7 tips to help your doggo through Bonfire Night
Remember when Bonfire Night was fun? Munching down on toffee apples, wearing big fluffy gloves so your sparkler doesn’t burn your hand, big roaring bonfires, and the chance to cosy up on the sofa and watch beautiful fireworks displays conducted by your neighbours a few streets over.
Then you brought your doggo home.
Now, Bonfire Night strikes fear into both you and your pooch. They’re scared and you’re scared because you know just how scared they get. It’s a nightmare. And it feels awful to see your pup so frightened when there’s nothing you can do to help them.
To make matters worse, Bonfire Night is rarely ever one night. Most people seem to think it’s “Bonfire Week”, with fireworks exploding almost every night from Halloween all the way to New Years. Well, that’s what it feels like, at least. Our pups are cowering in terror just so we can look at colourful explosions in the sky.
But it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And neither are fireworks. So, as pawrents, we have to help guide our pups through the continuous onslaught of banging and flashing lights.
And that’s what we’re here to help you with today.
If your pup is terrified of fireworks, it’s unlikely our tips will suddenly reverse all their anxiety. But they could help take your pup’s stress down a notch to a more manageable level. So let’s jump straight in.
Walk your pup in the day
This tip may sound a bit obvious, but the days are getting shorter. So while you might usually walk your pooch at 5pm in a gentle early evening glow, around this time of year, 5pm looks like 10pm. It’s pitch black. So there’s a good chance that fireworks will be exploding left, right, and centre as you’re strolling through the park. It can scare your pup and could even lead to them darting off out of fear.
This is also why it’s essential to microchip your pup. If they do Houdini their way out of your house when a firework goes off, there’s a much better chance of returning them home safely.
Start with the windows
Most of us assume that the banging is what drives our pets mad, but the constant flashing can be overwhelming too. When it starts to get dark, cover the windows by shutting the blinds, curtains, or hanging a blanket over them. This blocks out any light from the fireworks, but it also may help muffle the sound. To further dull the noise, make sure all the windows are shut too.
Turn it up to 11
Nearly half of all dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. That isn’t so surprising when you consider that doggos can hear sounds up to four times as far away as we can. To them, fireworks aren’t just loud – they’re deafening.
So it can be a good idea to keep them inside and try to drown the sound out with some music. Or you could put on a calming movie and cuddle up with them. As long as you crank up the volume to soften the sudden impact of a firework exploding, you’re good to go.
Let them use their hiding place or build them a fort
Many pooches have that little nook they escape to. It could be in a cupboard, under the bed, or wedged behind the sofa. Whatever their hiding place is, let them have it. They retreat to that space for a reason. Maybe it’s confined, so they feel comforted. Or maybe they’ve enjoyed napping there since they were a pup. Either way, it’s their little space and can help them control their anxiety.
If they don’t have a hiding place, build them a den! You want it to be in the quietest room in your house. If you have a crate, move it to the room and put blankets over it. This will help dull the sound, block out any flashing lights, and can help put nervous pups at ease.
Fill it with toys, treats, blankets, and their bed, and leave them alone while they’re in there. The purpose of the den is to give them a safe space. Somewhere they’re in full control. If you pester them, then that means they don’t have control. If you think playing might help distract them, you can give it a go, but if they’re uninterested, don’t force it.
It’s a great idea to build the den before your pup needs it. This allows you to train them to develop positive connotations.
Never punish them
Imagine you’re hanging out with your friend, just watching TV. You’re chatting and having a nice time. And then suddenly it sounds like bombs are going off outside in every direction. You don’t know what’s happening, but you know you’re surrounded. There’s also this constant flashing in the sky. You turn to your friend in a panic to ask them what to do and they just shout at you to shut up. Why are they mad at you? The world is ending! Don’t they realise what’s happening?
That’s probably how your doggo would feel if you shouted at them for being upset on Bonfire Night.
When your pup is constantly barking night after night, it gets frustrating. We get it. You know they’re scared, but they just won’t stop and it’s driving you mad. But it’s important you don’t lash out.
Punishing them for being stressed and scared will only cause more problems in the long run. And you’re their pawrent. It’s your job to make them feel safe and to respond as calmly as you can. Even if the constant barking makes your eyes twitch.
Lead by example
Our pups are incredibly empathetic and in tune with us. If you’re ill, lying on the sofa, drowning in your duvet, there’s a good chance they’ll calmly lie next to you. If you blissfully gallop around the park, they’ll copy you. Our doggos mimic our emotions a lot. So much so that one man spent hundreds on vet bills just to find out his pooch was limping purely because he was.
Monkey see, monkey do. Well, dog see, dog do.
So if you’re gazing out the window or jumping because a firework scared you, as the pack leader, your pup will wonder why you’re bothered by the fireworks. If you’re concerned, they’ll think they should be too.
But if you stay unbothered by them, there’s a good chance they’ll mirror you. And even if your pup doesn’t immediately match your energy, it’ll still calm them. They know if you’re not upset by it, it isn’t that big of a deal. Even if they’re still scared.
Try a snack
While food alone won’t give your pup the strength to make it through hours of loud fireworks, the right snacks can be a great addition to your Bonfire Night routine. Food can have a calming effect and may help your doggo handle the stress of fireworks better.
Kale, blueberries, sweet potato, turkey, whole brown rice, almonds, quinoa, whole oats, and pumpkin seeds have been shown to help them relax. And they’re good for them too! The right diet is essential for a happy, healthy doggo.
For a pawrent, Bonfire Night can be one of the most stressful nights of the year as we helplessly watch our pups panic and cry. It feels like all we can do is wait for it to stop. But these tips and tricks could just be what they need to help them get through this fireworks season with half the stress.
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