As Bonfire night creeps up on us, with it comes the constant noise of fireworks being set off, even in the weeks leading up to the event.
It is undoubtedly one of the noisiest times of year and dog owners will know only too well just how much of a problem it can cause for their dogs.
The loud explosions and flashes often leave dogs feeling anxious and frightened, a sight that is never pleasant for owners.
However, to ensure that their dogs are safe and feel secure, owners will need to plan ahead to lessen the impact that fireworks have.
Introduce your dog to noise
The loud explosions startle your dog but you can get your dog used to different noises prior to the big event.
One thing you can do is use a recording of firework explosions that can be played to your dog in a controlled way. You will need to take this approach gradually over time but it can work.
The following training exercise is best done outdoors, somewhere safe like the garden.
- Find something to distracted you dog with like their favourite toy. Begin playing with your dog making sure they are very engaged with the activity.
- Whilst playing start the recording of fireworks at a low volume.
- Continue to play whilst gradually increasing the volume.
- If your dog starts to become overly anxious and you cannot get their attention lower the volume until they are at ease and start again.
- Do not be tempted to use food as a reward during the training exercise. Otherwise they may associate the food with the negative experience.
If you dog progresses well you might like to use some Party Poppers instead of the recording. Using Poppers can help you dog get more accustomed to real explosions and the smell of gunpowder.
Never fire them anywhere near the dog. The Popper should be in the background whilst they are engaged in playing.
If your dog is already particularly nervous then you should see a behavioural specialist.
The power of pheromones
Dog Appeasing Pheromones (DAP) can be effective at reducing stress-related behaviours in a number of contexts such as Bonfire night.
You will need one plugin device per room (where the dog will be). Start using them 2-3 weeks in advance of fireworks night.
Help your dog to feel safe
The chances are that your dog will feel insecure so you could create a safe haven for your dog to retreat to.
Give them some of your clothing so they pick up on your scent and allow them to hide under or behind furniture.
Whatever makes them feel safe, allow them to do it. You could always make them feel safer by distracting them through using the TV or the radio.
The additional noise can drown out the fireworks slightly and reduce the impact.
Keep your behaviour consistent
Dogs have the ability to pick up on our behaviours and they sense where our moods change.
If you can see that your dog is frightened, try and stay calm and happy. Talk to your dog in the usual, cheery way and let them know that you are them for them.
If your dog is calm, you could reward them with treats.
Find out when displays are taking place
Your dog might suffer from health problems that could be made worse by the noise of fireworks.
Speak to your vet if you plan to give your dog remedies to cope with fireworks. Alongside this, it is always worth finding out when firework displays are taking place in your area and even when your neighbours plan to set them off. Displays can often take place a few days either side of the actual date.
Feed and walk your dog before dusk
After dark is the time when fireworks are set off, so feed your dog before it is all likely to begin. This will ensure that your dog manages to eat their food before they worry too much.
Along with this, you should also walk your dog because it is unlikely that they will want to go outside once they hear the fireworks.
Close all windows and doors
Closing all of your windows and doors, as well as the curtains, can help to reduce the noise and prevent the flashes of light from entering the room.
However, make sure that your dog is safe inside a room before you open your front door. One important thing to remember is to ensure that your dog has a collar, ID tag and is microchipped just in case they do escape as this will help those who find your dog to reunite them with you.
If after all your attempts the problem becomes worse then you could use the services of an animal behaviourist. They can help to train your dog in a way that helps them to become used to the noise.