Stefs top tips to get though spooky season
More often than not, we know when our pets are scared of something as behaviours change. Now I'm no trainer or behaviourist, but here are some obvious signs that your pets are scared:
Trying to escape
Toileting changes, including where they toilet and how
More subtle signs include:
Being clingy, a change in eating patterns (including not wanting to eat), pacing, shaking, licking, to name a few.
Fireworks and loud bangs are no longer just around November 5th; they have possibly already started and usually continue well into next year, covering bonfire night, New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year.
So what can we do? I’ve included my top tips and covered products in more depth to help you choose any aids that will ease this season with your pet.
Tip 1: Start now – desensitise your pets
If your pets are afraid of loud bangs, fireworks or even the doorbell/knocker, start with some desensitisation therapy as soon as possible. Not only have we got firework displays to contend with, soon there will be people dressed up, ringing or knocking on the door. Try downloading firework sound effects from Dogs Trust or YouTube, and play them in the background, very very quietly. Play these while you go about your daily business, and only turn them up slowly, one bar at a time, after a week, if your pets are completely relaxed around the noises.
Tip 2: Lead walks, secure garden and microchips
The thought of losing a pet is unbearable, especially during a blind state of panic. My suggestion is to make sure your pet is microchipped, and the details including contact numbers are up to date. This is a 5-minute job, but could mean the difference between being reunited and not. During daylight hours is when I would advise walking your dog, and only quick garden toilets on a slip lead after dark. There seems no rhyme or reason for some people’s sporadic firework displays so it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I’ve known dogs scale 6-foot garden walls before when they are petrified; even in secure gardens I would recommend slip-lead wees.
Tip 3: Use non-toxic plug-ins
Pet Remedy works with the pet’s own natural calming mechanisms by mimicking GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) which is a natural calming agent present in all mammals, reptiles and birds. So when a pet becomes stressed or anxious the Pet Remedy actives help trick fired-up nerve cells into thinking they are getting a message from the brain to calm. This is why it starts to help instantly.
Explained by Dr. Flo Watt MRCPsych (Consultant Psychiatrist)
The formulation is predominantly Valerian oil based (from Eastern Europe), with small inclusions of Vetiver (from Indonesia), Sweet Basil (from Europe) and Clary Sage (from France) essential oils.
Many Valerian preparations are too potent and can sedate rather than calm. Pet Remedy is low concentration and the diffuser delivers a constant slow release, which is very kind and gentle in its effect on the metabolism. Likewise, we have the calming sprays and wipes, which are water based.
Several years of research and trials have resulted in a unique formula using low concentration Valerian essential oil, blended with Vetiver, Sweet Basil and Sage.
The special Pet Remedy blend of essential oils works alongside these natural relaxation pathways to help calm the nerves of anxious or stressed pets.
Easy to use
Ideal for pets including dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, rodents and birds
Plug in and let the de-stressing properties slow release into the surrounding area
Starts to help immediately
Helps calm pets without sedating
Helps pets become more attentive and receptive to you
Lasts up to 8 weeks, so good value
Only 5 watts, so cheap to run
Works for all pets in household
Coverage of up to 60m2 (650 sq ft) (large room)
Refill bottles available
Tip 4: Try some of our natural calmers
There are a wide range of herbal calmers on the market. After trying out many over the years, we’ve come to the conclusion that we have some of the best available now.
Trusty Dorwest have their Scullcap & Valerian tablets and Valerian Compound liquid. The tablets are specially selected ingredients that work together to help tackle stress, fear and anxiety in pets. Their liquid compound helps calm frightened pets quickly and naturally. Containing pure extracts of three herbs.
Proflax has two ranges to look at: Omega Calm and Calm & Collected. One is omega-based mixed with pure herbs, and the other is a flax oil with pure herbs.
Omega Calm provides an extra layer of calming support over our Calm & Collected product with the inclusion of Valerian in the herbal formula. Ideal for dogs who are extra nervous, reactive, noise sensitive or have severe behavioural/socialisation issues, this blend will assist in keeping your dog calm and relaxed.
Omega Calm is a 100% natural, holistic superfood supplement that contains 75% Omega 3 rich human grade fish oil consisting of sardine, anchovy, mackerel, herring and tuna, and 25% blend of active herbal tinctures: Withania, Valerian, Passionflower, Bacopa, Lemon Balm and Avena Sativa. These superfood ingredients provide nutritional support; vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants.
This blend contains adaptogenic herbs that help to support physical and emotional wellbeing. The herbs in this formula have been selected by a holistic vet for maximum health benefits, which can be shown in as little as 5–7 days in some dogs.
Calm & Collected is a gentle blend that will help your dog feel more relaxed and happy. It is ideal for dogs with low level anxiety or those who struggle to keep their focus or concentration when training or competing and can be used alongside a training/behaviour programme. In addition, this blend provides added support of bones and joints for working dogs.
Calm & Collected is a premium 100% natural holistic superfood supplement that contains 75% cold pressed flaxseed oil and a 25% blend of 8 concentrated active herbal tinctures: Skullcap, Withania, Chamomile, Astragalus, Gotu Kola, Ginger, Turmeric and Liquorice. This blend supports the health of bones, joints, circulation, ligaments and connective tissue, plus helps to maintain overall good health of the heart, digestive, immune and reproductive systems. The fresh ingredients also provide nutritional support.
