If you have a Dog, you know that every year during the run up to Bonfire Night, and the following weeks after, can be a terrifying time filled with stress and anxiety. A study by the University of Bristol (2013) found that approximately half of dogs are scared of fireworks; and owners need to plan ahead and take steps to help to keep their dog calm and safe.
According to the Kennel Club ‘fireworks can be frightening to dogs because of the loud bangs, the flashing lights and unpleasant strong smell of spent explosives.’, and lets face it, compared to us, dogs have an incredible sense of smell and an acute sense of hearing. What is enjoyable (or tolerable) for us may be unpleasant or truly terrifying for some dogs.
It is natural for a dog to be wary of loud noises, especially if they don’t know what the noise is or where it is coming from, and noise aversion can be influenced by breed, age and sex…and more often than not it is equally as distressing for us to see our dogs so scared and upset, feeling like we don’t know how to help them.
So how do we know if our Dogs are scared or anxious?
Well…Signs that your dog is anxious/stressed could include:
Trembling, salivating, whining, barking, pacing, panting, hiding in small places (under tables, in wardrobes etc), having dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat, potty accidents, destructive behaviour, scratching to get out
It is advisable in the long term to ‘desensitise’ your dog to loud noises. Depending on the dog this can take many months, advice on how to do this can be found online (try the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home site, if your pup is severely noise phobic you may need help from your vet or a dog trainer/behaviourist).
To help prepare you and your Dog for firework season we’ve listed some handy tips for you to try below:
- Tire your dog out by walking before dark. You may also want to feed them early as once the fireworks start they may become too anxious to eat.
- Avoid letting your dog out when the fireworks are going off (this is often easier said than done, so ensure that your garden is secure.)
- Loud, unexpected noises can trigger a fight-or-flight response so make sure your microchip details are up to date and that they are wearing a collar and ID tag (according to Petlog there is a rise in calls to their lost pet line as it gets to the beginning of November and around 50% of microchips have incorrect details!!)
- Keep doors and windows closed. Shut the curtains but keep the lights on to reduce the impact of flashes.
- Create a safe place indoors. Drape a blanket or throw over a table or crate to make a ‘den’. Make sure to fill it with their favourite blankets, toys and treats. Leave the crate door open and allow access to all usual safe areas of the house so that they can choose if and where to hide.
- Keep them entertained and distracted by playing with a new toy, long lasting treat or enrichment mat. See our range of toys, treats, LickiMat etc.
- Try other forms of therapy; use a holistic calming spray or balm (we recommend using natural products containing essential oils such as our Settle Down Dog, Carefree Canine or Pawfect Puppy range – these are great natural alternatives to shop bought anxiety remedies that may expose your dog to harmful chemicals), massage(TTouch) or body wraps (Thundershirt).
- Use a bandana with the calming spray and maybe try some calming treats (if you need kitting out check out this Doggie De-Stress Bundle from our friends over at Unpaweavable Toys which includes a bandana, calming treats and Mini Settle Down Dog Calming Spray)
- Keep the water bowl topped up. Anxious dogs pant more and get thirsty.
- The noise from a radio and/or TV can reduce the impact of the whoosh and bangs of fireworks.
- Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog. They are highly perceptive, so try to show that the fireworks have no effect on you to decrease their anxiety.
- Show reassurance if needed. However, being overly affectionate and watching their every move can make them feel more nervous and confused.
Whatever you do this bonfire night, being there for your Dog when they are scared is all they could ever ask for. Let us know if you tried any of these tips and how they helped you!