Fireworks fear in pets; fear can turn into a phobia
Traditionally we kick into the new year. Most dogs and cats are not fond of fireworks. This is not commonplace and penetrates the quiet and safe living environment. How can you approach the dog or cat if you are afraid of fireworks? Some flee with their pets from the fireworks noise. Fear is a natural urge to survive, but fleeing is not always possible. As an alternative, there is behavioral therapy, medication and education available. Trauma with fireworks and repeated scares can turn fear into a phobia. Anxiety can worsen and then generalize. In addition, the pet sees danger in everyday sounds and in the worst case it no longer wants to go out on the street. It is important to do something about it.
‘Which measures can best be used against fear depends on the living environment, the age of the animal and the degree of fear. Ask the veterinary assistant which therapy is best for your animal ‘, reports De Graafschap Vets. One animal is more sensitive than another. Once the fear of fireworks has been fed, it is very difficult to unlearn that behavior. Especially if the animal is a bit older and has therefore experienced more, the fear is often more intense. At such a moment you can opt for medication, preferably in combination with individual training, ”says veterinarian Simone Konink of the Clinic for Companion Animals in Dieren.
Some tips are given by the veterinarian and the National Institute for Companion Animals (LICG) on how to avoid stress: Do not let fireworks come close to the dog or cat. Take the dog out at times when it is quieter, so not when there are a lot of fireworks. Walk in quiet areas, such as the forest. Keep the dog on a leash and take a short walk. During the turn of the year, windows, doors, curtains and ventilation grilles should be closed to keep the effects of the fireworks out as much as possible and to ensure that the dog or cat does not go outside. What can also help is a radio or TV on as background sound. A cat is looking for a safe place. Make it as pleasant as possible and make sure they can get there. For example, put a box in their safe place to hide.
Provide distraction and support
‘You may not reward or give attention to the dog if it is afraid, then you confirm the fear. This is a misunderstanding ‘, dog expert Liselot Boersma writes on her website Hond en Lot. ‘Fear is not behavior. What a dog does can be independent of his feelings. Behavior can arise from fear. You can reward behavior, but not fear. Negative feelings cannot be made worse by positive experiences. Give the animal general support, confidence, touch, and sweet words in a neutral and calm tone. ‘
‘Stay at home for your dog or cat at the turn of the year’, says veterinarian Royal. The dog can be distracted in various ways, especially with signs of fear, such as barking or with the tail down. Give it a treat, such as a bone or a toy. For example, a box with treats hidden inside. Providing distraction is only possible if the animal is still approachable despite the fear.
Anxiety can be made worse by negative and threatening experiences. Therefore, it is not advisable to punish the pet for fear, ignore it when expressing fear, or put the animal in a situation that will increase fear, such as forcing it to do something it fears.
Medication can help with the correct dosage
In case of severe anxiety, you can choose different types of medication. The National Information Center for Companion Animals provides extensive information about medication. Only use medication prescribed by the vet after examining the animal. Never give a higher dose without consulting the vet. “Before using a product, always consult for the correct dosage, which differs per animal,” emphasizes veterinarian Simone Konink. Homeopathy, nutritional supplements or pheromones can also help, but always report their use to the veterinarian or animal behaviorist first. Food preparations, for example, cannot be combined with all medicines. Avoid giving alcohol or medication to humans, even if they contain the same active ingredients as medicines for animals. It is not advisable to use leftover medication from last year without consultation and research.
Get young dogs used to fireworks
Once fear of fireworks is fed, it is very difficult to unlearn that behavior. Anxious dogs have difficulty learning anything new, according to Hond en Lot. Correcting is pointless and is based on fear. An individual training starts as soon as the dog does not yet experience fear, with the aim of teaching the dog a different emotional response to a fearful stimulus. Getting a puppy or kitten used to fireworks is easier. Getting the pet used to fireworks takes time. According to the LICG, it is advisable to start an individual training as early as August, during which, for example, a CD with fireworks sounds is set up. While the CD is playing softly, the animal gets distraction in the form of play or treats. The noise level is increased slowly, but preferably always remains below the noise level at which the animal will show fear. When in doubt about your pet, it is recommended that you seek the help of a dog or cat behavioral therapist or consult books.
Also be vigilant for fireworks after New Year’s Eve. Your dog should not chew on that, especially the vets warn. When tips are given: Keep the dog on a leash. Teach the dog that it is now safe on the street. If they do not want to walk any further, turn around and expand the walking tour the next time and vary, for example keep a slightly different walking direction, so that they do not associate walking outside with fear. If a firecracker is fired while you are walking the dog, make sure you reassure it afterwards so that the animal does not block.