In 2015, a town in Italy introduced a law that said all fireworks used at displays must be noiseless to reduce the anxiety of local animals.
To dogs who suffer from anxieties stemming from noise phobias, October-January can be a terrifying time of the year. Remember, their hearing is far more acute than ours, so if the bangs which erupt from fireworks are loud to us, imagine how it sounds to a dog – this is one of the main reasons why dogs are scared of fireworks and my rescue dog, Danny is one of them.
We adopted him three years ago after he was found straying and never claimed. When we were told about Danny, or Milo as he was then known, he had 24 hours left on his ‘7 day stay’ at the pound to either find a home, rescue or his fate would be sealed.
Luckily for both him and us, we found one another and he was taken to rescue while preparing to travel to us from Ireland.
The ever-lengthening fireworks season is affecting more dogs than ever before and every year more rescues take dogs in who have run off, spooked by fireworks, according to the RSPCA.
We sometimes wonder if this is how Danny found himself being picked up as a stray, or – even worse – how long he had to cope on his own with them going off all around him and no safe space to go to.
Watching him struggle with his fear of fireworks, we have tried everything possible to make him more comfortable, but admittedly not just for himself. We own two other dogs and a cat, who have little phobias of their own and we were worried they could be caught up in his anxiety cycle.
If you’ve ever seen a dog bark thinking they’ve heard the doorbell, soon joined by another who didn’t hear it but trusts their companion’s reaction and now believes that something’s afoot and everyone should be on red alert, then you’ll understand our situation.
Creating a dog’s zen den to cope with fireworks
When we realised Danny had a noise phobia, we set out to create a plan for him which means when we fear fireworks displays may take place nearby, or neighbours may decide to have their own back garden events, we start ‘operation zen den’.
This begins with an early teatime so he can be walked earlier. Often, we’ll use this same time to begin giving him supplements or specialist anxiety medication for dogs, which can sometimes take hours to take effect.
We shut all windows, also keeping the cat safe, and we limit his access to windows without blinds, so he can’t see them or anticipate sound coming.
We put TVs or music on both upstairs and down to conceal any noise outside and we give each dog a treat-filled toy or chew bone to occupy them.
Danny is given his toy or bone in the room he’s claimed as his ‘zen den’.
It’s his safe space and he retreats to it whenever he feels anxious, so we make sure everything he needs to get through fireworks season is ready – TV or radio on, bed in the corner, blanket under the table, water bowl, toys and chews – is set up and waiting for him.
It doesn’t always eliminate the problem, especially when fireworks erupt outside of the usual Bonfire events on November 5th or New Year’s Eve, but having a plan in place means we know we’re doing all we can to try and help him and keep him safe.
If your dog has a fear of fireworks, share your story by sharing this video >>
— DogsBlog (@DogsBlog) 3 November 2017
Some people might not realise just how their fireworks displays will affect your animals, this video could make a difference, if not this year, then maybe next.