Tag Archives: fear

Common Behavioural Problems: Fireworks Anxiety (dogs)


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I have come to the conclusion over the years that I do not in fact have the pleasure of having a dog. My dog does not exhibit many stereotypical dog behaviours – has no interest in chasing cats, never plays fetch (or anything except ‘chase me!’ really…), he HATES water – jumps over puddles, sulks if he has to go out in the rain, and won’t willingly stay in the bath! You get the picture! This time of year I am always reminded of another way in which my dog is not a dog – you see my little Barney jumps at almost everything! But fireworks… He LOVES them!
*BARK*BARK*BARK*
Yea, you tell those fireworks Barney… ??!
If we do fireworks in our garden the dog is not allowed outside, for his own safety, except on a short lead. He’s only allowed to bark at the one’s he can see/ hear from a distance.

Well, most dogs are not like that. Studies have shown that around 45% of dogs exhibit fear/ anxiety toward fireworks. So, I thought I’d cover some helpful tips to help your canine friend through the fireworks this bonfire night.

1. Ensure your pet has somewhere to hide; somewhere they feel safe. Dark/ covered areas, and enclosed spaces are good as they help calm your pet and make them feel secure. Under furniture, in (clear) cupboards, an enclosed/hooded pet bed, even a cardboard box with something soft and familiar smelling inside – just ensure your pet has access to it at all times so that they can escape the moment they feel the need to.

Zzz Alfie

2. Walk your dog during daylight hours – there is no sense in attempting to walk a frightened dog when it is dark with fireworks going off left, right and centre! Walk them during the day so that they can enjoy the exercise, and you can care for them safely, indoors when the scary fireworks are lighting up the night sky. This reduces the possibility of fireworks being set off during ‘walkies’ and your dog becoming anxious/fearful.

3. By November I assume there are not many people who leave the windows and doors open around their house, due to the cold autumn evenings, however, this point still stands – ensure that windows and doors are shut, and blinds and curtains are also closed, this will help to muffle the sounds of the fireworks outside. Turning on the TV or radio (some noise) will also help to distract your pet from the noise of the fireworks.

Fireworks

4. One of the most important things you, as an owner, can do is to behave completely normal and ignore the fear/anxiety behaviour your dog is exhibiting in response to the fireworks. Unless your pet is self-harming due to the stress/anxiety or going to accidentally cause itself harm, do not give your pet attention (positive or negative) as ‘reward’ for the behaviour. If you are anxious about your pet becoming anxious, they will pick up on it and it will increase their anxiety.
This applies to any irrational fear/anxiety behaviour. If you comfort your pet every time they exhibit fear/anxiety, they feel that there is a reason they are being comforted, and that fear/anxiety is the correct response to the stimuli. Ignore your pets anxiousness; especially toward normal things that will not do them harm – such as the vacuum cleaner, recycling bins, furniture (yes, our pets can become anxious easily over mundane things).

5. Do not leave your pet alone, if you can help it, to ensure their safety. Ensuring your dog is microchipped (and wearing a collar and tag) will be beneficial if your dog somehow escapes.

6. Toys and chews are helpful for distracting your dog and keeping them occupied during the fireworks. A new toy, their favourite toy, a treat toy, a rawhide chew, their favourite chewy treat – whatever will be the best distraction for you.

Barney nomming

7. Adaptil supply a great pheromone diffuser, spray,  and collar for dogs. There are also Adaptil non-pheromone tablets.
The diffuser is a plug in and emits the pheromone throughout your house and works to soothe and comfort your dog.
The collar needs to be in close contact with the skin at all times, the body heat from the animal stimulates the collar to work.
The spray should not be sprayed on the animal! The spray can be sprayed on bedding, in kennels, in the car… ensure you and your pet stay away from the sprayed area after it has been sprayed, for 15 minutes (spray it 15 minutes prior to your dog needing the affects) to allow the spray to take affect and not cause harm to anyone.
NB. Adaptil is specially designed for use with dogs only.

Fear of fireworks doesn’t just affect dogs; many pets are scared of fireworks – the noises and the colours. Most of these tips can be applied to your pet species.

If you are concerned about your pet, seek the advice of your vet and/ or an animal behaviourist.


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Ali Holloway – BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare

“Catty” Cats (and Aggression)


I was lying in bed last night listening to some resident cats somewhere on my road have a “catty” show-down! This is a fairly regular occurrence, more so when a new cat moves in close by. This time, it did not escalate into a fight (fortunately) – the aggressive displays were enough to solve whatever this dispute was between these cats.

This got me thinking about the different types of aggression shown by animals, and why they do it. So here are my brief thoughts on animal aggression…

Firstly, there are two types of aggression:

  • Inter-species aggression – aggression between two or more individuals of the same species (i.e. cat on cat)
  • Re-directed aggression – aggression caused by one factor, being ‘taken out’ on a neutral thing (such as your brand new shoes, your lovely curtains, or your expensive dining room chairs!)

Secondly there are 3 reasons for the aggression

  • Fear – being aggressive due to feeling threatened or scared
  • Status-related – for dominance over another individual
  • Territorial – defending their area

I figured that what I was listening to last night could be one, or all, of those reasons!

Fear Aggression is the most common, and the most likely to occur – and it can also be the most dangerous to a person. A fearful animal will often panic and attack as they are unsure what else to do, and instincts kick in, in the form of the “fight or flight” reflex – stay and fight or run away. If the latter is not an option (e.g. an animal backed into a corner) then the first is the only option the animal can perceive.

Dominant or status-related aggression, which is what most people think of when thinking of aggression, is displaying aggressive behaviour to intimidate and make whoever the display is being done at, back off or put up a fight. This can occur in multi-pet households (to establish a hierarchy), not just with adult animals but even between litter-mates  growing up. Dominant aggressive behaviour is to state “I am the boss, and will accept a fight with any who challenge me!”

Territorial aggression is often seen by guard dogs displaying this behaviour in defence of their territory. It is also common when cats cross-over into someone else’s territory at the wrong time…
The display is a warning to say “if you come into my territory, I will be aggressive, so keep out!”, however the likelihood of attack from this is minimal if the distance is kept!

It is quite likely this “cat-fight” going on outside my bedroom window was territorial – however, whichever way aggression is displayed, it is not a nice behaviour; one to be avoided if and when possible! It was safe to be in bed whilst this “catty” dispute was taking place for me, I only hope the cats involved got away unscathed too!