Helping your pet cope with fireworks season

The lead up to Bonfire night can be a very traumatic time of year for many dogs. The sounds and noises created by fireworks are often very frightening for them. This causes stress, unpredictable behaviour and potentially puts your pets’ safety at risk.

Approximately 40% of the UKs dogs are scared of fireworks. Forward planning is needed and there are several things that can be done to keep your dog calm and safe.

Preparations for Bonfire night

Acclimatising dogs to loud noises using desensitisation CD’s and downloadable content can be helpful but needs to be done well in advance of Fireworks night, ideally starting 6 months before. By gradually increasing the volume over time of potentially disturbing noises in a controlled manner, desensitisation can be achieved. Warning: If your pet is severely noise phobic, sound CDs may make the situation worse and it may be a good idea to speak to an experienced animal behaviourist

Check Microchip details are up to date.

It’s a good idea to make sure your pets microchip details are upto date and that they are wearing a collar and ID tag.  Dogs can react very badly to the unfamiliar sights and sounds of fireworks and may run off. Having the microchip details up to date gives you reassurance that if they do go missing then hopefully the reuniting process if straightforward.

For more information on microchipping please visit PETtrac:

Do your research

Check where and when firework displays are being held in your local area so that you know when to expect fireworks. Also ask your neighbours to let you know if they are planning any unofficial displays of their own to help you prepare.

Before the fireworks begin

  • Top up your dog’s water bowl. Anxious dogs pant more and get thirsty.
  • Feed your dog a while before you expect any disturbances. Once the fireworks start your dog may be too anxious to eat.
  • Walk your dog before dusk. It may be some time before it’s safe to venture outside again for your dog to relieve themselves. Always make sure that your garden is escape proof, just in case a firework goes off if you take them into the garden to go to the toilet.
  • Make sure you shut all doors and windows in your home and don’t forget to draw the curtains. This will block out any scary flashes of light and reduce the noise level of fireworks. Don’t forget to block off cat flaps to stop dogs (and cats) escaping.
  • Make a safe den for your dog to retreat to if they feel scared. Make sure to fill it with their favourite blankets, toys, or an item of unwashed clothing, as these may help them feel safe.

During the fireworks

  • Distract your dog from the noise by having the TV or the radio switched on.
  • Try to act and behave as normal, as your dog will pick up on any odd behaviour. Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog.
  • Your dog might choose to hide under the bed or behind furniture; if they come to you for comfort, make sure that you give it to them. Ignoring your dog would only make things worse as they wouldn’t understand your withdrawal from them.
  • Always reward calm behaviour with dog treats or playing.
  • Never try to force your dog to face their fears – they’ll just become more frightened.
  • Never try and tempt them out if they do retreat, as this may cause more stress.
  • Never tell your dog off. This will only make your pet more distressed. It is important to remember that it is natural for a dog to be scared of loud noises and unfamiliar sights and sounds.
  • If you need to open the front door, shut your dog safely inside a room first.

Things you should never do!

  • Never take your dog to a firework display, even if your dog does not bark or whimper, don’t assume he or she is happy. Excessive yawning and panting can indicate that your dog is stressed.
  • Never tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off. 

My dog is still very scared and anxious despite taking these precautions…

If you’ve previously tried everything and your dog is still stressed then veterinary help may be required. If you are considering giving your dog any remedies or medications to help them cope with stress during fireworks it is always worth speaking to us to ensure you are using the right product i.e. one that has proven efficacy and one that will not have any adverse effects, especially if your dog has health problems or is on any medications.

Some dogs, despite taking the above steps, will still have severe anxiety around fireworks. There are medications that can help reduce anxiety. Please contact us if you think your dog may need some extra help around this time. As most of the medications are prescription medications, your pet will need to have been seen recently by the vet.

Speaking to a dog behaviourist in your area about any potential behavioural issues that may arise around this time of year is recommended, as they are experts in the field and can offer invaluable advice which will help to safeguard the health and happiness of your dog and make sure their dog’s experience of Bonfire Night is as positive as possible.”

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