Bonfire Night is around the corner, and dogs from the north to the south of the UK are already terrier-fied just thinking about it. While being a cause for extravagant celebrations for humans throughout the country, it’s a cause for confusion and extreme anxiety for most dogs. In this blog, we’re going over some key tips on how to make your pooch as comfortable as pawssible on the sc-hairiest night of the year.
🎆 Exercise During The Day
Physically and mentally stimulating your dog is important every day, but especially during the day of the 5th. Engage your dog in tiring, high-energy activities before nightfall, like fetch at a dog park or an adventurous hike. If the weather is lousy, try playing ‘stair fetch’ with your pooch by throwing a desirable toy up and down the stairs (if they’re uneasy using stairs, you can play indoor fetch down a long hallway). After all that excitement and moving, they’ll probably be too sleepy to nervously pace around come prime firework time.
🎆 Create A Safe Space
Just like how us humans like to retreat somewhere when we aren’t feeling our best (like the sofa or our bed), our pooches appreciate a sanctuary of their own, especially on a hair-raising night like Bonfire Night. Dogs often like to hide when they’re scared, so creating a ‘hideaway’ by covering a crate with blankets and filling it with their favourite toys and smells can make them feel more secure.
🎆 Leave Your Pooch Home And With Company
If there’s anything scarier for your pup than Bonfire Night on its own, it’s Bonfire Night spent alone! Most dogs suffer from separation anxiety as it is, making being alone on a regular day an agonising experience. If you add fireworks to the equation, you can expect your pup to be weeing-all-over-the-house-level scared, and we can’t blame them; dogs can hear sounds about four times higher than humans can. Our advice? Hire a dog sitter to keep your dog company, or even better, celebrate a quiet evening in with your pooch to shed off some of their anxiety.
🎆 Distract Their Senses
We know dogs have super-hearing abilities, which is what makes fireworks particularly frightening for them. Try stimulating your pup’s other senses to help distract them from the scary noises coming from outside.
For sight, make sure you close all blinds and curtains in the rooms your dog has access to, so they can’t see any of the startling lights coming from outside. Also, while fireworks are blaring, we advise you don’t close your pooch off into one room, as this can add to their stress and confusion; just let them roam in the rooms they normally do.
For smell, try some aromatherapy with calming essential oils, like lavender, chamomile and valerian (you can have these mist out of a diffuser, just make sure you’re using pure essential oils and diluting only a couple drops of them into water). Another option is feeding your furry friend a dog-safe, calming oil blend, like this one from Bob Martin.
For taste, offer your pooch a long-lasting tasty chew, like these sweet potato-based knot-chews from Pawtato that will help your pup blow off some steam and make their taste buds happy.
For feel, try testing if your dog is comfortable using an anxiety wrap, like ThunderShirt, which provides all over gentle pressure on your pup, making them feel like they’re receiving a cosy, soothing hug.
Even though your dog’s ears are likely pinned back and alert, waiting for the next firework to blast off, you can try distracting their hearing by playing some soothing music (Beethoven is a hit with the mutts) or white noise. You can check out YouTube videos and radio stations that were made to relax your pooch on nights like this one. You can also try simply raising the volume on the TV. Our suggestion for what to watch this time of year with your pooch? Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie.
🎆 Try Noise Desensitisation
You might think we’ve gone mutts when you hear this next tip but hear us out—slowly getting your dog used to noises that scare them, like fireworks, can help them when they occur, like when Bonfire Night comes around. This is called desensitisation or sound therapy. We are not advocating for you to start playing scary sounds for your dog right away at full volume, but rather safely and gradually exposing your pooch to triggering noises and rewarding them when they remain calm. If your dog is not darting for the next room, you can increase the volume slightly. For more in-depth tips on sound desensitisation, check out this resource from Battersea and these helpful tracks from Dogs Trust to get you and your pooch started.
🎆 Make Your Living Area Escape-Proof
The chances of dogs running away from home doubles during firework season, making it important to ensure your home and outside area are as escape-proof as pawssible. Become aware of when firework events are scheduled to take place near you. On these days, make sure all windows and doors leading to outside are shut and accompany your dog outside when it’s time for them to do their business (or better yet, leave out some dog-training pads inside your house that they can use on these exceptional days). You never know when the next firework is going to blast off, and you definitely don’t want that being when your pooch is outside alone and can make a Houdini-like escape.
🎆 Remain Calm
Our dogs are masters at being able to pick up on how we’re feeling—so if we’re stressing out while fireworks are blaring, your pup will be the first to know (plus, it will make them think they’re right to be scared). Put something light on TV, pour yourself a warm cup of a calming tea and invite your pooch to spend some time with you (try bribing them with treats or that long-lasting chew, though if they’re more comfortable retreating to their safe space, don’t force them out of it).
💡 Drones as a safer, dog-approved alternative to fireworks
We’ve gone over just how frightening fireworks can be for our four-legged friends, but are there any alternatives? Fortunately, there are: drone light shows.
Not only are drone light shows a better option for our petrified pups, but they’re also a better choice for the environment, wildlife and humans! Traditional fireworks pollute the air with chemicals and debris, worsening air quality. Wildlife, such as birds, sometimes experience ‘death by fright’ after fireworks go off; birds also have been found to be so spooked after the explosions, they’ll abandon their nests or habitats and never return, leaving their lives vulnerable and their young helpless. Fireworks are also dangerous for humans to work with and can trigger PTSD in those who have suffered trauma that included explosions and/or loud noises.
We at THE PACK dream of a time when Bonfire Night will be celebrated using drones. Not only are they reusable, able to make more creative designs in the air compared to traditional fireworks, and eco-, human- and wildlife-friendly, but they are silent, making them a walk in the park for pups to deal with.
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