Deepavali can be a trying time for pets and pet parents alike. Despite rising awareness about the stress experienced by animals when crackers are burst, many pet parents don’t know how to make them comfortable.
Metrolife spoke to canine behaviourist Shirin Merchant about the dos and don’ts for pet parents this season.
“The safest option is to keep your dog indoors, especially in the evening when firecrackers are burst. Feed and exercise him before that and let him settle down in a corner of a room where the noise is lowest,” she says.
Let him hide: Dogs in the wild seek out confined spaces when frightened. If your dog chooses to hide from the noise and goes under a bed or behind a cupboard for hours, let him. Don’t drag him out in an attempt to comfort him.
Safe place: Give your dog free access to his safe area all through the season. This might work for some but others might prefer to move and be active when frightened. Being confined makes it worse for them. Let your dog choose what comforts him and then go along with his choice.
Drown the noise: Draw the curtains, shut the windows and play soothing music or start a white noise like a radio, music or a fan.
Let him choose: Some dogs like to be left alone when they are scared, while others prefer to be comforted. Do what your dog prefers.
Medication: Speak to your vet about medication to help calm the dog. Avoid giving any over-the-counter or prescription medication without first consulting your veterinarian.
Attach ID to collar: A frightened and confused dog can associate the sound of firecrackers with the indoors and may attempt to get out of the house to escape the noise. Play it safe by attaching an ID tag, with your phone number and address, to the collar.
Behaviour modification: Some behavioural techniques are extremely effective in helping a dog scared of noise. They involve exposing the dog to the noise at a very low level and slowly increasing it. Eventually, the noise is paired with pleasant events.
Since it is not just the noise but also the smell and environment that adds to the fear, the programme is best carried out under the supervision of an experienced canine behaviour counsellor.