It’s the date all dog owners dread; Bonfire Night. The bright sparkles, glittering showers and loud bangs are all exciting for us humans, but for dogs they’re terrifying. Unfortunately, fireworks are becoming more and more common. This leaves little time for dog owners to prepare for the unexpected. However, certain dates are associated with fireworks and Bonfire Night is the most well-known. Here are 8 essential tips to keeping dogs calm during fireworks.
8 Essential Tips to Keeping Your Dog Calm During Fireworks
1. Act naturally
The first mistake many dog owners make during fireworks is to comfort their dog. This sends the wrong message. It’s tempting to cuddle or stroke or soothe your dog, but if you do it in the wrong way, you increase their anxiety. Dogs look to their leaders for guidance and assurance. By acting naturally, you say “I’m the pack leader, I’m not bothered, so neither should you be. There’s nothing going on here.” Be the strong packer leader they need. Be your normal self. Give them slow strokes and massages and keep your voice low, calm and relaxed.
2. Tire them out
The best way to reduce anxiety is to exercise. Getting your dog out for a good long walk for hours before the evening will reduce their anxiety levels. It won’t stop them from being frightened, but a tired dog has less energy to convert into stress. Walk dogs in the morning or early afternoon to ensure you’re not out too late when fireworks parties start.
3. Desensitise them
Dogs are afraid of fireworks because they are sudden, loud and unusual. You can desensitise your dogs by playing recordings of fireworks quietly at first, and then raising the volume. You can easily find recordings of fireworks on the internet. Start off quietly, then, as your dog becomes accustomed to the sound, turn the volume up. Don’t warn your dog or prepare it for the noise. Play the recordings at odd times to get them used to the spontaneous nature of fireworks.
4. Create a safe place
Dogs like to run and hide from loud bangs and bright flashes. These are all attacks on their senses. We know that dogs have exceptional hearing, so loud unexpected noises are terrifying to them. It’s a good idea to create a haven for them a few days before fireworks are due to start. Crates are ideal. Line the crate with a soft blanket or one of our sheepskin rugs. Cover it with a blanket and pop a few of your dog’s favourite toys inside.
5. Use a calming spray/diffuser
Some dog owners swear by calming sprays or diffusers. You can spray the area where your dog usually rests or plug in a diffuser in the room where they most occupy. If you’ve made up a crate for your dog, try spraying the bedding to make it even more soothing and inviting.
6. Close curtains, play music or turn the TV up
Bright flashes and loud bangs unsettle the calmest of dogs. Prepare your living room for Bonfire Night by closing the curtains early and turning the TV up a little louder than usual. You can leave their favourite toys or blankets lying around to create a feeling of safety and familiarity. Playing certain music can relax a dog. Such as Classic FM's Pet Classic. There’s also a classical piece called Through a Dog’s Ear available on YouTube that has calming effects. Why not play this throughout the day on repeat to associate this with a tranquil atmosphere?
7. Try an anti-anxiety coat
In the same way that swaddling and wrapping a baby can soothe them, so does putting a heavy coat on your dog. These are called ‘pressure wraps’ and are like a whole-body hug in a coat. They reduce anxiety in dogs. Get your dog used to wearing it in the weeks leading up to firework’s night so they’ll be calm by the time the event comes around.
8. Don’t leave your dog alone or outside
Finally, never leave your dog outside on a night when fireworks are going off. Dogs can panic, become disorientated, and run away. They are in danger of kidnapping or traffic accidents. And while it’s tempting to go out and watch firework celebrations yourself, remember, dogs don’t know what’s going on. They’ll be much happier if you’re at home with them to look after them.
People will always want to enjoy fireworks, so our dogs are going to have to get used to them. However, with a little preparation, we can reduce the stress of fireworks.