Is your dog frightened of fireworks? Ten tips for surviving bonfire night
Many dogs are frightened of fireworks and this year we are expecting to see a surge in back garden displays, as most major displays are cancelled and many areas of the UK are experiencing limits on gatherings or tiered lockdowns due to coronavirus. So you may find more fireworks going off closer to home than usual.
With this in mind, we have ten top tips for helping you to survive fireworks season this year.
1. Keep you dog indoors
This usually goes without saying, but with more home displays going on, it may be difficult to judge when people are going to be letting off their fireworks this year – we usually seem to see fireworks from Halloween right up until the weekend after bonfire night (this year that’s the 7th and 8th November), so it pays to be cautious when letting your dog outside after dark during these times.
It’s a good idea to help your dog feel as relaxed as possible. On days when you know there may be fireworks in your area, take them for a nice long walk during the day to tire them out before it gets dark. If you think fireworks may affect your dogs appetite try feeding them earlier than usual too. If possible introduce these changes gradually over a couple of days so you don’t disrupt their routine too much.
2. Create a safe space for your dog
Make a safe space for your dog where they can go to hide if they want to. If your dog uses a crate, cover it with blankets and leave the door open – or drape a table with a blanket so they can hide under there. Give them options so that they can choose where to hide - and respect their choices - if they reject the den that you have spent ages building for them, that's OK they might simply want to hide under the bed instead.
3. Turn up the radio or telly
The shock of sudden bangs and whizzes can be negated if you have a bit of background noise around your home. Turn the radio on and keep the TV turned up higher than usual.
According to Battersea Dogs Home, the best type of music to soothe your dog's nerves is classical music - and music with a good bassline is ideal for masking firework noises as long as your dog is OK with some banging tunes instead.
4. Draw the curtains
Close the curtains, draw the blinds, pull the shutters and cover any undraped windows to block the light - because dogs don’t just hate the sound of fireworks, they hate the flashing lights too.
Keep all your lights on indoors if possible, as this reduced the impact of the fireworks flashing through the curtains and makes them less noticeable too.
5. Don’t shut your dog in
Don’t shut your dog in one room or area of your home as this may make them more anxious and they could even hurt themselves trying to escape if they become distressed.
They may be most comfortable curled up in their usual spot next to you rather than a designated ‘safe place’, so allow them access to all the safe areas of your home and allow them to choose where they feel most comfortable rather than attempting to place them somewhere that you think is best as this could potentially stress them more.
6. Keep the windows and doors shut
Not only will this cancel out noise but it will also reduce the possibility of your dog escaping. Secure any possible escape routes in your garden and make sure everyone coming and going from the house knows to be careful opening and closing doors in case your dog decides to bolt.
7. Make sure your pet is chipped
In case the worst happens and your dog manages to make a break for it, ensure that they are microchipped (this is now a legal requirement in the UK anyway) and that the information registered to the microchip is up to date. This way if they are found they can be identified and returned to you far more swiftly.
8. Keep Calm and Carry On
If your dog can see that the fireworks have no effect on you, this may help decrease their anxiety. Also try not to cause a fuss. If you follow your dog around and hug them and talk to them in what you perceive to be a calming voice, this may freak them out or make them feel confused. The more you differ from your normal behaviour, the more anxious your dog may become. So try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. You can distract your dog by playing with their favourite toy but don’t make too much of a fuss if this is not something you would do normally.
9. Give them a chew
Try stuffing a puzzle chew – such as a Kong – with treats to keep your dog occupied, or give them a chew that is going to take them a long time to eat, such as a rawhide twist or something similar. The repetitive chewing and licking action will help to take their mind off things and help them to remain calm.
10. See your vet
If you know that your dog’s anxiety is going to be off the scale it may help to see your vet beforehand for some advice on treatment. In some cases they can provide medication and a behavioural plan to reduce your dog’s anxiety.
Battersea Dogs Home recommend that the best way to calm your dog on fireworks night is to put in some work beforehand, to desensitise them to loud noises. They have provided this useful video showing you how to get your dog accustomed to loud noises over a long period of time. If you are prepared to put in some effort, it is possible to teach them to associate loud sounds with something positive, instead of something to be scared of.
Is your dog frightened of fireworks? Have you got any tips for reducing stress that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments section below!