Dealing with fireworks anxiety

Tips for dog owners

If there is not enough time left for training, medication or a special food supplement can help keep the dog calm at the difficult moments. There are various remedies available for this.
In consultation with your vet, a choice can be made based on your dog's characteristics and medical history.

What to do during New Year's Eve? In past years, the general opinion was that you should ignore the behaviour of a fearful dog. However, this opinion has been changed, because you should not abandon an animal that is afraid. You must be there for the animal, but no more than that. Put a reassuring hand on the body and do nothing else, act as if nothing is wrong.
Do not get angry with the dog, because that only makes the fear worse and the dog learns nothing from it. If the dog wants to crawl away, then that is usually his way of dealing with it and most probably the best way. For some animals it helps if the radio or tv is on (loud) and the curtains are closed.

Dogs that are not extremely anxious can be distracted with a favourite game, a nice bone or a well filled Kong.


Illustration: Judith Renaud

The above tips also largely apply to cats, you can further help your cat by:

Make sure that all windows, doors and the cat flap are closed. This not only prevents the cat from fleeing outside in panic, but also keeps the noise to a minimum. Close the curtains so that the flashes are not visible and turn on the radio or TV.

In the weeks before the turn of the year, provide enough hiding places so that the cat can get used to it and has a place where it feels safe. A covered place is usually very much appreciated. Think of an upside-down box with a nice blanket in it. If the cat is in the shelter, give it nice toys or treats so that the place has a positive association.  Cats like to sit high, so a place of their own on top of the bookcase, if possible, is also advisable. Never take a cat out of its own space, let it come out when it feels safe.

Keep outdoor cats inside as much as possible at the turn of the year. Not only can they be frightened by fireworks or flee, but they also run the risk of being injured by leftover (improperly set off) fireworks and/or glass.

If your cat is extremely anxious, check out the product overview for supportive products.

And the same applies to all animals:
Make sure they are microchipped and that the registration of the chip is up to date! If the dog or cat flees out of fear and is found, at least you will be reunited as soon as possible!

Tips for dog owners from our dog behaviourist Elise

Many dogs are afraid of fireworks. This may be because they have had a bad experience with fireworks, because they associate it with something similar that they have had a bad experience with or because the mother dog has transmitted her fear. The fear can manifest itself in different ways: crawling away, urinating in the house, fleeing, barking loudly, whining, etc.


Illustration: Judith Renaud

Dogs that are anxious should not be left alone when fireworks are lit. It is also unwise to let them run free outside, as they may flee and not show themselves again.

Fear of fireworks can be reduced or even eliminated through training. This training is done with the help of a CD on which fireworks sounds have been recorded.
It is important to do such training under the guidance of or in consultation with an experienced dog trainer or behaviourist. This training should take place well before New Year's Eve (e.g. in the summer), so that the chance of unexpected fireworks during the training is minimal.

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