Bonfire Night is filled with the snaps, bangs, oohs and aahs, of happy memories and excited children. However, it can also be a time of anxiety and distress for our four-legged friends
. It’s important to be prepared, ahead of Bonfire Night itself, before the first bang of a firework. We take a look at how to keep your dog calm on Bonfire Night.
It’s normal to be scared
If your dog is scared by the loud bangs of fireworks, they aren’t alone.
Look out for the signs that your dog is feeling unsettled and anxious. Then you can help to calm them.
Some signs of anxiety are obvious in dogs. They may back away or cower. They can tremble. However, some signs take a little more detective work. If they are unusually subdued, pace the house, salivate a great deal, or even show destructive behaviour, they may well be anxious.
So, what can you do?
Be careful about reassurance
As with a child who is frightened, our natural inclination can be to offer bundles of reassurance to our scared pup. As a caring dog owner, this is likely to be your natural response.
However, whilst this may be appropriate at times, it can actually exacerbate the problem. Your dog’s rationalising will be that they are ‘right’ to be frightened.
With young dogs, particularly, a more nonchalant and calm demonstration of behaviour on your part can actually serve to show them there is nothing to be scared of.
If reassurance isn’t the best option, what can you do?
Ways to keep your dog calm on Bonfire Night
It’s a good idea to be aware of the dates of local firework displays in your area. Avoid walks at the same time. Perhaps even choose to take your dog to a more remote area or go away entirely, if you know this is a particularly troublesome time of year for them. If you are at home, keep windows and doors shut. Keep a radio on as background noise, and you should be able to muffle some of the firework bangs.
In advance of Bonfire Night itself you can work to desensitise your dog to loud and unexpected noises. Listen to loud music with a heavy drum beat from time to time, or watch movies with gun fire and crashes. Build up their tolerance. Reward their increasing tolerance with a treat.
During late October and early November it is prudent to walk your pooch during daylight hours only. This may be tricky with shortening periods of daylight if you have daytime commitments or work, but this is a way to ensure that your dog doesn’t start associating loud bangs and fear with after dark walks.
Do, however, make sure you exercise them well on days you know that fireworks may be a problem. Being well rested and having a full tummy, gives your dog a good starting point from which to manage their anxiety.
If you’re at home and your dog does start showing signs of anxiety due to the bangs of fireworks, remember to stay calm. Show them that you are carrying on as normal. However, do ensure they have access to their safest spot, perhaps their bed or crate.
If this is failing, then it’s time to turn to distraction. A game of tug with their favourite toy, or a chance to retrieve a small ball can keep them distracted.
What to do if your dog really struggles on Bonfire Night?
If your dog really struggles on Bonfire Night then you have two options. Firstly, consider booking a trip away to somewhere remote and away from commercial firework displays.
If this isn’t an option then it is worth booking an appointment with your vet. They can suggest other strategies. They can also, if they feel it is necessary, prescribe either pheromone aerosols or anti-anxiety medication, which can help to calm your dog when the anxiety strikes.
Bonfire Night can be fun, but don’t forget to give some thought to the dog in your life.