Updated: Nov 8, 2021
We know how hard it can be to see your dog unsettled on bonfire night, knowing there is nothing we can do to stop the noise and the lights. However, there are things that you can do as an owner to try to minimise the impact this may cause your dog.
The obvious and main thing to keep your dog calm is to not take them to a fireworks display. They will be better off being left at home in a safe space on their own than by your side watching the display beside you.
So, what other things can we do to keep our dog as stress free as possible?
EARLIER WALK THAN NORMAL - You may find it beneficial to take your dog for a walk slightly earlier than they are used to. Displays usually start anywhere between 5 and 6pm so if you can, maybe try to take them out before these times and even better, whilst it is still light. We appreciate that some dogs require long walks to release all of their built up energy, so maybe try taking them on a different route or to a location they can really run.
CREATE A DEN-LIKE HIDE - When dogs are anxious to the degree that they usually are on bonfire night, they like to hide away. You might notice they lie down behind the tv cabinet, in cupboards or under the bed. Why not try creating a den using some household items such as pet beds, blankets and cushions. You could try to use the corner of your couch, drape a blanket down and put their bed bed beneath the blanket. That way your dog has somewhere 'safe' to hide when they are spooked.
MASK THE SOUNDS OF THE BANGS USING A TV OR RADIO - As fireworks can be bought by pretty much anyone, many choose to set a mini display in their garden. These gardens may be directly behind you so the firework may go off above your house or at least relatively close. By turning the TV on and playing it at volume somewhat louder than normal, this can significantly decrease the sounds of any fireworks outside.
DRAW YOUR CURTAINS - Dogs can also be affected by the flashing lights not only the bangs. If you draw your curtains you will not only be decreasing the amount of sound coming through your windows, but also limiting the chance of your dog seeing the flashing lights severely.
ENSURE YOUR DOGS MICROCHIP DETAILS ARE UP TO DATE - On the most unfortunate event that your dog is spooked and manages to get free from either their lead whilst out walking or from your garden, it is vital that your microchip details are up to date. If your dog is found by the dog warden or by a passer by, they will be able to identify them and reunite you both a lot quicker than if the details were wrong or if the dog did not have a microchip all together.
TRY NOT TO LEAVE THEM ALONE IF POSSIBLE OR LEAVE THEM LOCKED IN ONE ROOM - You will probably find that the dog will become more stressed if they are locked in a room that they cannot escape. If possible, leave the majority of doors open so that they can find a safe place to hide. If your dog is not allowed in certain rooms, two room options is always better than one. If you are going to go to a display and leave your dog behind, ensure that it has plenty of activities whilst you are away, that it has a hideaway and maybe consider leaving the TV on for them and drawing the curtains closed. Remember - your dog is scared and needs you as to them you are all they have!
DON'T MAKE A BIG FUSS - If you ignore the sounds and the lights, most likely your dog will too. Your dog will feed off your energy and if you are anxious, your dog will likely be too. Just act as though it is another normal night and do not cling to your dog every-time a firework goes off.
MAKE SURE YOUR GARDEN GATES ARE LOCKED - Fireworks are unpredictable. Make sure your gates are securely fastened, especially when letting your dog out to toilet.
ENRICHMENT EXERCISES - Give your dog some fun activities to take their mind off the situation. Here are a few examples; Cardboard Chaos - Find lots of cardboard boxes, stack them how you'd like and scatter treats then let your dogs hunting abilities take over! Enrichment toys filled with their favourite treats or spreads. You can use cream cheese or peanut butter but make sure it doesn't contain xylitol. Find It Game - Scatter treats or their favourite toys in hiding spots around the house and ask them to find it for you.
VETERINARY ADVICE - If your dog is severely anxious or there is a visible change to their health, seek veterinary advice.