The 5th of November is upon us, and while it’s a night of fun, fireworks and food for most of us, for dogs it can be a particularly distressing evening. From the loud bangs and flashes of fireworks, to crowds of people gathering outdoors, it’s bound to get overwhelming for them. Here, Sean Whiting from pet supply specialist Houghton Country shares his top five tips for preparing your dog for Bonfire Night.
Bonfire Night can be a lot of fun for us, but for your dog it’s likely to be the total opposite. And, as an evening dedicated to loud fireworks and crowds gathering to watch, it’s no surprise. So, whether you’ve got a new puppy, or your family dog has been distressed by fireworks in previous years, it’s important that you are taking as many measures as possible to help prepare and relax them until the evening is over.
This can involve anything from walking them at a different time, creating a hideaway for them and familiarising them with the sounds they’ll hear. Here, I will be discussing my top five tips for helping your dog to settle this Bonfire Night.
What is Bonfire night, and why do people celebrate it with Fireworks?
Bonfire Night is celebrated on the 5th of November. Guy Fawkes Night is a celebration of the failure and foiling of a plot to blow up the UK parliament.
The Gunpowder Plot was an attempt by a group of provincial English Catholics to assassinate King James I, described by many as the first modern terrorist attack. The failed assassination attempt occurred on 5 November 1605, when they tried to blow up the House of Lords while King James was present. The king was saved because Guy Fawkes, one of the conspirators, was discovered before he could light the fuse.
The event is commemorated every year with bonfires and fireworks throughout Britain, especially in Northern Ireland, where it’s also known as Bonfire Night in some places. In some countries, it’s also known as Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night.
5. Introduce them to similar sounds or calming music
Before Bonfire Night arrives, you should take the opportunity to desensitise your pet to the sounds of bangs and screeches they may hear during the occasion. It can be helpful to purchase CDs with these sounds on and to play them at a low volume, gradually getting a little louder to help them get used to these.
While these sounds are playing, you should engage with your dog so they don’t pay too much notice to the noises. This could mean playing with any of their dog balls or toys, feeding them treats or stroking them.
Although this isn’t a quick fix, it can help to build positive associations and show them that there’s nothing to be scared of, so they’ll remain calmer in the evening.
There is also a wide range of music and videos to help calm your dog. This is a great distraction during this time of the year. Below is one of our favourite youtube channels for Calming Dogs. These videos are also good for general anxiety and distraction if you have to go out for a few hours.
4. Alter your dogs walking routine
Different dog breeds will have varied walking schedules, but if you like to give your dog a little night-time walk, it’ll be worth bringing this forward. I’d suggest walking them before dusk as people will only start letting off fireworks when it begins to get dark, so taking them out to the toilet or a quick walk around the street before then will mean you don’t have to do it at a time that’ll be more distressing for them. You might even want to take them out for a longer walk than usual to tire them out ahead of firework displays.
As well as ensuring you give them their normal amount of walks, it may also help to reduce the likelihood of accidents if they’ve already been to the toilet before the fireworks go off.
3. Create a safe place for them
While some dogs may just want to cuddle up to you when they’re scared, others will go and find a hiding place where they feel safe and protected. Instead of leaving them to panic and find one themselves, why not create a safe space for them and show them to it?
When setting this up, you’ll need to ensure you stay clear of any windows wherever possible as the noise and flashes of fireworks will be more prominent near these, which can stress your dog even more. Similarly, having it in a cosy space, or in the same room as you can also help to keep them calm.
To do this, lay down their mattress or some large cushions and cover these with old blankets and towels to give them something to cuddle up for. Providing cover can also make them feel safe, so consider hanging a blanket over two chairs to create a little den for them to cosy up in. Alternatively, bringing their doghouse or kennel inside can ensure they have a familiar space to go into, without it having to be outside as normal.
Placing some of their favourite toys or chew in their hideaways with them will also make it a more comforting space for them.
2. Avoid fussing over them
You’re bound to want to comfort your dog when they’re feeling scared but fussing over them can have the opposite effect and make them feel even more panicked if they sense that something is wrong.
Instead, you should act as normal as possible, especially if you hear fireworks. Your dog may ignore them initially, but if you react to them, they may quickly become uneasy. Look out for any signs of anxiety such as barking, trembling, cowering, pacing and panting and trying to alleviate these by playing with your dog as normal or stroking them to calm them and show that you’re here.
1. Prepare the house before leaving
Dogs should never be taken to fireworks displays or bonfires. Even if they don’t seem outwardly bothered by the events, they may still be scared. Alternatively, it may frighten them and cause them to run off.
But, if you are attending a bonfire yourself, it’s important that you prepare the house before you leave to make it as comfortable as possible for your dog. This could include closing the curtains to hide them from the fireworks, as well as shutting all the windows to muffle any loud bangs as much as possible. For dogs that can get anxious when alone, some owners prefer to leave the radio or TV on so their pets have some background noise and don’t feel lonely.
If your dog does feel anxious during the fireworks, it’s unlikely that they’ll want to eat much, so giving them their dinner a little earlier than normal is a good idea. Similarly, leaving them plenty of fresh water will help as anxious dogs will pant more and become thirstier.
No dog owner wants to see their pet in distress, but luckily there are some things you can do to help keep them calm this Bonfire Night. From creating a cosy hideaway to altering their walking schedule, you can have a much happier pup in no time.
Disclaimer: If none of the tips in this article seems to calm your dog and they become very distressed, make sure that you seek advice from your vet.