While the entire family is preparing for Deepavali, we often discount how stressful these days are for our beloved pets. There are various elements that could cause stress in our pets — loud music, crackers, sudden changes in routines, new people visiting the house... Here are a few suggestions to help your pet dog deal with this festive fervour.
• Make sure your pets have their identity tag on them at all times. This should be a tag with their name and your phone number. Make sure the collar fits snugly and does not slip off easily. In case of your dog escaping through the window or an open door/gate, this could be the only way for someone who has spotted your dog to reach you. There are various other types of tags and identification gadgets available in the market. Invest wisely, depending on your dog’s past history with the festival.
• Instruct every member of your house (including the house help) to keep doors/gates/large windows closed at all times.
• Use snug-fitting collars, harnesses or martingale collars during walks, to prevent them from slipping out.
• Do not leave the dog alone, especially in an outdoor kennel, during the hours when crackers go off. Plan your family activities accordingly.
• Try to identify what your dog’s safe spot is. This is the spot they run to when they are scared, need space, want to chew on a bone or even go to sleep. Give them full access to this spot at all times, festival or not.
• Talk to your veterinarian and invest in a first-aid kit for your dog.
During the festival:
• Exercise your dog during quieter times. Make sure they are on a leash. Dogs do not associate random loud noises with celebration. Their instinct is to run away from such unexplainable situations.
• Choose walking surfaces carefully to avoid hot metal rods, etc. Wash your pet’s feet after walks, to prevent them from accidentally licking poisonous cracker residues.
• Keep all doors, curtains and windows closed.
• If your dog is stressed and is refusing food, don’t force him to eat. Place a bowl of fresh water near the spot they are curled up. Leave some easy-to-digest food for them to eat, if they choose to. Instruct children to leave such dogs alone.
• If you have a dog who is slightly worried and wants to stay close to you, distract them with games like tug-of-war or treasure hunt. If your dog engages in play, encourage them to focus on you and create a happy environment in the house. This usually works with a confident young pup who is experiencing this for the first time.
• Do not coddle your dog or try to feed tasty treats. This only reinforces their fear. You are their role model, so if you act confident, they are likely to follow suit. Stay close to them and pretend to watch TV or read a book.
• Some dogs get excited or curious about fireworks or fancy lamps — restrain them and make sure they do not approach any firecracker, lit or not. It could cause serious poisoning or injury.
• Keep sweets and savoury items out of reach. Instruct family and guests to not feed human food to dogs. Certain ingredients in festive foods are fatal to pets.
Last but not the least, let us be responsible citizens and celebrate Deepavali the way it was meant to be: with lights, and pledge to stay away from crackers.
The author is a Bangalore-based canine behaviour consultant and can be reached at email@example.com