With Halloween, Bonfire Night and endless firework displays, this time of year is full of excitement for us humans. But with trick or treaters at the door, relentless loud bangs and flashes, it can be a very anxious time for your dog.
Before the parties get going and the fireworks begin, we’ve provided some helpful advice to help make this season a little easier for both you and your dog.
Dogs and fireworks don’t often mix well because the loud noises can be distressing for your pet pooch. In the days before the festivities begin, it’s a good idea to get your dog used to the sound of fireworks whilst in a calm and safe environment. You can easily find videos of firework displays online, or even buy a soundtrack of explosions. Reward your dog when the sounds are playing to slowly build a positive association with the noises. Play it quietly at first (as your dog’s ears are far more sensitive than ours) then gradually increase the volume over a few days. Playing the TV or radio a little louder than usual on the night will also help block out the noise.
When the fireworks start, your dog may want somewhere to hide if they are frightened. Find a small, sheltered place away from doors and windows and make it cosy with blankets. Include something that smells like you, such as an old unwashed jumper so they feel comfortable. Be sure to close the curtains to help block out noise and any flashing lights from the displays. If your dog does retreat into this hideaway, don’t try to lure them back out. Allow your dog to stay in there for as long as they need – trying to force them to confront their fears will only lead to further distress.
Never take your dog to a firework display; as previously stated, dogs and fireworks do not mix well. You should avoid even taking them outside on the evening of Bonfire Night. Take them for a good walk well before dusk, which is the time displays usually begin, and avoid letting them outside after this. If you need to open your front door, ensure your dog is securely shut away in a different room, so that they cannot run out of the front door in a moment of panic. If you do need to go outside with your dog during the evening, keep them on a strong lead, even in the garden. Any sudden loud noises will frighten your dog and they may try to run away. This is also a good time of year to ensure that your dog’s microchipping is up-to-date. It is a legal requirement for your dog to be microchipped and wearing a collar with your contact details and address. The unpredictability of mixing dogs and fireworks causes a spike in the number reported missing at this time of year. Microchipping and a collar are essential to bringing your dog home safely if this happens.
Anxious dogs often lose their appetites. This means you’ll want to ensure that your dog is well-fed before any fireworks begin. On the other hand, the increased panting of anxious dogs means they get thirsty more quickly. Make sure to keep their water bowl topped up frequently and close to the hideaway you have created for them, so your pet doesn’t experience any additional discomfort.
Try not to worry about your dog when the fireworks are taking place, no matter how loud they are. They will pick up on your stress and this in turn could make them anxious. Playing with your dog to distract them is also a good idea. Use their favourite toy and make it as mentally stimulating as possible to keep their attention on the game. We’re all used to drawing comfort and support from our canine companions and Bonfire Night is an occasion where we must do the same for them. Follow the tips outlined here by James Wellbeloved to be the best dog owner you can in the festive season.