Leonie St Clair|www.londondogstraining.co.uk 

Many of London’s Lockdown pets are having a hard time adjusting as the city returns to a new normal. The noises and events associated with everyday hustle and bustle have taken a toll on young animals experiencing many of these things for the first time. The hardest time will soon be upon us. Please do not underestimate the potentially negative impact of Halloween and the long fireworks season. For those of you with lockdown puppies or rescues please consider how sensitive your pet is to novelty or noise and have a plan. 

Top of the list has to be the good will of your neighbours. Let them know you have a dog or cat and ask them to tell you when and if garden fireworks are on the cards. We can all prepare for organised events, but it is the startling effect of sudden bangs and swooshes from neighbouring gardens that may cause most damage. 

Not all pets are scared of fireworks, some seem to get used to them. However, where young animals are concerned it is best to assume the worst and stay safe. Very old animals with failing senses can also get a sudden fright where once familiar sights and sounds suddenly become unfamiliar and scary. Again, don’t take any chances. Keep your elderly pet safe with these simple tips. 

  • Ensure dogs and cats are shut in the house before dusk. Feed early and get pets out early to urinate and defecate. 
  • If your dog goes ballistic at door noises put a polite notice up at your front door or gate at Halloween, explaining and asking people/children not to knock. Alternatively, switch off lights visible from the street and make out you are not home. 
  • Cat flaps should be locked. Cats may need a litter tray to see them through the night. 
  • Do not walk your dog when there are fireworks about. Make the morning walk the big one of the day and aim to provide indoor entertainment in the evening.  
  • Unless they are clearly terrified, playing with your pet, whether cat or dog, is a great way to build positive associations with firework sounds. 
  • Make the games rambunctious, play tuggy with the dog, get the cat to chase a toy on a string. Running around counters anxiety. 
  • Aim to block out disturbing visual stimuli, whether children dressed up as ghouls or flashes from fireworks. Close curtains and blinds. Turn the house lights up bright. 
  • Create a sound wall by turning up radios and TV’s, loud.  Washing machines are also a great way to block noise from outside. 
  • If your pet is anxious, he can of course lie beside you to help him feel secure. However, stay calm, no matter how anxious your pet is. If he wants to hide, let him. 
  • It is a good idea to create a covered, dark den at the core of the house, where your pet can hide if they want. Owners that have crate trained their dog or pup will be ahead of the game. Deep, cardboard boxes are also great temporary dens. Deaden firework noise by covering the den with a heavy blanket. Get your pet used to the den now. Fill it with treats and toys, to make it a desirable, safe space. 
  • If you know your pet is noise phobic or anxious speak to your vet about calming remedies and/or medication. Don’t delay. 
  • Those who feel their pet may have a problem can speak to their vet and behaviourist about treatment. Many pets can be taught over time that firework sounds are non-threatening.