Loud noises and sounds can really freak dogs and cat out, and a fireworks show is probably the worst noise monster a fearful pet can face. While our kitties seem to be pretty chill to any fireworks in our neighbourhood, I have a friend whose cat did not come out from under the bed for an entire day afterwards. And did you know that more dogs go missing during holidays featuring fireworks than any other day? So…seeing as we know nights of fireworks will be coming up in July, here are some ways to help your dog and cat stay a little more comfortable.
1. Plan ahead.
It’s a good idea to check for the dates of community fireworks displays during celebratory seasons, and make sure your dog’s collar ID and microchip registration are up to date. Big dates like Victoria Day, Canada Day, and New Year’s almost always have some sort of show in the respective cities within the GTA, so mark those down and make a plan.
2. Create distance.
When you know a firework display is scheduled nearby, or you see your neighbors setting up for a display, ask a friend if you can bring your dog over for an evening chat or movie – unless your dog finds trips even more stressful. Simply removing them from the situation may be the best option.
3. Set up a quiet safe space.
If leaving your home is out of the question for you and your dog, set up a safe space in your home. This is ideally a place where your dog is comfortable and the sound of fireworks is muffled, like a finished basement or an internal room like a walk-in closet. In our home, the bathroom seems to be a favourite for our cats when scary noises abount (think: fire alarm!) Spend time with your dog there, with toys and treats, well before fireworks season begins, not just the day of.
4. Go for a long walk well before dark.
A happily tired dog is a more relaxed dog. Exercise your pup with fun play or a long walk so they are ready to nap when night falls. Make sure their collar or harness is slip-proof, because some people celebrate with firecrackers and other noisemakers before darkness falls.
5. Close windows and curtains.
This further muffles the sound and blocks out quick, flashes of light
6. Turn on the TV, music, or white noise.
Sit down to your favourite TV show and watch that together. Or, dance to music. Even things like a fan, can provide a familiar, alternate sound. Just make sure whatever you use is already familiar to your dog – even fans can be anxiety-causing if they are fired up without warning.
7. Try an anxiety wrap.
Soft, stretchy jackets and vests built specifically for a dog’s shape are reported to be effective at reducing anxiety. I suggest you slowly introduce your dog to their coat well before fireworks season descends. My parents’ dog has a Thundershirt that sometimes help – although not always – but they are worth trying.
8. Consult a professional.
Is your dog or cat’s quality of life suffering, or are they so panicked they could injure themselves, or you, while trying to escape? Dog trainers, dog behaviorists, veterinarians, and veterinary behaviorists can offer a range of options from counter-conditioning to medication.