Tips to help your dog cope with fireworks, from our top dog behaviourist Karen Wild and Pickles the big-eared, big-hearted, tiny terrierist, who works with scared dogs helping them feel better:
1) Listen to a specially-recorded calming bedtime story at settled times regularly before the fireworks begin
Play the story (or read it yourself!) plenty of times when your dog is relaxed. A good choice might be when he is eating his favourite dinner, or settling for a nap. Your dog needs to learn that the story is associated with a calm, pleasant atmosphere where nothing will upset or disturb him. Even though a doggy bedtime story is designed to increase your dog’s feelings of calm through use of special words, tone and pace, you need to give him a chance to learn this, too. Keep playing the story but make sure you follow all of the advice below as well for maximum success.
2) Keep the radio or TV on in another room
This will help to form a familiar ‘crossover’ sound that will further block out any extra noise from outside.
3) Draw the curtains and keep the lights on
This will help to block out sound and any flashes of light from the fireworks. If necessary, use extra heavy blankets at the windows and also, lay them at the foot of the door as well to block out even more noise and light. Keeping the lights on in the house means that any flashing fireworks won’t be so obvious, either.
4) Build a safe den
If your dog likes to hide and if he has already found a place to hide that is safe, make it comfy for him with cosy blankets. If you aren’t sure, create a safe place under a table and drape a blanket over the top too. Put his favourite toys and chews in there and let him nap in there whenever he chooses. Never trap a dog into a confined space as it may make him panic. Make sure the room you settle him in is well away from the nearest noise!
5) Walk your dog while it is still light
Take him out for a really long, rambling walk with plenty of sniffs earlier than normal before the fireworks start. Make sure you go somewhere quiet and keep him away from spent fireworks!
6) Make sure your dog has a collar and id tag
Around bonfire night it is not unusual for pets to go missing. Make sure your dog is wearing a well-fitting collar and id tag with your name and address inscribed clearly upon it, along with telephone contact numbers and your Vet’s telephone number if possible.
7) Ask your Vet for advice
Your Vet will be able to help particularly if you are worried that your dog will suffer an extreme reaction. Make sure you contact them as soon as possible. Your Vet can refer you to an APBC behaviourist for extra help too.
8) Cuddles can be comforting.
It is natural for a dog to fear the loud sudden noise of fireworks especially the high pitched noises so never assume that he will be fine no matter what you try in terms of prevention. Stay with your dog so that you can monitor his reaction. If you want to go out, ask someone to dog-sit. If your dog wants to sit close to you, let him do it. It might help him to settle (unless you are worried, too!). If your dog does not want comforting with cuddles, leave him to find his own space instead.
9) Fireworks can be fun?
Make sure you have lots of nice things for your dog to enjoy around fireworks time. Special, tasty dinner and yummy chews will help him to enjoy himself and calm down. Play a happy game with him if you like! If he really doesn’t want to eat, play, or snooze, he is too stressed. Follow the other tips here and contact your Vet if worried.
10) Don’t panic!
As well as the story being designed to help your dog, it is also very soothing and heartwarming for humans, too. Your dog won’t want you to feel upset – it might make him worry more. Put your feet up with a warm drink, and share a relaxing, safe and snuggly bonfire night with the (bedtime story) and your best friend.
Karen’s book ‘What your Dog Wants’ is available here – find out the skills you need to be the perfect dog owner!
If your dog appears worried or stressed you must contact your Veterinary practitioner without delay. The tips here are intended to assist with calming and settling your dog but are not intended to replace advice from your Vet.