If your dog or cat is terrified of loud sounds, it’s very difficult to see them suffering through the trauma of fireworks. There are many things you can do to teach puppies and kittens how to tolerate loud noises, and the good news is, there is also something that can be done for older dogs and cats too.
Puppies / kittens
The process of getting young animals used to experiences in their environment without it causing them distress is called habituation. There’s a window period where this type of learning is most effective in young puppies and kittens, and while it can still be done in older dogs and cats, it usually takes a lot longer, without the same dramatic results.
For most dogs, this window period is up to approximately 16 weeks, but can of course vary from dog to dog. However, with kittens, this period is much shorter. Their window period is only up to 8 weeks. Sadly, once this window period is over, your pet is likely to react startled or scared to anything new that he or she has not encountered before.
This generally means: Expose your little one to as many people/sounds/environments as possible. In our specific case: Fireworks. If there aren’t any around (which is quite unlikely in Lebanon), you can play them on youtube. Change the sounds and volumes and make sure your pet associates them with something good ( play, treats etc. ) so they build a positive association with the experience.
For older dogs / cats
The single most important part of helping your adult dog or cat cope with fireworks and thunderstorms is to provide them with a safe space and teach them that this is their safe space BEFORE the fireworks happen.
This means your dog and cat needs to learn (when they’re calm) that this space is where they are safe and happy. The space should ideally be enclosed, preferably soundproof and very comfortable. Think about the blanket forts you used to build as a child. Look at the places he/she is already using as everyday resting spaces and try to copy that, but make sure the place isn’t too close to windows or doors. Start hiding your pets treats in the safe space to further encourage them to come there.
What to do before the fireworks start:
- Exercise them and feed them a generous meal. If they’re tired and full, they’re likely to sleep.
- Play some calming music. The Youtube Channel “Relax My Dog” has hourlong videos and is great for that.
- Try the Thunder Wrap (instructions here)
Once the fireworks start, lead your pet to the safe space, sit with them and comfort them as much as you can.
Finally, if your dog or cat needs professional help to overcome their fear of loud noises, please seek help sooner rather than later. You can also speak to your vet about possible medication such as Calmivet. The sooner this is addressed, the better the chances of success.