50% Off Black Friday Super Sale - Use Coupon BLACKDOG50

How To Prepare Your Dog For Bonfire Night

Oct 25 / Holly Leake
Bonfire night is the one holiday animal lovers dread the most, due to the severe and even life-threatening consequences of fireworks. Birds and other wildlife can develop tachycardia, abandon their young and even die of fright. It is estimated that up to 79% of horses suffer with anxiety in response to fireworks and up to 26% of them suffer burns and other injuries.

However, for most of us, it’s the profound affect fireworks have on our dogs that is at the forefront of our minds this time of year. The RSPCA reported that in 2019, it was estimated that 60% of dogs experienced severe distress when exposed to fireworks. The affects are so severe, that the anxious behaviours dog’s exhibit, has been compared to post traumatic stress in humans. Fireworks can also cause heart attacks and even death in dogs, nonetheless, there are ways to ease your dog’s anxiety and this blog is going to consider how you can prepare your anxious dog for this holiday.

Plan Your Walks

First of all, you need to plan the next 2 weeks out, as we all know Guy Fawkes last longer than 24 hours. So plan your routine to allow time to walk your dog earlier in the day. So many dogs have become lost and even died because they have been walked during firework displays, and then they have panicked and try to escape the noise. So make sure you walk your dog way before any fireworks begin, to ensure your dog’s safety.

Create a Safe Space

During the holiday, it is helpful to create a safe space for your dog. Some guardians use a crate, covered over with a blanket and others put their dog’s bed behind the sofa. No matter where it is, ensure your dog has access to wherever they feel safe and secure. Shut all the exterior doors and windows and close your blinds and curtains, to muffle the noise. Also ensure your garden is fenced in and secure so that your dog can’t escape if they become frightened.

Playing the tv or radio loud can also contribute to masking the noise of fireworks and making the home feel like a safer space. Keep your dog stimulated with enrichment activities, such as snuffle mats, filled Kongs and puzzle feeders and use extra special treats to keep them engaged. Scent activities can really help to reduce a dog’s heart rate and calm them down, so this enrichment is perfect during fireworks

Treatment

If your dog already experiences extreme anxiety in response to fireworks, it may be worth visiting the vet in advance, and enquiring about possible anti-anxiety medication or sedatives that can be administered temporarily, to help them settle. There are also natural calming supplements and/or diffuses that can help to calm your dog, which can be purchased from pet stores and online. These can be really effective for some dogs; however, it should be noted that they don’t work for everyone, therefore medication may be preferable in some cases.

Many find thunder shirts really calming for their dogs. These are jackets that produce gentle compression, which triggers the calmness experienced when being held or fussed, however, these aren’t suitable for all dogs. Like anything, finding the right treatment can be trial and error and you may need to use a combination of treatments and management to adequately reduce your dog’s anxiety.

Educate Others

The unpredictability of fireworks is what makes them so scary for dogs and it makes it much more difficult for guardians to prepare for, when they have no idea when fireworks will be used. Therefore, it is recommended to speak to your neighbours politely and determine if they are planning on having fireworks and when. It is also beneficial to educate friends, family and ones in your community about silent fireworks and ask if they would be happy to use them instead. Many supermarkets are now selling these, thanks to the increased awareness, so they are easy to purchase. At the very least, your neighbours can give you fair warning when they are setting fireworks off, so you and your dog can be prepared.  

Remain Calm 

Dogs are very adept at reading our emotions and they can sense any tension or stress. So any stress we feel could make their anxiety worse, therefore, it’s important to remain as calm and positive as possible. It is easy to become annoyed with others when the holiday is stretched for weeks on end but feeling annoyed can also trigger your dog to feel stressed. Instead, try to busy yourself with a relaxing activity to keep yourself calm for your dog’s sake.

Comfort Your Dog

It used to be thought that comforting your dog when they are scared reinforces fearful behaviour, however, I am happy to tell you that this theory has been thrown out.

Only behaviour can be reinforced, not emotions, therefore giving your dog comfort and affection when they are afraid won’t make their anxiety worse. Think about it. When you are feeling worried about something and someone close to you puts their arms around you and tells you everything is going to be ok, do you feel better or are you more anxious? Would that comfort make you feel even more anxious in the future? Of course not. So please comfort your dogs and it will go a long way in making them feel calmer and safer. Also, please never punish your dog for being anxious, even if it causes excessive barking or behaviour we perceive as inconvenient. Similarly to phobias in humans, dogs can’t choose what they are afraid of, so they need our understanding and empathy.

So although this is a difficult holiday for so many dog guardians, there are many ways we can prepare our anxious dogs and get them through the next few weeks with as little anxiety as possible. Hopefully, one day, all retailers will only sell silent fireworks and firework phobias will be a thing of the past. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Start Your FREE Skill-Hub Trial Today

Commitment Free 3 Day Access

Canine Principles' Skill-Hub allows unlimited* access to ALL self-study courses, workshops & webinars.
Drag to resize
Drag to resize
*Requires Monthly Subscription. See Skill-Hub Subscription Page For Details.