We are fast approaching that time of year, where the nights draw in early and Christmas is just around the corner. With so much to look forward to in the coming months it is important not to forget what this means for our canine companions. Remember, remember the 5th of November!
Bonfire night!. For many dogs, fireworks are terrifying and it can be upsetting for owners to see their dogs in such distress. If you have a young dog that has never experienced firework season before, don’t assume that they will be ok. Loud noises that are new, are almost always scary to our dogs.
So, how can you prepare and help your dog cope with the upcoming firework season?
- Plan ahead. Check your local area for dates and times of planned fireworks displays. It might also be a good idea to check in with your neighbours and see if they are planning any private home displays.
- Stay in. If you are aware fireworks will be taking place make sure you are home! This is extremely important and applies to all dogs, not just those that suffer obvious extreme firework phobia. Quite often dogs will mask their stress and anxiety behind more subtle displays of behaviour so making sure you are home and there to provide comfort and reassurance.
- Safety first. Make sure your home and garden is secure. When frightened, many dogs will panic and try to escape. It is best not to let your dog out to the garden at all whilst fireworks are taking place, but should you need to, keep your dog on a secure lead or harness.
- When to Walkies? It is best to avoid any late night walks during firework season. Even if you plan ahead it is difficult to be certain that you won’t encounter fireworks on your evening walks. The best advice is to exercise with your dog before it gets dark. A good long late afternoon walk will also help to tire your dog out and expel excess energy.
- Distraction. Playing alternative sounds in the home may help to distract from the high pitched whizzing and loud banging going on outside. Pop the TV (avoid watching anything too action packed or you will just add to the noise) or play calming music. If your dog is food motivated, fill a kong and pop it in the freezer during the day so that your dog has a tasty treat to concentrate on in the evening.
- Create a safe space. Providing your dog with a place that they can retreat to can make a huge difference. If your dog wants to hide then allow them the option to do so. If their bed is usually near a window, move it somewhere quiet, maybe behind the sofa or under the stairs. If they usually sleep in a crate, pop a blanket over the top of it and provide an extra cushion or two as this will help provide a sound barrier.
It is also important to remember that fireworks aren’t just exclusive to November 5th, with the season generally running from the end of October right through to New Year. If your dog is completely inconsolable during fireworks it may be a good idea to speak to your vet to see if there are any anxiety medications or desensitisation techniques you could trial.
Paul Bio : Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who’s worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK’s busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer. He is also the proud dad of a young terrier cross called Rodney.