Anxious dogs on Bonfire Night? Keep your dog calm during fireworks
Bonfire Night is fast approaching – a time of the year dreaded by many dog owners whose beloved pooches get distressed by the whizzes and bangs caused by fireworks. Many dogs find fireworks scary. According to research by the RSPCA, it's estimated that 45 per cent of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear them. It doesn't have to be that way though - there are lots of simple things you can do to help your pet deal with fireworks.
If your dog has reacted badly to fireworks previously, or you have a new puppy you are concerned about, then there are a few things you can do to mitigate the issue.
Why are dogs frightened of fireworks?
Our dog’s fear of fireworks come from a flight or fight response – the loud noise is unlike any natural sounds and is so loud that a dog’s initial reaction is usually to run. Fear can come in other behaviour, too. Yawning, excess shedding, panting and licking their mouths are signs of fear.
Your dog might also show sign of stress, and not just fear – this can include tucking their tail between their legs, pacing or shaking, refusing food and low energy.
Though your dog isn’t afraid of you, they can show stress and fear by shying away from any contact you offer. It’s important to respect this boundary and try to be as gentle and kind to your pooch as you can.
Before the firework season begins
Planning ahead can help dogs cope with the fireworks season. Check out when the local fireworks displays are happening in your area so you know exactly when there is going to be some disturbance. During the days leading up to Bonfire Night, try playing a soundtrack or YouTube video of fireworks quietly in the house. This way your dog can familiarise themselves with the noise.
Ensure your dog has plenty of exercise on Bonfire day so that they’re suitably tired by the evening.
Before the fireworks season starts, provide your dog with a doggy safe haven. This should be a quiet area, so choose one of the quietest rooms in your home - a place where they feel in control. Don't interfere with your dog when they're in that area.
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Provide your dog with a doggy safe haven
Train your dog to associate the area with positive experiences, e.g. by leaving their favourite toys there, but not imposing yourself at any time. Use a variety of chew toys, such as stuffed Kongs and chews. Swap them regularly, putting them away when not in use so that your dog doesn't become bored with them.
With time, dogs can learn that this place is safe and enjoyable. When fireworks go off, they may choose to go there because they know, in that place, they are safe. It's important that your dog has access to this doggy safe haven at all times - even when you're not at home.
Take your pet for a walk in the daytime
To help settle your pet and take them away from the bulk of the noise as much as possible, make sure to walk them in the daytime before any of the fireworks or bonfires begin.
Letting your dog run off some steam in the day might also help keeping them a bit calmer in the evening, as leaving them inside all day can cause them further distress.
Calm your dog by shutting out the noise
Playing calming music and shutting your windows, drawing the curtains, and staying in one room with your dog might help them stay calm during the firework displays. Drawing the blinds will prevent dogs from seeing the fireworks displays, which helps them relax more.
Making sure your dog is as comfortable as possible is key to keeping them calm, if your dog chooses to hide under your bed, it’s important to give them access to this. The more you can do to keep your dog calm and comfortable, the better.
Keep calm for your pooch
It is imperative that you remain calm whilst the fireworks are going on, as showing negative and stressed behaviour can make your pooch even more anxious. By keeping calm while letting your dog find comfort, you are showing them there is nothing to be afraid of.
Familiarise your dog with the sound
Surprisingly, familiarising your dog with the sound of fireworks could lead to a calmer night. Get your dog accustomed to the noise of fireworks by playing the sound on a low volume for some weeks before bonfire night comes around. Pair the noise with treats or playtime, so that they get familiarised with the sound at a familiar level they can manage and start associate it with nice things.
This way, the chance of them being scared is reduced, as you have familiarised them with the sound of fireworks. By keeping this going, you could potentially end up with a pooch that is way less stressed during the fireworks.
Keeping you dog secure during Bonfire NightFireworks frighten dogs. Fireworks can be a source of fear for many dogs but it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t ignore the problem - follow Betty & Butch’s top tips to make firework celebrations less frightening for your pup.
- Give your dog somewhere to hide that they have access to all times, e.g. under furniture or in a quiet corner.
- Walk dogs during daylight hours. Keep dogs indoors when fireworks are likely to be set off.
- At nightfall close windows and curtains. Put on music to mask the sound of fireworks.
- Make sure your dog can’t escape if there’s a sudden noise. Have them microchipped just in case.
- Never punish your dogs when they are are scared as this will only make things worse in the long run.
- It’s fine to comfort your dog if it helps them relax, or leave them alone unless you think they will harm themselves.
- Close any windows and black out a ‘doggy play area’ so that your dog can’t see the flashing lights.
- Ignore the fireworks yourself. Play with a toy to see if your dog wants to join in, but don’t force them.
- Before fireworks begin, move your dog to to the doggy play area with all their favourite toys.
- In an event that you do take your dog outside on Bonfire Night, make sure they are wearing a collar with an up-to-date ID tag on.
Quick tips for when the fireworks start
- Move your dog to the safe haven each evening before the fireworks begin. Provide toys and other things that they enjoy in the safe haven.
- Feed your dog slightly earlier than usual, as if they do begin to feel anxious they may lose their appetite.
- Make sure there are things for you to do too, so your dog isn't left alone.
- Close windows and curtains to muffle the sound of fireworks. Blackout your doggy safe haven, so they can't see any flashes outside.
- Put on some music or TV to mask the firework sounds.
- Ignore the firework noises yourself. Play with a toy to see if your dog wants to join in, but don't force them to play.
- Behave as normally as possible around your dog. Remember, if you are acting strangely, they will too!
Don't leave your dog alone in the house during Bonfire Night
You might love going out to watch firework displays, but your dog would really appreciate your company at home. If you are planning on going out, arrange a familiar dog sitter who could sit with your dog in the evening. Be sure to provide them with appropriate instruction how they should act, should your dog start displaying fearful or anxious behaviour.
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What can I give to calm my dog for fireworks anxiety?
If you’ve previously tried everything and your dog is still stressed then speak to your vet. They may be able to suggest a medication that helps keep your dog calmer. If you're considering giving your dog any remedies or medications to help them cope with stress, then always speak to your vet first, especially if they have any health problems, or are taking any medication, and always follow the manufacturers' instructions.
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