The RSPCA estimates that around half of all dogs share a fear of fireworks. The sudden loud noises, the bright flashing lights and the strange smell of explosives can all be very disconcerting and upsetting, even for gun dogs who are bred for such an environment. Ask most dog owners and they will tell you that bonfire night is a challenge, but the good news is that you can make it easier, both for your dog and for you and your family.
Here are our top ten tips to help your dog on bonfire night:
- Know your enemy – knowing when local displays are happening will stop you from getting caught out unexpectedly, especially when they are not held on Guy Fawkes night itself. Displays and firework parties are often held at the weekends on either side of the 5th, and may also be held for New Year, Diwali and Chinese New Year, so check your calendar carefully so you can be prepared.
- Start early – you can start preparing your dog a few weeks in advance by playing a recording of fireworks on low volume to get them used to the sounds. Increase the volume a little each day and your dog will soon become desensitised.
- Chill out – another early intervention is the use of calming pheromones, such as Adaptil. These plug-in units can be started a couple of weeks before the big day to get your pet into a relaxed frame of mind so that they can cope better with the stress.
- Make them a happy place – you can help your dog feel calmer and more secure by creating a safe space in your home. This can be a crate or a cupboard or any other private nook with a few of their favourite toys, treats and blankets. The key is to give them somewhere to go that feels safe, and where they are in control, so try not to interfere with them when they’re in there. Or if you are planning on being away during bonfire night you can always take the option of a daycare for dogs at A&T Trained Dogs.
- Walk them long and early – a tired dog is less likely to be troubled by fireworks so make sure they get a good walk in before dusk. There may still be some fireworks going off so keep them on the lead and make sure their microchip is up to date in case they bolt.
- Close up – shut the curtains and close any windows to limit the effect of the fireworks in your home. If they are close by, try turning on the TV or watching an action film with lots of noise to drown out the fireworks
- Keep doors closed – if you have to answer your door or go out, make sure your dog is shut in before you open the front door to stop them from making a run for it in their panicked state.
- Stay calm – it can be very stressful to have your dog barking all night, but the calmer you keep yourself, the better the chances of calming your dog. If you get stressed at their stress, things can spiral out of control very quickly.
- Don’t punish them – shouting at your dog or punishing them for their behaviour is not going to help. It is not your dog’s fault that fireworks are going off around them, and telling them off will only increase their stress levels.
- Don’t drug them – using tranquilisers or sedatives to calm your dog may be tempting, but it’s simply not fair on your dog. Being scared by fireworks is bad enough, but being unable to respond to those stimuli because of medication is just torture.
With a bit of planning and understanding, most dogs and their owners can get through the fireworks season without too much stress. However, if your dog is especially scared, you can always take the option of a daycare for dogs like A&T Trained Dogs. A&T is based in the open countryside near Lancaster, far away from the big displays, making our daycare for dogs and our overnight dog boarding a popular option for pets at this time of year. We can also help with dog training, or even offer fully trained dogs for sale, to help you get a calmer pet. Talk to our team today to see how we can help make the fireworks season less stressful for both of you.