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How to prepare your dog for fireworks

Like it or not, fireworks are still a popular source of entertainment.  And while some dogs don’t bat an eye at the bangs, pops, whizzes and lights in the sky, the majority don’t respond positively and become frightened, anxious and stressed.   

As fireworks displays seem to start earlier and earlier each year, it’s worth putting the time in well ahead of November 5th.

Puppy with a chew

How to prepare for bonfire night when your dog is scared of fireworks

  • Start getting your dog used to the sounds of fireworks as early as you can. There are many downloads of sounds that you can buy or find for free on YouTube and start to play in the background. Start by playing it on a low volume when they are doing something positive and enjoyable, such as eating food. Gradually, start to turn up the volume and also introduce it at other times of the day while you are busy doing other things in the background. Watch for any signs that your dog is worried and if this happens, stop playing the sounds and encourage the dog to play or offer them treats. Once the dog is happy again, go back a step and/or reduce the volume and increase the positivity of the exercise. 

  • Try plugging in an Adaptil diffuser at least a couple of days before fireworks are expected. This releases a fine mist of chemicals that replicate the pheromones that a mother would release to settle her puppies and will help keep your dog settled. 

  • Make sure your dog has a positive association with their safe space, so they are happy to go there if they need to. Some dogs prefer it covered with a dark blanket to make it more den-like and secure. 

  • Do some investigation as to when (dates and times) local fireworks displays are being held and also check in with neighbours around you about what they’re planning on doing.  

  • Never assume your garden is escape-proof! If a dog needs to bolt, they will definitely find a way to get out.  Check your garden for any loose gate hinges or wobbly fences.  

  • It’s a good idea to  keep their collar on during fireworks time and check that their ID tag and microchip details are up to date. If you need to take your dog out, make it a lead walk only.  You could also choose to do this when they need to go out into the garden for a comfort break.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to help your nervous dog on bonfire night

  • Try and move yours and our dog’s evening routine forward.  Where possible, try and walk them while it is still light, to reduce the likelihood of fireworks surprising them unexpectedly, and try not to go out in the evening if at all possible.  If possible, feed them early, too because if they start to get too worried by the fireworks, they probably won’t want to eat.  So, an early dinner and a toilet break before the fireworks start will help keep things more settled during the evening. 

  • Once it starts to get dark, shut the doors and windows and draw curtains to reduce the noise and brightness of the flashes. 

  • Put the television or the radio on a bit louder than usual to try and counter outside noises. 

  • While you’re likely to be a little bit worried about your dog, it’s best to try to remain calm and be as normal as possible. Your dog will pick up on any stress or tension you show so if you remain calm, your dog will benefit and draw comfort from it. 
  • Give your dog a filled KONG, a new chew or an enrichment toy to keep them occupied and happy.  Alternatively, if your dog loves to learn, try teaching them a new trick! 
  • Some dogs, like humans, enjoy and benefit from firm pressure. The Thundershirt is designed to apply pressure and comfort to dogs during stressful times. 
     
  • If your dog retreats to somewhere such as behind the sofa or under the bed etc. they’ve gone there to feel safe, just as we might dive under the duvet or behind a cushion during a scary film! If they do this, it’s best not to try and coax them out; instead just leave them to come back out when they feel happy to do so. 
  • It’s never a good idea to take your dog to a firework display, even if you think they are happy around fireworks. It’s one thing for a dog to tolerate fireworks in the safety of their home environment but being outside with them all around is another thing entirely. 
     
  • Remember that a frightened dog can show signs of aggression.  Never tell them off or punish them if they’re frightened or anxious as this will only make things worse.  They’re best left alone so don’t attempt to force anything on them and explain to children why they need to be given space. 

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