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Caring for your dog and managing stress through fireworks season

Caring for your dog and managing stress through fireworks season

If you’re like us and millions of other dog owners, the annual fireworks extravaganza that starts in the run up to Bonfire Night on 5th November and then continues until the New Year is a complete nightmare when it comes to keeping our dogs calm and happy. The good news is, there are things you can do to reduce your dog’s stress levels. Here’s our top tips on how to manage your dog’s welfare through the bangs and flashes …
  1. Stay calm and stay in
  2. Adjust your dog’s routine
  3. Security check
  4. A bit of muzak!
  5. Create a safe space indoors  
  6. Distraction tactics
  7. A bit of natural support
  8. Long-term de-sensitisation training

1. Stay calm and stay in

Stay calm and relaxed with your dog on bonfire night

The calmer and more normal you are when the fireworks are going off, the better for your dog - even if you are in bits at the sight of your dog being afraid. Dogs can feel our vibes so if we panic at the first bang because we’re afraid that the noise will upset our dogs then our dogs pick up on it and it can make things worse for the dogs. Excessive fussing can also make your dog more anxious so offer gentle, calm re-assurance and don't crowd them.

On the worst nights for fireworks, stay in with your dog if possible so they have the reassurance of your company. If that’s not possible and you have a particularly anxious or nervous dog, ask a neighbour, friend or family member to sit with them.

2. Adjust your dog’s routine

Wholesale change to routine is stressful for some dogs but some small adjustments at this time of year may make sense. Walk your dog earlier in the day or earlier in the evening and time outdoor loo breaks to happen before the main fireworks kick off in your area - change feeding times to help with this if necessary.

Tino, Italian Greyhound, playing ball

Exercise is as good for dogs as it is for humans so good quality exercise and more interactive play sessions are a good way of tiring your dogs out and helping their bodies release happy hormones. 

3. Security check

Fireworks and sudden flashes of light can trigger a flight response in dogs so make sure you check that all areas of your garden are secure. When out walking in the dark, even if your dog is normally 100% on recall, if there's any chance your dog might bolt if frightened then stick to on-lead walks only.

Dachshund and Italian Greyhound at home wearing house collars for their ID tags

Make sure your dog is wearing an ID tag at all times (a lightweight House Collar is brilliant for this) and that their microchip registration details are up to date. 

4. A bit of muzak! 

Once it gets dark, draw the curtains and put on some calming doggie music to keep the outside world outside.

There are heaps of online resources that have music programmes that are specifically aimed at calming dogs. Relax My Dog on YouTube, iTunes or  Spotify has programmes that will play continuously for over ten hours - listen carefully and you will hear not only classical music but subtle dog noises at various points too!

In the UK Classic FM will broadcast Pet Classics on Friday 4th and Saturday 5th November 2022 from 5pm to 9pm.

Turn up the volume to keep outside noise at bay and the calming music should help to relax your dog.

5. Create a safe space indoors 

Make sure your dog has a cosy, safe space indoors to retreat to if they are nervous. We are luxury dog bedding specialists and there is heaps of inspiration right across this website for creating a seriously cosy and comfy dog bed from our Crate Bedding to the cocoon-like Ducky Donut Beds dressed with Faux-Fur Blankets to our Snuggle Beds for burrowers and heaps more too.

Ducky Donut Dog Bed with Faux-Fur Dog Blanket in Wolf Grey

Adding super-soft cosy blankets (we have a gorgeous selection of Faux-Fur Dog Blankets), or soft little Mini Bolster Pads to snuggle into, or a couple of furry toys definitely increases the comfort factor. 

Place your dog beds somewhere sheltered for bonfire night

Place your dog's bed somewhere sheltered to give them a better sense of security, for example under a table or kitchen island, or in between a sofa and armchair.  

Charley Chau Snuggle Bed for burrowing dogs

Charley Chau Snuggle Beds are the ultimate hide-away for dogs that love to burrow.

Definitely keep your dog's bed away from doors to the outside world and windows through this season. If your dog seems to do better close to you when stressed then make sure their bed is moved to a quiet and preferenably sheltered spot close to where you will be. 

Do not put your dog in a room and shut the door as that could make them more stressed. Dogs need the option to flee when stressed.

6. Distraction tactics

Licking is a self-soothing action for dogs that releases endorphins in their bodies that helps them to relax. Anything you can do to encourage your dog to lick, or even chew, can help.

Lickimats and Beco Bones are brilliant, as are any boredom buster type toys that can be stuffed with something to lick or that requires your dog's attention for a long time. Tough chews to keep them occupied are also fab.  

"Find it" games that require lots of sniffing (sniffing is amazing mental exercsie for a dog) are also brilliant - hide heaps of treats around a room and send your dog to sniff them out - give them some easy finds as well as trickier finds to keep them interested. 

7. A bit of natural support

There are natural remedies that can help our dogs deal with stress better. Our friends at Dorwest have an excellent and trusted range of natural Scullcap and Valerian supplements to support your dog with anxiety and stress.

Officially authorised by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, both the Tablets and Compound products work by helping to naturally relax the nervous system, which reduces anxiety yet does not sedate muscles. If this is something you think your dog would benefit from during firework season, start your dog on them as soon as possible although they do start working within 24 hours of administration.

In very serious cases, where nothing you do seems to help ease your dog’s fear and negative reaction to fireworks, we suggest you chat to your vet as they may be able to prescribe something to help.

8. Long-term de-sensitisation

A longer-term solution is to de-sensitise your dog to fireworks and loud noises, It's not difficult to do but ithas to be done over a long period of time. The idea is you first intorduce then to the noises at very low volumes so they get used to them. And eventually you build up to associating the noises with fun, positive experiences.

Battersea Dogs Home has a fab little video showing how to approach de-sensitising your dog to loud bangs such as fireworks:

We’ll be practising all these tips with our dogs, and we hope they help your dog get through firework season a little easier. See you on the other side! 

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