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The spooky season is here, and we’re not talking about Halloween. That’s right, we’re talking about Bonfire Night. Bonfire night can beautiful thing to see in the deep night sky, but the reality is that it turns almost half of our canines into real scaredy-cats.
For those of you with distressed dogs during this time, the best thing you can do for this season is to be prepared.
When the anxiety hits our beloved bestie, it can leave us feeling hopeless, trawling through Google search results for the answer.
So how can we calm our dogs during fireworks? There are a few things you can do and a couple of tools to try to minimise your dog’s stress levels. Ultimately, it’s all trial and error. After all, what may work for one dog may not work for another.
Here are our top tips for managing dogs and fireworks.
Why Are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?
According to the RSPCA, roughly 45% of dogs show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. But what is it about fireworks that make them so nervous?
First of all most fireworks are loud. Dogs have a much more acute sense of hearing than humans. The loud screams, crackles and bangs are alarming to our dogs and their immediate instinct is to find safety.
Fireworks are also unpredictable. Of course, we expect fireworks on Bonfire Night but for your pooch, it’s just another day. The loud noise comes without warning, at different intervals and each one looks and sounds differently.
Fireworks make your dog feel trapped. With nowhere to run from the threat, your dogs end up feeling trapped increasing the anxiety.
How Do I Know If My Dog Is Scared?
Dogs who are scared of fireworks will generally show signs of shaking, pacing up and down or panting heavily. Your pooch may also bark more than normal, tremble, hide or drool.
Other signs of distress include being destructive and soiling unexpectedly. Also, it’s important to bear in mind that all dogs express their anxiety in different ways. Note down different behaviours through the firework season to see if it differs from their day-to-day behaviour.
Ideas to Help Your Pooch
Having a dog who’s been frightened of fireworks over the last seven years means I’ve had the chance to try different things. Heck, I still don’t have the correct answer. Hopefully, this guide of tips and products can help to give you a good base and to trial different things.
Take your dog for a walk earlier in the day to avoid walking after dark. Most firework displays tend to start around 6pm. Take them for a longer walk than usual, to try and wear them out.
Muffle The Noise With Music
Muffle the sound of fireworks by closing all windows, doors and curtains. Put music on loud, or turn your TV up. This can help to block or cover up the sound of fireworks.
If you’re turning up the TV, or sound-system, make sure the sound you’re playing is calming. Research has found that dogs are more likely to relax while listening to classical music, reggae and soft rock. These music genres help to reduce stress, barking and heart rates. Click here to download our series of bonfire night friendly playlists.
Create a Safe Space For Your Pooch
Make sure your dog has somewhere to hide during the fireworks. Create a safe space or den in the quietest part of the house, for example under the bed or in a quiet room. Create a makeshift den by using a sideways cardboard box, bed and blanket. if your dog is crate trained, just move their crate into the quiet space, make it accessible and pop a blanket on top.
Before the big night, use the space to put a comfortable bed, a couple of toys, feed them treats and let them know it’s a place of positive experiences.
Your dog should have easy access to the safe space at all times, and preferably during the lead up to Bonfire Night. Once they’re in their safe space, don’t try to bring them out, as this could add to their stress. Let them settle and find their own comfort.
The Tellintgon TTouch is a form of petting your pooch. These ear strokes can help your dog to relax. To do the Tellintgon TTouch, stroke your dog’s ear from base to tip with your thumb on top of the ear and finger underneath.
Cover the whole ear with several strokes and then make small circular movements with your outstretched fingers, over the entire ear. The pressure should be gentle enough to just move the skin. Simultaneously play calming music to soothe your dog. No doubt, this winning combo will make you feel relaxed too! Click here for more massage techniques.
Products To Help Dogs With Fireworks
An anxiety blanket can make a great addition to your dog’s ‘safe space’. These blankets from SWSensory are hand-sewn and quality tested, finished in a range of colours. The weight is distributed evenly even if your dog wriggles and moves about.
A weighted blanket may help your pooch to tolerate the noise without feeling the need to hide or howl. It helps to promote relaxation and feels like a safe, warm hug.
A Lickimat is a medical, fun, free way to promote calm behaviour in your pooch during stressful times. They serve as a distraction for anxiety. In fact, research shows that dogs are less likely to look up or react to their anxiety triggers when they were licking these bumpy textures. Pop some peanut butter (xylitol free), cream cheese, mushed bananas, honey or natural yoghurt on top.
If there’s one thing we all know, dogs have an incredible sense of smell. I mean the moment you open a packet of ham, and they’re sitting by your feet. It’s 10,000 times more sensitive than ours, but we can use this sense to help calm them during the fireworks season.
Using scents from brands like Pet Remedy to help relax your pooch. Pet Remedy has a blend of natural oils containing valerian to help keep them calm. We recommend plugging in a Pet Remedy diffuser next to your dog’s bed a couple of days before the fireworks. Then to use the spray on your dog’s bedding, bandana or toys to provide a continuous calming scent.
Similar to the last, this product uses your dogs sniffer to unwind the mind. Lavender is one of the best natural scents you can use to help your dog to relax. This mist helps to lift the spirits of anxious pooches.
Unlike Pet Remedy, you can spray this directly onto their dry fur after bathing or in between washes. Brush through to release the aromatic blend of lavender and rose with base notes of patchouli essential oils. Not only will it help to promote a calm smell around them, but it nourishes the skin and conditions the coat.
Just like the anxiety blanket mentioned at the start. The gentle pressure of clothing such as Thundershirts can help some dogs feel safer.
The light, pressure the dog gets from this shirt, helps to relieve anxiety in the same way that swaddling an infant might. This research has been documented and researched by animal behaviour expert Dr. Temple Grandin, who is herself autistic.
Once it’s on, spray it with some Pet Remedy for extra support!
This acts just like the lickimat! Dogs love to forage for food. It engages a part of the canine brain that makes the environment more exciting and fun.
Harness your dog’s natural instincts by hiding treats in a fleece snuffle mat or folded towel. Spray it with Pet Remedy calming scent for additional support. Foraging requires your dog to focus, so this can provide a strong distraction from noisy fireworks.
If there’s one thing us humans love to unwind, it’s a nice scented candle. Candle’s can provide the same benefits for pooches, provided they don’t have any nasties and are put in a safe area. Click here to read our guides on Candles and Dogs.
This soy candle from Vegan Bunny is super safe for our pooches. It’s scented with pure lavender essential oil, perfect for helping your dog to relax.
These have been becoming more popular over the last year or so, and for a good reason too! These luxurious doughnut-shaped beds can help to relieve your dog’s anxiety. Like other products in this guide, it acts as a ‘warm hug’ and helps your pooch to feel more secure!
The raised rim of the bed creates a sense of security and provides head/neck support, while the super-soft filling offers joint and muscle pain relief, providing a more comfortable deep sleep. They’re also self-warming, giving your dogs a good night sleep in the cold winter months.
Preperation is Key
We hope this guide has helped you in some way, to make some decisions for scary firework day! Please note, each dog is an individual, with their own likes and dislikes. Just like humans, and what is effective for one dog, may not be as effective for another. Even when you crack it the one year, it may be different the next.
Spend some time trialling different things, learning massage strokes, listening to calming music together, enjoying relaxing scents and being ‘in the moment’ with your dog.
What techniques or products do you use for your pooch during the firework season? Share your tips and tricks below – it could help another dog owner!