a stuffed Kong (introduce in advance) toys and/or favourite chew toy to distract; giving him something to do can help relieve stress as it may take his mind off the noise and smell of fireworks in the night air.

  • Make sure there is plenty of fresh drinking water available and feed your pet a couple of hours before the fireworks in the evening to help relax him (if your dog is likely to vomit and/or have diarrhoea be prepared for this).

  • You could also try using adaptil dog appeasing pheromone-just search DAP as it’s sold widely online & in pet shops. You can use a DAP diffuser which you leave plugged in all day a couple of weeks in advance (next to your dog’s den or bed is ideal) also available is DAP spray and a DAP dog collar (worn in addition to your dog’s normal collar). The canine appeasing hormone is released into the atmosphere and is odourless, it doesn’t affect humans or other animals and helps relieve general anxiety in dogs.

  • Natural Remedies can also be useful for behavioural problems in dogs, try Dr Bach Rescue Remedy. Another homeopathic remedy which can also help is called HomeoPet Anxiety TFLN it is designed to promote a sense of calm. Scullcap and Valerian tablets are a herbal combination which some dog owners use to bring relief to their dogs when anxious and nervous. Further details at Dorwest Herbs.

  • An ‘anxiety wrap’ is a relatively new idea and now available to buy. It is worn by a dog (looks like a dog coat) to help relieve stress during times of fireworks & thunderstorms, you can find out more here:

  • If your dog is affected by the noise – do NOT ever punish him. If you go out and find your dog has been destructive whilst you were gone – don’t punish him, stay calm, tidy up any mess and have a cup of tea! It is a completely pointless to punish him, damaging & extremely unkind to your dog, the bond between you both is affected and likely to make him even more stressed out.

  •  You and your family members need to remain confident, relaxed and cheery, try distracting him if possible.

  • Try to yourself remain relaxed and upbeat – conveying the message that there is nothing to worry about.

  • If you are worried at all – get help and further advice now, the more in advance of the fireworks season the better. Desensitisation programmes take months not weeks so think ahead and visit your veterinary clinic for advice and seek out the assistance of a behavioural councillor who will be able to help your dog.
    Don’t forget to keep your cats, other animals and birds safe too.

    Long-term Action:

    If your dog needs help then once the firework session is out the way it’s time to plan ahead as any good behavioural re-modification programme will take time, effort and patience.
    There is no ‘quick fix’ to fireworks phobia, treatment programmes involving desensitisation and counter conditions techniques are available.

    We recommend you seek help from a professional canine behaviourist-for advice please contact us and visit your veterinary surgeon.
    The Fireworks Act:

    The Fireworks Act was introduced in August 2004, it makes it an offence to:

    * Be under the age of 18 and in possession of fireworks in a public place.
    * Let off fireworks louder than 120 decibels.
    * Let off fireworks between 11pm and 7am.

    The 11pm to 7am curfew is extended on the 5th of November, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali.
    It is against the law to throw or set off fireworks in the street.
    Fireworks must not be sold to anyone who is under 18 years of age.

    For a full copy of the legislation (The Fireworks Act 2003) visit:
    Further information on fireworks and the law can be found here.
    The Animal Welfare Act:

    Under section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animals.
    The penalty on conviction is either imprisonment up to 51 weeks or a fine of up to £20,000 or both. Enforcement of this section of the Act rests with Trading Standards, the Police or the RSPCA as appropriate.

    Written by Amanda Dunckley
    Updated 2011
    Copyright © Endangered Dogs Defence & Rescue 2011