Fireworks nearby this New Years Eve? Be prepared!
Do you celebrate New Year’s Eve together with your pet, or guest pet? Read this first, because there’s a good chance that your pet is afraid of fireworks. There are ways to train you pet not to be afraid, but there’s little point in starting now as you won’t have enough time to truly achieve anything before this year’s fireworks start. Come midnight, you might be busy uncorking the champagne and hugging family and friends. Or you might be outside watching the fireworks. Just one moment of distraction can have grave consequences. Here is our guide on how to prevent that.
On New Year’s Eve: start preparing
Take your (guest) dog for a nice, long walk in the afternoon so they can run and play. Having burnt some energy during the day, they won’t have excess energy in the evening that could manifest in anxiety. Next step - we want to prevent your pets from being outside during the fireworks and safe inside instead if possible. If you do plan to keep them inside in the evening, let them out to go to the toilet in the early evening - on a lead if you don't have a secure garden - so that they don’t need to wee just when the fireworks are scheduled. For dogs that are very fearful, you can purchase a safety harness which makes it impossible for the dog to wriggle free and run for it if they get scared by an early firecracker. Also check your lead for weak spots that could snap under pressure. Do you have cats? Then we suggest keeping your doors and cat flaps closed and locked as a precaution. It’s best to close the curtains or shutters as well, so the pets don’t see the flashes of light.
A safe place to hide
Every animal reacts to stress in their own way, but many will want to hide somewhere. Cats particularly are expert 'hiders' and can be found under the couch, in the closet or under the bed (among other spots). Let them hide if that is their choice, and don’t pull or coax them out. Let your pet choose the place where they feel safest and never, ever punish their fearful behaviour. When dogs are stressed, they tend to lose their appetite, pant, lick their noses, shiver or whine. Remain calm and reassure your dog by just being there for them. If they seek affection, gently lay a hand on them, but don’t force your affections on a stressed pet. It is a myth, by the way, that fearful pets must be ignored or else their fear will get worse. They need their human to be there for them, as long as you remain calm yourself. If you are considering anti-anxiety medication, consult a vet. Beware of acepromazine: it will make a pet unable to move and hence unable to exhibit any stress symptoms, but they are still fully aware of what is happening around them. A truly terrifying and traumatising experience!
Photo: Amanda Quintana-Bowles
3, 2, 1.... Happy New Year!
The champagne has been finished and the party is about to leave the house. Everybody is getting up, there are hugs, kisses and people moving around. Visitors come and go, the front door is open - in short, it’s chaos! These moments hold the highest risk of a dog or cat escaping. The deafening noise of fireworks can send an animal running in a blind panic, right when you are the most distracted. Yes, this can even happen to cats that have never shown symptoms of fear before. Keep all doors closed and keep an eye on your pet at ALL times. It’s a good idea to nominate a “designated pet carer” before the clock strikes midnight, who will stay with the pets to reassure them and keep all doors closed.
It’s sad to see your pet afraid, but fortunately the fireworks don’t last forever. Once everything is calm again, dogs can go outside - again, on a safe lead, in case of late firecrackers. It’s lovely if you can treat them to a nice chewbone afterwards. They have been so brave, after all, and chewing has been proven to have a calming effect on dogs. And give your cat a nice cuddle.