The time is upon us again, and sadly it's not fireworks night but more fireworks season. Weeks upon weeks of bangs, flashing lights, and smells that can whip some dogs (and people) up into quite a frenzy.
With a billion tips being shared all over the web, what's different about what I'm going to tell you?
First of all, please consider your dog, for they are all individuals, and what may work well for some will not for others. Second, I want to suggest that you use the weeks ahead to do a little detective work to see what helps your dog and what doesn't.
Let's kick off with the most commonly suggested solutions to help calm your dog during fireworks season.
Rescue Remedies, calming spray, and supplements
These work wonders for some dogs, and it is a bit of trial and error to see which, if any, will help your dog. However, I often read suggestions for spraying your dog's bed, blanket, or bandana with these sprays. Don't!
The first step to trialing any of these sprays and scents is to see how your dog reacts to them. Can you imagine your favourite resting spot being doused in a smell that you utterly detest? Rather than helping you relax, it's going to make you more unsettled.
So try perhaps spraying it on a bandana or a blanket and putting it in a place where your dog can explore and sniff it, but that they can move away from if they don't like it. If your dog chooses to be near it, then you could progress to having it in your dog's bed or around their neck, but I wouldn't do so without testing it.
Thundershirts and relaxing wraps
Thundershirts and DIY wraps are designed to help relax anxious dogs. The theory is that the pressure applied by these wraps decrease anxiety and increases relaxation.
To have the desired impact, you need to get your dog used to it gradually and begin by using it when your dog is calm. Whacking this on when your dog is stressed or starting to get worked up will create a negative association rather than the desired effect.
Begin with introducing the shirt or wrap slowly when your dog is in a calm state. This way, you can begin to condition your pup to associate their comforting wrap with calm and relaxation.
Dens and Safe Spaces
Dens and covered crates are often discussed as brilliant spaces for your dog to escape to when scared. But does your dog like being confined? Do they feel safer in their crate?
Going into a crate or a den type space should never be forced. For some dogs, they are absolute havens to escape to when life gets too much. If this is the case, then make any adaptations that you are planning to help with fireworks before they start.
So if you're going to pop a duvet or some more blankets atop the crate to help muffle the sounds and block the light, then do it beforehand, so you're not rushing about causing a panic when those bangs inevitably start!
What about dogs who don't like being crated?
My own dog Poppy prefers lounging on the sofa to being in her crate. And there are a couple of things that we do that make a mild difference to the onslaught of fireworks. Closing the curtains blocks out the explosions of light and external stimulation and provides slight muffling to the bangs. We also have white or brown noise playing because it helps to drown out the effect of the bangs a little.
Through a dog's ear and classical music are often suggested to mask the noise of fireworks. Just like the thundershirts and the calming sprays though, you need to begin using these when your dog is relaxed to create that positive association.
I find that white or brown noise is most effective for Poppy as there is no break in tracks and the tone is very good for covering up external noises. We often use it at night during fox season too!
You can play through Youtube, Itunes, or Spotify, or you can get a white noise machine, which often has an array of different sounds to try.
Chews, interactive toys, and training
Chewing and licking are great ways to relax your dog. Do keep in mind that if your dog is likely to have more chews and time with their interactive feeders like Kongs and lickimats, you need to adjust their meals accordingly.
You can even portion up some of their daily breakfast or dinner to use in your toys to ensure fireworks season doesn't result in a bit a of tub for your dog!
My dog Poppy loves her interactive feeders like the Nina Ottoson maze and tornado, and when she's busy working on these, she can ignore the fireworks as she is so focused.
Desensitising your dog to the sounds of fireworks
In the lead-up, you can try playing fireworks sounds through Youtube, for example, at a very low level while your dog is in a calm and relaxed state. It needs to be at a level that she can ignore, and you can slowly over time increase this, seeing how your dog responds and never pushing it too far.
Speak to your vet
If your dog really struggles with fireworks, then please talk to your vet. There are anxiety medications and solutions your vet can offer to help your dog.
We've not tried Sileo before, but I have heard very positive things about it, so we will be visiting our vet next week to discuss whether Poppy can give it a whirl this year.
In an ideal world, people would opt for silent fireworks over the traditional all banging, all terrifying ones. It's not only our pets that suffer this time of year, but people who have PTSD and also individuals on the autism spectrum can find it incredibly tough.
If you're on social media, please get involved and post your pics with the hashtag #isupportsilentfireworks and let's see if we can encourage more people to go silent and put an end to noise trauma this fireworks season.