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A Lesson With Laura – How to create a safe space for your pet

By Ash Tree Vets | 2nd October 2019

With fireworks season rapidly approaching we will be looking at just one of the ways you can help your pet to cope…


How to create a safe space for your pet

This a really useful, simple and important thing to do, yet so often gets forgotten about.

Providing a safe space for your pet enables them to move away and hide from the scary noises and seek refuge where the exposure to the noises is reduced, hence helping to relieve some of your pet’s fear. Dogs in particular benefit from a den type area and it has been suggested that dogs that have the option to hide in a safe space during a fearful event recover much more quickly than those that have no available hiding space. It is not only dogs that benefit from a safe hiding space, cats and small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs will also thank you for providing safe hiding places to.

The safe space you create for your pet should be a place where positive association is created, your pet needs to feel secure in this space and enjoy using it.

For dogs, a den type area can easily be created using a crate with a blanket draped over the top. Ideally the den should be positioned in a room in the middle of the house to limit external noise and a room with small or no windows is preferable. Dogs will often naturally choose a corner of a room to hide in so this would be an ideal place to set up the den if possible.  A thick blanket or some towels should be placed over the top and around the sides of the den to help muffle the sound.

Cats are more comfortable from high vantage points, so where possible create your cat’s safe space somewhere off the floor. A Cat carrier covered with a blanket, a cat igloo or a cardboard box are all suitable options for your cat to hide in.

For small pets create a small safe space within their normal cage or run using a cardboard box or upside down plastic tub with a hole cut in the side.

It is vital that your pet, particularly dogs and cats, always has access to their safe space even if fireworks are not expected. Your pet will learn to use this space as a safe place to rest and hide and it would therefore be unkind to block access to this space for any reason.

Prepare your pet’s safe space well in advance of fireworks season (at least 2-3 weeks) so that you can teach them that it is a nice place to be. Feed your pet in the safe space or drop tasty treats in there for you pet to find when they go in; this will help to create a positive association with being in this space. Encourage your pet to rest in this space. For dogs, taking them to their safe space and giving them a Stuffed Kong or activity feeder can help to further create a positive association with the den and encourage them to relax in it.

Install a Feliway/Adaptil or Pet remedy diffuser close to your pet’s safe space to help them feel relaxed and reassured.

Creating a den or safe space for your pet is just one of the ways in which you can help your pet to cope with fireworks season. For more information on the short term treatment of firework fear please pop into the practice to pick up one of our free firework information packs.