This blend contains 4 adaptogenic herbs that help to support physical and emotional wellbeing. The herbs in this formula have been selected by a holistic vet for maximum health benefits, which can be shown in as little as 5–7 days in some dogs.
We also have Benyfit Natural’s Calming Topper. Just like us, dogs can become anxious or distressed. This may be triggered by changes in routine or periods of unsettlement, whether that’s a trip to the vets, a long car journey, or even a house move! BN’s Calming Topper has been carefully formulated with 100% natural ingredients to help reduce anxiety and relieve stress in your dog. Made with a soothing blend of vitamin and nutrient-rich ingredients, including calming Chamomile, Skullcap and Valerian.
Valerian and Skullcap help to support the natural relaxant pathways within the nervous system to help dogs relax. Chamomile also helps to reduce anxiety and stress in dogs.
Brand new for this year, we have introduced AniForte’s Calm & Relax. They use pure, natural and raw ingredients, such as ground valerian root, ground hop leaves, lemon balm leaves fines and passionflower herb fine cut, so I would be interested to hear how you get on with AniForte’s Calm & Relax as we love their other ranges we stock.
Tip 5: Build a den
Hiding under the bed with your pet isn’t practical, but make them a safe space, like a den or nest. This is something all pets in the house can benefit from, including your rabbits, cats, dogs and other small fluffies or feathered friends. Make sure this is set up so that they can take themselves off as and when they need to.
Tip 6: Keep them inside and make a spa night every night
If possible, move everyone inside. Rabbits and small fluffies can get very distressed very quickly. Moving them out of the sight, sound and smell of fireworks can really minimise the trauma of ‘firework season’. Again with your cats, keep them in if they are normally out during the night. It’s wise to close all windows and doors, lock cat flaps and make sure there’s at least one closed door between them and the front/back door at all times for when it’s opened. Talking specifically about dogs again: as I advised in tip 2, take them for wees in the garden, which I strongly advise is on a slip lead. The risk of them freaking out and bolting isn't worth it.
The other thing I would suggest is using natural calming sprays and roll ons around the house, on bedding and even on you. So draw the curtains and get ready for your own relaxing spa nights. I really enjoy using Dermadog Hush, with its essential oils, including Roman Chamomile– relief from stress and anxiety, Clary Sage– calming, stress-relieving, antidepressant, Valerian– improves sleep, promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety, Lavender– gently soothing and calms anxiety. It’s just one of those products that smells incredible and as soon as you smell it, you instantly feel calmer. Spray onto pets’ bedding, bandanas, blankets or spray directly onto your hands and gently massage, avoiding eyes, mouth and inside the ears. Or even spray directly onto your trousers if they find comfort around your legs. Another new product for this year is Mr Slobberchops RollerDog - Restful. This handy pocket-size powerhouse is here to summon some calm. I actually use this on my wrists; I continue to get wafts of calm throughout the day, but this can be used on bedding, bandanas or even just open the lid and let them smell it.
Tip 7: Keep them busy
Now’s the time to get your Kongs, SodaPup, lickmats and other stuffable toys out. This is the perfect way to keep them busy during the height of bangs. You can prepare these in advance and get them out as and when you need them. It doesn’t always have to be stuffable; why not play hide and seek? Hide some treats around the room and get your dog to find them, with your help. These types of games really engage the brain, and tire them quicker. Chewing bones is always good for releasing endorphins in the brain, making them ‘feel happy’. We’ve just increased our range of natural treats and chews, with more novel and long-lasting proteins available. Small animals can get in on the fun too. See our herb and hay boxes – delicious.
Tip 8: Keep to your routine
Like us, our pets can suffer when routines are changed at the last minute. Remember the 7 P’s? Proper planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance. Today's preparations are tomorrow's successes. Start now: walk in daylight hours, even if that means getting up and out before work. Plan the days ahead; if you have plans on the weekend, set routines up before: get them used to classical FM being on, the curtains being closed and add a note on the door saying ‘please don’t knock – my dog is worried about bangs in the night’. Think about when organised displays might happen and plan to stay in with your pets. Feed them earlier so it’s still daylight, get them used to going for last wees on a lead so you don’t have to spend 30 minutes in the garden last thing at night while more fireworks are going off. You don’t need any extra stress, go easy on yourself and them.
Tip 9: Thunder shirts, body wraps and comfort them
Of course, if your pet is petrified it’s natural to comfort them. Sit with them, talk to them, cuddle them, it’s normal to want to protect them. Remember to remain calm and be the one your pet wants to come to; their safe space. When we get stressed our pets feel it too.
Talking of healing hands, thunder shirts and body wraps have really taken off in recent years. Like swaddling an infant, ThunderShirt’s patented design applies gentle, constant pressure to calm all types of anxiety, fear and over-excitement issues. I would recommend taking a look at these.
Tip 10: Get the kettle on
Sometimes we can all benefit from a calming tea, and you can easily make one at home for your dog too. Chamomile flowers make the most delicious brewed tea; I usually steep mine and let it cool before offering it to my dogs. They love it. If I’m feeling generous I’ll add a touch of honey too. We also have a range of natural calming treats and there’s always a time for a treat and a ‘brew’, so go on, stick the kettle on.
I hope this helps your pets stay safe this spooky season.