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Making Fireworks Work With Pets

As excellent as August is for Edinburgh – boosting our economy, showcasing the city’s thriving arts scene, and providing an entire month of world-class entertainment – there’s one huge downside for our four-legged friends. Our Education Officer discusses how to make the Festival fireworks more bearable for our pets.

I remember my first time watching the post-Festival fireworks concert, sardined with thousands of others, foreign accents aplenty, behind the barriers on Castle Street. I remember the collective ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ of the crowd with each explosion, the stiff neck afterwards from peering skyward for so long, and I remember seeing a dog in the crowd.

A strange thing to remember, perhaps, but having grown up with dogs who were too terrified to even venture outdoors each year around Guy Fawkes Day, I found it amazing that this dog was so placid.

I imagine I wouldn’t be the only one surprised by this. PDSA’s 2018 PAW Report states that, among pet owners in the UK, a huge 40% report their dog to be afraid of fireworks, and 34% say the same of their cats. Additionally, 78% of pet owners surveyed think that fireworks should be regulated to allow use only for licensed events or on certain dates – a staggering 83% of veterinary professionals agree.

The arguments against fireworks always meet resistance though, so, for now, pet owners are forced to find ways to make life easier for our four-legged friends. With the Festival now underway, here are a few simple tips to apply around the house this August.

Make the most of the light

Gladly, we’ve no shortage of daylight at this time of the year, so be sure to walk your dog and bring your cat inside before the fireworks begin. If your dog needs to go toilet after dark, keep them on the lead – as fireworks are one of the leading causes of pets running away from home, be certain your pet is microchipped!

Johann Sebastian Bark

Turn on some music or a movie. The sound from this will help to act as a distraction from the fireworks outside. Also, studies have shown that some genres, including reggae and classical, can help to relax dogs.

Not only kids can build blanket forts!

The perfect excuse to get fort-building like you were five again – using a dog or cat bed, blankets that have their scent (or yours), pillows, or whatever’s available, build a sheltered area for your pet to hide in/under. Fill it with their favourite toys or some treats. The blankets will help to muffle the explosions, and the treats and familiar scents will help provide some calm. Closing windows, as well as having thick curtains (and drawing them good and early) will help block the light and some noise.

Keep calm and carry on

When the fireworks start, stay calm and try to not respond to them. If you show too much excitement, your pet will pick up on it and react too – and if they remain calm, reward their behaviour with a treat. You may also consider calming products such as Feliway or the Thundershirt.

You ate the whole wheel of cheese?

This one may be difficult with all the entertainment going on around Edinburgh – but try to avoid leaving your pet alone when there are fireworks outside. The stress from it may cause them to be destructive, overeat, or chew on things you’d rather they didn’t!

Getting to the root of the problem

Playing fireworks sounds on a low volume in the lead up to August may help acclimatise your pet to the noise – there are also sound therapy options available online. If your pet is becoming extremely anxious, you may wish to seek advice from a vet who may recommend an animal behaviourist.

See our short video with these tips here, and be sure to share with a fellow pet owner this August.

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