Fireworks Season - The Human Affect

It’s that time of year when some of us animal-loving owners worry about the fireworks season and how it affects our noise-sensitive pets. We are unable to go out to enjoy the sights due to the fear of what we will come back to, nor are we able to enjoy the evening in, with our anxious pet that may be barking the house down, hiding under the bed, or trembling on the sofa. However, are we doing the right thing with our pets on the night?

The owner plays a major aspect in noise-fearing pets. Reassuring our dogs and cats when they are showing fearful behaviours can actually have the opposite effect and reinforces the inappropriate behaviour, with the possibility of escalating the situation. Therefore we should try to ignore these behaviours as best we can so that we don’t reinforce what our pet is currently doing. This includes making eye contact.

If we need to distract our pet from doing their inappropriate behaviour (pacing, barking etc), then playing with a ball against a wall or on the floor without calling our pet over, will get the pet to come over to investigate. If they do come over and start playing, then we can reward them for this good behaviour.

Ignoring inappropriate behaviours is understandably quite a difficult task to stick to, but perseverance is essential. Putting on a comedy film or TV show to help relax and make you laugh can also rub off on your pet as they are very effective at picking up human behaviour and body language, and they may settle more easily if you are happy. Human comfort is also why leaving an animal on their own during fireworks is never appropriate.

Punishment to our pets is also never appropriate as it only escalates the animal’s fearful response. It also causes them to ‘cover up’ any subtle behaviour, making them more at risk of growling, snarling and snapping in the future. Recognising the early subtle behaviours early allows the owner to act appropriately before the situation escalates to a more aggressive form.

If you would like more information regarding how we as owners should behave on the night, pop into one of our practices to pick up a free brochure with step-by-step guide to help both you and your pet on fireworks night.

Further information on preparing for fireworks season is available here.