Bonfire Night, a seasonal tradition. At this time of year, watching a stunning spectacle in the sky is an event to look forward to. For dogs though, fireworks can be a terrifying experience. Research shows that 45% of dogs show signs of fear when they hear loud noises. While it is heartwarming to share special moments with our pets, it’s important that they enjoy it too. The experts at Canagan, grain-free pet food specialists, offer their tips on keeping your dog calm during this time.
Preparing your dog for fireworks season
De-sensitise them to loud noises in advance: Start playing firework sounds quietly while you’re with them at home, offering occasional treats. Gradually increase the volume. Eventually your dog will feel safe and will think of fun, happy moments when they hear real fireworks
Engage in plenty of activity during the day: Exercise with your dog during the day – whether a long walk, playing frisbee or fetch – so when the fireworks start, they’re almost too sleepy to notice
Let them out early: For most of the year it’s against the law to set fireworks off after 11 pm. However, this curfew is extended to midnight on Guy Fawkes Night. To ensure your pet enjoys a full night’s sleep, ensure they have gone to the toilet and eaten before bed. Introduce this earlier regime in the days leading up to your local display so they adjust
Keep them indoors: To prevent your dog from feeling distressed, get lost or injured, settle them down at home, in familiar surroundings
Create a ‘safe space’ in your home: Whether it’s their bed with blankets and soft toys, or on the sofa, create a comforting space where they can retreat and relax
Let them decide where to settle: While your designated ‘safe space’ may look appealing, your pet may prefer snuggling next to you. If you confine your pet to one place, they may grow distressed or hurt themselves trying to flee should they be spooked by your local display
Draw the curtains: Firework flashes can scare dogs, so shut out the light to create a relaxing environment
Escape-proof your home: Close all doors and windows and secure any garden escape routes. If you have people coming and going from the house, emphasise that external doors must be opened and shut swiftly to avoid your furry friend getting out
A collar and micro-chip are essential: If your dog does get out, a collar with your details and an up-to-date micro-chip will ensure they can be traced back to you
How to keep your dog calm during a display
Mask the sound: Playing the TV or radio – classical music for example is proven to calm dogs – will reduce the impact of loud noises
A long-lasting chew toy: Stuffing a chew toy with food will keep their attention and offer a delicious end to the evening
Act natural: Animals are perceptive and sense if you’re behaving unusually. This may unsettle them so give reassurance by inviting play
If they join you outside, use a leash: If you prefer your dog to accompany you during a fireworks display, keep them close on a lead. Your presence will reassure them, while you’ll have peace of mind knowing they won’t run away. Never, ever tie a fearful dog up outdoors and leave them alone.
Avoid leaving them alone at home: Arrange a sitter to look after your dog if you have plans to go out. If you return and your frightened pet has made a mess, don’t be annoyed. This will only cause your pet confusion and distress.
If fireworks are causing your dog high levels of anxiety seek advice from a behaviourist. De-sensitising your pet to loud noises and flashes takes time and keeping them comfortable is key to protecting their wellbeing, as well as maintaining calm behaviour.
I'm Gilly, award winning journalist, travel writer and author of 11 books. My byline appears in national and regional newspapers and magazines. See website gillypickup.co.uk