Bonfire Night is a treat for both young and old. On November 5, thousands of people across the country dig out their winter woollies, wrap up warm and brave the autumn chill to go watch fireworks with a toffee apple or three.
But for dogs and other animals, Bonfire Night can be a traumatic experience. The loud bangs, bright flashes and even different smells can be stressful and can transform even the most laid-back pup into an anxious, quivering wreck.
According to the RSPCA, 45% of dogs show signs of fear when they hear fireworks, so with the night just around the corner, what can owners to do help their dogs stay calm?
Leading up to Bonfire Night…
- Ask when displays are. Knowing in advance when events are means you can start to prepare and make arrangements to help your dog. Your local council should have a list of all of the organised bonfire and firework displays in the area, and don’t forget to ask your neighbours to let you know if they are planning anything. For a list of some of the organised bonfires around Manchester, visit: https://www.manchester.gov.uk/directory/90/bonfires_in_manchester/category/908. For Cheshire, visit: https://www.cheshirelife.co.uk/out-about/events/bonfire-and-fireworks-events-in-and-around-cheshire-1-4284286
- Play loud sounds. Regularly playing firework sounds or loud noises in the house can help your pooch get used to the sounds. Start quietly, then gradually increase the volume while playing games and giving treats.
- Things to think about. If you know your dog is anxious, or has previously struggled with fireworks, look into the use of calming diffusers, thunder jackets and it may even be worth speaking with your vet about other things which may help.
The day of an event…
- Daytime walkies. Walk your dog before it goes dark i.e. before all the fireworks go off. If you give him/her a lot of exercise during the day, it means they will be tired come evening and could sleep through the bangs.
- Lock out the noise. Make sure to shut your doors, close your windows and draw your curtains/blinds. It’ll help to muffle the sounds and stop your doggies seeing unexpected flashes of light from fireworks.
- An early tea: If you usually feed your pooch in the evening, it is worth bringing dinnertime forward by a few hours during bonfire season. Once the fireworks kick in, your pet might feel too anxious to eat. Similarly, nervous dogs pant more so keep topping up their water bowl too.
- Create a safe haven. Some dogs prefer to hide away when they’re scared so create somewhere comforting they can retreat to and fill it with their favourite toys and blankets.
- Details. Make sure your dogs collar is secure with up to date tag and microchip, many dog get spooked during fireworks and go missing, if your dog does, you will have the best chance of being reunited if all details are up to date.
During the fireworks…
- Put on the right noises. Once the fireworks start, turn on the tv or radio so they distract your dog from what’s going on outside.
- Act normal. Don’t tell your pet off if they’re stressed or acting unpredictable due to the bangs. It’ll only distress them more. Instead, act normal and calmly so they feel like nothing is wrong and reward calm behaviour with treats. They may seek comfort and reassurance from you so stay calm and have a cuddle on the sofa or wherever they feel safe.
- Have oodles of fun. Keep your doggo occupied with fun games such as tug-of-war, hide and seek or finding the treats. Enrichment toys such as likimats and kongs, filled with smelly, tasty snacks can be a great distraction.
- Stay inside. Don’t force your dog to go outside to toilet if they don’t want to, accidents can be cleaned up easily enough.