FLASH, BANG, POP? NO THANKS!
CARING FOR YOUR DOG ON BONFIRE NIGHT
Remember, remember the 5th of November… How to prepare your dog for the unpredictable.
As autumn nudges up to winter, get ready for the fireworks. Bonfire Night, and also Diwali and New Year’s Eve, are a thrill for us, but for our dogs, autumn/winter can be a scary sensory overload – with unpredictable loud bangs and flashes, not to mention the unfamiliar smells and activity in their territory.
So, before you get the party started and light the fireworks, we’ve got some handy advice to help make the season go a little more smoothly – for you and your dog.
Dogs, bonfires and fireworks don’t mix well because the loud noises and bright lights are unfamiliar and can be distressing. But with a little advance planning, gently pushing their comfort zone can help some dogs. Before the festivities begin, try getting them used to the sound of fireworks whilst they’re in their safe, happy place; there are plenty of firework videos online. Dogs’ hearing is so much more sensitive than ours – it’s one of their superpowers – so increase the volume and duration gradually over time. Reward them when the sounds are playing, to build up a positive association.
Gently does it
Your dog-friendly fireworks party checklist:
Show them fireworks on TV in advance.
Get them used to music and firework volumes gradually.
Gradually increase their human socialization.
Keep people numbers low if they’re not used to crowds.
Create a safe and cosy den indoors, just for them.
Keep human party food out of reach!
Make sure they’re fed and watered.
Have plenty of rewards on hand (if they’re 6 months+).
Make a denWhen the fireworks start, your dog may want somewhere to hide. Find a small, sheltered place away from doors and windows and make it cosy with blankets. Include something that smells like you, like an old, unwashed jumper, so they feel at home. Close the curtains to help block out noise and flashes. If your dog chooses to retreat to their safe den, don’t try to lure them back out before they’re ready. Let them stay in there as long as they need to – if you force it, it could lead to further distress.
Planning a party?If you’re planning a party, it’s natural to want to include your dog, but there’s a lot to consider besides the fireworks, including having ‘strangers’ in your home (imagine a sea of brand-new ankles and shoes!) and loud music. Keep it small, stick to their routine as far as possible, set up a peaceful den and keep their noses out of any party food.
Keep them indoors
Never take your dog to a firework display, and avoid walking them nearby if you’re aware of a planned event. Take them for a good walk well before dusk, and then it’s best to simply keep them indoors. If you need to open your front door, ensure they’re securely contained in their safe place, so that they can’t run out of the house if they panic. If you do need to go outside with your dog during the evening, keep them on a strong lead, even in the garden – sudden loud noises will frighten them and they may bolt. It’s also a good time of year to check their microchip is up to date and registered – it’s a legal requirement, alongside wearing a collar with your contact details and address. There’s a spike in the number of dogs reported missing in firework season and identification is essential to bring them safely home.
Distraction with playTurning on the TV or music a little louder than usual during fireworks can help block out the unfamiliar noise. It’s also a great distraction. Interactive games and feeders can also help to keep them occupied. It's important not to react when you hear fireworks, as dogs learn from our reactions. Ignore the noise and distract them with a favourite toy.
Keep them fed and wateredAnxious dogs often lose their appetite, so make sure they’re well fed before any fireworks begin. Keep their water topped up and close by – anxious dogs pant more and this can make them thirsty.
Try not to worry when the fireworks start, no matter how loud they are. Keep things as normal and calm as possible. Dogs pick up on our stress, and changes in our tone of voice, which then adds to their own anxiety. Follow our tips for distraction with favourite toys and games.
Our dogs are always there for us, through all life’s ups and downs. Fireworks season is a time for us to look at life through their eyes and return some of that unconditional love and support. It’s also a great excuse for some extra cuddles and cosy together time as the nights draw in – one of the best things about being a pet parent.