Used to love them with an almost childlike joy and fascination as they exploded across the sky....now that I have dogs I f*cking hate them.
I have friends who recount tales of how their husband drove 200 miles to buy some incredible fireworks that have the biggest starburst, the hugest bang and all I think is...wanker.
With the advent of silent fireworks, yes there really is such a thing, now being used in compassionate towns all over Europe, there is no reason for the absolute purgatory that dogs, kids and the elderly have to go through every year.
Here in the US, we dog owners suffer on New Years Eve, July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas, sometimes even Memorial Day.
In the UK, even though it’s normally just one event a year on November the 5th, the misery often starts the week before and goes on well into the following few days.
Bonfire night is a tradition for us English folk, where we commemorate the failure of Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James the First on 5th November 1605.
Ever since that day, we light bonfires on that date every year to celebrate the King surviving the attempt on his life and burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes (kids make them out of straw, old clothes and various bits and pieces) on the bonfire.
Hardly anyone remembers the history behind it, most people just use it as an excuse to have a great night out with their friends, latterly with the hellish addition of fireworks.
So.....history lesson over, what the hell do we do about these loud, scary things that ruin our dogs lives for a few days every year?
Well, first things first, be prepared.
- If you have a basement, then that is absolutely the best place for your dog to be. The thickness of the walls combined with the earth packed around them muffles the sound to a far greater degree than it will be on higher floors.
- Second, start feeding your dog a calming food and use probiotics at the very least a few days before. A settled stomach brings about a more settled mind so this is a big one. Cook your dogs’ food if you can, using easily digestible proteins like turkey or white fish or egg, combined with brown rice pasta or white rice (about 25%) and combine with some green beans, carrots, a few wild blueberries and maybe a dollop of cottage cheese. Add some raw local honey to help settle the tummy. A nicely full but not overly full tummy before the mania starts can help with the feeling of ‘Aaahh’.
- A warm lavender bath an hour before an early dinner on firework day can help to loosen up your dog enough that they can relax a little easier, then dry them off and settle them down in a warm interior room.
- Now’s the time to break out the music. ‘Through a Dogs ear’ CD played as high as you can get away with, this shit is the dogs bollocks! We’ve used it on shelter dogs for years and it’s brilliant.
- About an hour before the madness, this is when you start with the big guns. In our case, a top quality CBD oil called Pet Releaf 1700. It is miraculous for all the different anti-inflammatory benefits anyway, but for storms and firework night, it comes into its own. Don’t be a skinflint and try to buy some cheap CBD oil off of Amazon, you’re honestly wasting your time. Tried about 19 of them and nothing, nothing comes close to the Pet Releaf, which works 100% of the time. No I don’t own shares in the company, I just love their product. I will show you some alternatives though later if you live in the UK and can’t get Pet Releaf.
- A thunder shirt is a decent addition to this group of things to try but I haven’t had that much success with it as a stand alone solution. Use your thunder shirt wisely, making sure its snug enough to provide the dog with the feeling of security and physical restriction that she requires to help alleviate stress. A loose thunder shirt is just a $30 piece of nothing I'm afraid.
- A good run out in the fresh air, not so much that the dog is exhausted but enough to make the dog pleasantly tired is always a great pre-firework stress reliever.
For those of you who are wonderful dog owners and have a really hard time with fireworks (or thunder even, as both of these situations tend to invoke the same responses in dogs that are noise phobic) have you ever thought about desensitizing the dog to the offending sound for a more long term solution?
Starting at very low levels, increasing bit by bit over time, playing a desensitizing sound CD while you engage your dog in some pleasurable activity like a game, or massage or hand feeding, or all of the above has an incredible success rate.
Yes, it takes planning and a little time but the benefits last a lifetime.
For severely firework and thunder phobic dogs it can be the $10 answer to a very expensive problem. CDs of this sort are available on Amazon and downloadable as MP3s.
As promised, for those of you who can’t get hold of Pet Releaf CBD oil, here’s a nice suggestion that a friend of mine, Shannon Macy told me about.
Shannon sells Doterra essential oils and I will be honest I always thought that essential oils were a bit of a joke when I first got approached to try them. I had visions of idiotic ‘flower children’ types suggesting lavender and camomile oils as cures for severed limbs and nuclear holocaust burns, but the reality is that essential oils work very well on dogs.
Shannon sent her storm phobic to me this weekend and I was very impressed at his level of calmness when a few grumbles of thunder rumbled past. She had been using Copaiba oil on him, along wth Doterra oils ‘balance’ and serenity’ along his spine.
Result? Calm easy going dog all weekend.
You can get hold of Shannon, who is a wealth of knowledge on essential oils at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s always happy to give advice to my clients and those interested in more holistic solutions to common dog problems.