Guy Fawkes’s Gunpowder Plot may have failed, but he sparked a night of celebrations every dog owner fears. The loud bang of fireworks can distress dogs and make them shake, cry and hide with fear.
The good news is, there are some sure-fire ways to relax your pooch this November fifth.
1. Stay home
Even if your dog’s as docile as Columbo’s Basset Hound, don’t take them to a fireworks display. The bright lights and bangs will startle the most relaxed of dogs, and might damage their sensitive ears. As pet expert Amy Hatcher, says, “Even pets that are not normally afraid of loud noises may become very upset by fireworks.”
So, best stay indoors and build…
2. Make a doggie den
Your dog probably has a den – or enclosed, dark place – they like to chill out. If they don’t, make a safe place for them in a crate, under a table or behind a couch. You can even cover a couple of chairs with a thick duvet to help muffle the pop of fireworks. To make the den extra snug, put in one of your old T-shirts so they can smell your scent and relax.
3. Tire them out
Before it gets dark and the rockets takeoff, go for a long walk with your dog or play an epic game of fetch in the garden. They’ll burn off energy, tire out and relieve themselves – so they won’t need to go out again too soon!
4. Supersize their meal
Feed your dog before the fireworks start as they might be too anxious to eat. A larger than usual portion could calm them down and help them sleep, too. A bit like us. Just remember to top-up their water bowl, as anxious dogs will pant more.
5. Stay calm
Dogs pick up on our body language, so try to act and behave normal. Marc the Vet says, “Remain calm, happy, and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog.” Reward calm behaviour with tasty treats.
6. Put on their favourite film
A film or TV show they’re familiar with will help camouflage the sound of fireworks. If your dog digs radio more, turn it up a little louder than usual, and consider chill out tunes such as Michael Tyrrell’s Wholetones – which the composer says relaxes his dogs during noisy firecrackers.
7. Distract with a game
Playing your dog’s favourite game will tire them out physically and mentally. Tug-of-war, find-and-retrieve, fetch – something to distract from the lightshow. Again, remember to reward your pooch with treats. If they need extra distracting, throw them a doggie grenade – a Kong toy filled with frozen peanut butter. Boom!
8. Do a doggie blitz
Close all doors, windows and draw curtains or blinds to muffle sounds and block out those scary, flashing lights. And remember to block off any dog-or-cat flaps to stop them darting in a fright. Oh, and keep their collar and ID tag on just in case they do escape.
9. Thundershirts are go
Okay, it doesn’t sound the most relaxing of garments, but a Thundershirt vest is designed to relax dogs during thunderstorms. As DogVacay’s pet expert Nicole Ellis, says, “That tight, snug feeling is calming to some animals – it’s like a baby being swaddled.” If your dog isn’t the hugging type, they probably won’t go for this.
10. Plug-in some calm
Drop by your vet to ask about calming medications. They’ll point you towards a homeopathic or herbal remedy, or pheromone spray / plug-in that dispenses the Dog Appeasing Pheromone. This recreates the scent pups associate with their mum.
That’s it! Stick by your pooch, apply these handy tips, and Bonfire Night will be over before you know it.
Quotes from Country Living, Marc the Vet and Vital Pet Health websites. Pics from Tambako-The-Jaguar, Tony Alter, Coconut Ryo, Christian Walther, Dwayne Madden, and torbakhopper @Flickr.