Is your pet afraid of fireworks? Prepare in advance...
Do you celebrate New Year’s Eve together with your (guest) pet? Read this? Because there’s a good chance that your pet is afraid of fireworks. There are plenty of ways to train you pet not to be afraid, but there’s little point in starting now, as you won’t have enough time to truly achieve something before this year’s fireworks start. Come midnight, you might be busy uncorking the champagne and hugging family and friends. And then everyone goes outside to watch the fireworks. Just one moment of not paying attention can have grave consequences. This is how to prevent that.
On New Year’s Eve: preparations
Take your (guest) dog for a nice and long walk at noon, so they can run and play. Having burnt some energy during the day, they won’t have excess energy in the evening. Let them out in the early evening - on a lead! - so that they don’t need to pee just when the fireworks are about to go off. For dogs that are very fearful, you can purchase a safety harness, which makes it impossible for the dog to wriggle out of it and run for it, if they get scared by an early firecracker. Also check your lead for weak spots. Do you have cats? Then you would probably do well to keep your doors and cat flaps closed as a precaution. This will prevent your pets from being outside during the fireworks and they will be safe inside. It’s best to close the curtains or shutters as well, so the pets don’t see the flashes of light.
A safe place to hide
Every animal reacts to stress in their own way, but many will want to hide somewhere. Especially cats can be found under the couch, in the closet or under the bed at such times. Let them hide if that is their choice, and don’t pull or coax them out. Let your pet choose the place where they feel safest and never punish their fearful behaviour. When dogs are stressed, they tend to lose their appetite, pant, lick their noses, shiver or whine. Remain calm and reassure your dog by just being there for them. If they seek affection, gently lay a hand on them, but don’t force your affections on a stressed pet. It is a myth, by the way, that fearful pets must be ignored or else their fear will get worse. They need their human to be there for them. If you are considering anti-anxiety medication, consult a vet. Beware of acepromazine: it will make a pet unable to move and hence to exhibit any stress symptoms, but they are still fully aware of what is happening around them. A truly terrifying and traumatising experience!
Photo: Amanda Quintana-Bowles
3, 2, 1.... Happy New Year!
Bang! The champagne has been uncorked and the party is about to leave the house. Everybody is getting up, there are hugs, kisses and people moving around. A visitors come and go, the front door is open - in short, it’s chaos! Those moments bear the highest risk of a dog or cat escaping. At midnight, the beginning fireworks with their deafening noise can send an animal running in a blind panic. Yes, this can even happen to cats that have never shown symptoms of fear before. Keep all doors closed and keep an eye on your pet at all times. It’s a good idea to nominate a “delegated pet carer” before the clock strikes midnight, who will stay with the pets to reassure them and keep all doors closed.
It’s sad to see your pet afraid, but fortunately the fireworks don’t last forever. Once everything is calm again, dogs can go outside - again, on a safe lead, in case of late firecrackers. It’s lovely if they can have a nice chewbone afterwards. They have been so brave, after all, and chewing has been proven to have a calming effect on dogs. And give your cat a nice cuddle.