Amongst the list of things which will cause Mac to launch into a blind panic (hoovers, another dog getting more pats, bath-time) fireworks have never featured on the fear list.
However, this year’s pyrotechnic season, which started around mid-October, seems to have him spooked.
The other night, a series of booms and shrieks filled the skies outside our home. Normally Mac will respond to them but not get too freaked out. This time however, he was a quivering wreck and began pacing around the house and panting rapidly.
I remembered reading somewhere that the best way to act when fireworks are frightening your dog, is not to spoil him with hugs or make a fuss, as this reinforces his belief that something is truly up and he is right to panic.
However, after about five minutes of providing him with only the scantiest reassurance, I couldn’t bear it as he became increasingly distressed. Tough love just wasn’t cutting it, so I beckoned for him to join me up on the couch.
It’s a treat he had never before been permitted, although it’s one we know he indulges in every time we leave the house - as evidenced by a tell-tale hot spot and trail of black and white hairs on the cushion.
Even this rare treat, however, was not enough to quell his distress. He would settle for a moment until the next boom sent him scrabbling up the back of the couch and try to literally climb the wall before skidding across the coffee table instead. No amount of verbal reassurance seemed to convince him that we were not in imminent danger.
We were really at our wits’ end when I remembered reading about a new product for dogs which was designed to soothe them during fireworks. Not a distracting treat, or earplugs but a T-shirt.
Equafleece, purveyors of dog clothing, state that their T-shirt range for dogs are effective at calming dogs down. The principle behind them is simple –when a dog is frightened he holds his breath. The comforting contact of a T-shirt makes him feel supported, more able to relax and therefore more able to breathe and cope with fears.
Not having such a thing in our home, we decided to improvise with one of mine. I searched for the smallest, tightest-fitting T-shirt I could find and subjected Mac to the indignity of having to poke his paws through the arm holes. I tied the excess fabric into a knot so it was snug against his skin, tried not to giggle at the rather odd sight, and waited.
So, did it work? Well, over the next hour Mac did seem to find some kind of peace. He took himself off to a corner, curled into a croissant, and didn’t move. He stopped panting more or less straightaway.
Whether it was simply that he had tired himself out, had grown used to the sounds, or if indeed the feeling of the T-shirt against his skin gave him some kind of reassurance I really don’t know, but I will keep it handy for the next rocket burst. In the meantime, like dog owners across the land we stoically await the end of the firework season.
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