I had the idea for this post because of something that happened to me over 10 years ago.
I’d taken my dog Cindy the golden retriever to visit some friends in Somerset. We went for a walk together with their Labrador and we were having a good day. The dogs were chasing around and having fun, when suddenly Cindy picked up something that looked like a stick. She didn’t tend to scavenge on walks, but she was a retriever, and she liked to be carrying something in her snout.
We realised that the thing was not a stick but the remains of a firework. I told her to leave it, which she did, but the damage had already been done. There were still chemical traces on the piece of wood, and they burned her throat, making it hard for her to breathe.
Luckily my friends had a car (if this had happened at home I would have been in bigger trouble because I don’t drive), and we rushed her to the emergency vet, who treated her and gave her something for the pain.
In the end, everything was ok, but since then I can’t help thinking about all those bits of fireworks that come floating down to earth each 5th November. Nobody knows where they will land, and it would be easy for an animal to pick them up, especially if it’s an inquisitive dog.
So if you see things like this when you’re out walking, especially around or after 5th November, please pick them up and get rid of them safely, taking them out of harm’s way.
I follow a couple of nature pages on Facebook, and they always make the point about hedgehogs hiding in unlit bonfires, which provide a warm and safe place to hide away. If you build a bonfire a couple of days before you light it, please check inside first to make sure that no small creatures such as hedgehogs are hiding in there.
If your dog is scared
Fireworks can be scary for dogs because they don’t understand where the loud noise is coming from.
Cindy never paid them any attention, but I know people whose dogs get really stressed out at this time of year. Each dog is different, but here are some things that you can try:
- It’s hard because the fireworks can be let off any time in the weeks leading up to bonfire night, but try not to leave your dog on its own if you know it’s going to be frightened. If you know you’re going out, could the dog spend the evening with a friend?
- The dog will take its lead from you, so don’t give him/her the impression that it’s something to be stressed out about. Try to act normally as though nothing out of the ordinary is happening and your not being bothered might help to reassure your dog doo. If the dog thinks you’re worried, it communicates the message that there’s something to be worried about.
- However that doesn’t mean that you should ignore your dog if it’s looking for comfort from you. Show them some love and try to help focus their attention on something else.
- Put some music on – then the bangs aren’t as loud as they would be in a completely silent house.
- Sometimes if a dog is frightened, its first instinct is to run away. If you need to open the door, try to put another closed door between the dog and the front door so it can’t dash past you into the street and run away. Also make sure that your dog is microchipped as this is not only a legal requirement, but it will make it much easier for you to get them back if they do make a dash for it.
- If the dog doesn’t like the flashes of light, draw the curtains.
- You can try playing Youtube videos of fireworks if you think it would help your dog get used to the noises so it’s not such a big shock when the real fireworks start. This is good for helping puppies to discover that the noises are no cause for concern, but if the dog is already afraid of the sound, this might just make it worse.
- Make a safe place that your dog can retreat to if he/she feels scared. Sometimes dogs like to go under things such as tables because it makes them feel safe. You could also make sure their favourite toy is there, or something which smells of you and is familiar.
- You can reward calm behaviour with games or treats.
- If you think your dog will be anxious, try to feed and take them out before the fireworks start, as an anxious dog might not want to eat or go outside.
- Barking and whining are not the only signs of stress. Yawning and panting can also indicate that the dog doesn’t feel good, so don’t take your dog to a fireworks display if you think it will upset them. Seeing the cause of the noise doesn’t always make it better. If you’re at a display, you’re not in a controlled environment and there is nowhere to run.
- Going for a nice, long walk in the daytime can burn off excess energy, helping your dog to feel calmer when it comes to the evening
- In some cases, vets can provide some kind of sedative, or advise on homeopathic remedies, but I haven’t included further details here because that’s a discussion to have with individual vets.
- Some dogs find comfort in chewing, so this might be a good time for a safe chew to focus on. Other dogs might prefer to use their brains to get treats out of a puzzle toy.
- If your dog needs to go outside during the fireworks, going with them can help give support, so they can focus on you and not the scary noises outside.
Do you have any other tips to add? If so, please leave them in the comments.
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