New Year’s Eve has just passed, so why now this article? Because right now is a good time to start training and preparing your dog or cat scared of fireworks, loud noises or flashy lights.
In this article:
- Fireworks fear in dogs and cats
- Training against fireworks fear
- Medication against fireworks fear
- Tips for New Year´s Eve
- Positive reinforcement
For most people New Year´s Eve means lots of food, friends and feasts, but for your animal these days can be less fun, since a lot of our furry friends have to deal with fireworks fear.
Fireworks fear in dogs and cats
Loud noises, burning candles, flashy lights and strong smells can create much anxiety in our pets. This is very understandable: since the hearing and sense of smell are more developed in animals compared to humans. Fireworks fear with animals has become a very well-known problem, especially with cats and dogs. There are many ways to help reduce this fear, which will make the New Year´s Eve much more pleasant to both owners and their pets!
Training against fireworks fear through habituation
Many animals are scared of loud noises like fireworks. There is a high chance your animal startles when hearing them. The risks are that pets develop a phobia for loud noises in general and become anxious animals.
On the internet you can find many noise recordings or videos of fireworks (one link is here kindly provided by the DogTrust). Start off with playing these recordings softly on a low volume and reward your animal during the recording with gentle praises and delicious cookies. Turn the volume up at a slow pace. If your animal starts getting anxious with the noise recordings, turn the volume down and build it up again very slowly.
Do this from time to time to make firework noises a habit for your dog or cat. It is important you start very early with this training, so when the time of New Year´s Eve arrives, your animal will be used to the fireworks and won´t startle anymore.
Medication against fireworks fear
If the training against fireworks fear isn´t working well enough for your dog or cat, you can go to your local veterinarian to get informed about medication against fireworks fear. This medication should help with the anxiety but should not be a strong sedative. In fact, strong sedatives or tranquillizers will not remove the fear but will only make it worse because, in this way, the animal can get confused and unable to react. Also, the medication should always go hand in hand with the training and should never be used without.
Some examples of good behaviour medication against fireworks fear are Adaptil, Zylkene and Feliway (check this article from a veterinary clinic on these products). You can also use alternative methods like Bach Rescue Remedy or Thundershirts which also showed very good results with pets. Please never use these products without checking first with the your vet.
Tips for New Year´s Eve
Besides the training and medication, there are other ways to get your beloved pet calmer during New Year´s Eve.
Close all the curtains in your house so your animal won´t notice the flashy lights. Turn on the radio or TV so your pet gets distracted from all the loud noises outside. Make a safe spot in your house where your animal can hide and feel more comfortable, making sure the animal can choose whether or not to be in this spot. If your dog or cat is outside, we strongly advice to take it in the house during the fireworks. If this is really not possible, make sure the dog can´t escape or run away from the garden and hurt itself.
With some simple tips and tricks you can manage to reduce the stress of your cat and dog during this holiday time.
Is your animal still scared? Make sure to not punish it. The risk of making the fear worse will only increase in this way. Instead, give your pet rewards when showing good behaviour and ignore the bad behaviour. Many studies proved that training with positive reinforcement works way better compared to training with negative reinforcement.