Fireworks, bonfires, toffee apples… bonfire night is a celebration to be enjoyed by all here in the UK.
But your canine family member probably doesn’t feel the same.
In fact, a recent poll by the RSPCA found that around 62% of dogs are frightened by fireworks.
To them, the bright flashes and loud bangs can be terrifying.
That’s why when the 5th November comes around it’s so important to help them stay calm.
We’ve packed this post full of top tips that any pet parent can do to have a successful stress-free bonfire night.
How To Prepare In Advance
Preparing before the night is often the best way to make sure your dog stays calm on Bonfire Night.
One way to help prepare your dog is to use noise CD’s or YouTube videos that play firework sounds.
You should start this method before bonfire night. Begin by playing the sounds softly in the background for around 15 minutes per day, at a level that doesn’t cause your dog any stress. Slowly increase the volume of the sounds each time, stopping and going back a few steps if your dog shows signs of anxiety.
Eventually, you should get to the point where your dog can sit comfortably in a room with firework sounds at a loud volume in the background. This will prepare them well for the actual experience of bonfire night.
Dogs Trust offers some great sound packs to help prepare your dog.
Creating A ‘Safe Den’
Another idea is to create a ‘safe den’ in your house ahead of time. If your dog is crate trained, this could easily double as their safe space. Or they might prefer to hide out in a quiet room in your house.
Wherever you decide the best location for your dog’s den is, preparation is key.
Fill the space with their favourite toys, blankets or a piece of unwashed clothing that smells like you.
Cover the space with blankets to block out sounds and light (such as scary flashes from fireworks).
This space will provide comfort for them if they’re feeling scared. Start training your dog that this somewhere they can be safe.
As a bonus you can place treats inside, to show them that this is a great place to be and full of positive experiences.
It is important not to bother your dog while they’re in their den, or encourage them to come out and play. They should see the space as somewhere that they can hide out if they’re stressed.
As it starts getting closer to bonfire night, you should check when and where the fireworks displays are happening locally so you are prepared. Also ask your neighbours if they are planning any at-home fireworks parties.
5th November: What To Do On The Day
When 5th November rolls around, you may be wondering the best plan of action.
Firstly, it is important to make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise in the daylight. Not only will this mean that you don’t have to take them out into the dark when fireworks are likely to be going off, but they will be tired and sleepy in the evening. This will help lessen their anxiety.
Feeding a stodgy, high carb meal with well-cooked pasta or rice in the late afternoon can also help your dog feel more sleepy and mean they are naturally calmer.
As the evening approaches, make sure your dog has been fed (in case they become too anxious to eat) and top up their water bowl. Anxious dogs will pant more and therefore get more thirsty.
Shut all the curtains in your home, to sound proof and block out the flashing lights.
It is a good idea to have the TV or radio on too, as this will distract from the noises happening outside.
Also make sure that your garden is completely escape proof, and that your dog is wearing their collar and ID tags. It only takes a few seconds for a terrified dog to bolt out of an open door and into the night.
During The Fireworks, Do This…
Throughout the night, act and behave normally. Don’t keep checking your dog is ok, or constantly observe their reactions. This will signal to them that something is wrong, and make them more anxious.
If your dog runs to their hiding place, leave them alone and don’t disturb them. But if they do want comfort, or to play, don’t turn them away.
Don’t go out and leave your dog on bonfire night. If you are heading out to a display or party, make sure to get a dog sitter that your dog knows well to keep them company.
It is also important not to use sedatives to try and calm your dog.
In the past, sedatives were prescribed by many vets to dogs suffering with anxiety. However, research later showed that when you give a dog sedatives, they are unable to express fear and anxiety, but still experience those emotions.
Think of it like those nightmares where you are terrified but can’t run away. This in turn makes them even more anxious for future episodes and can worsen their phobia of fireworks.
Instead of using sedatives, there are instead many natural calming remedies that can be of great benefit to your dog.
Natural Remedies To Calm Your Dog
There are many natural remedies available to help calm your dog that might be useful on bonfire night. One of the best is L-Theanine. A full breakdown of this “super calmer” was covered in our post last week.
The trouble is a lot of the most calming foods for dogs like L-Theanine are hard to access individually or in the right doses. That’s why we recommend getting them in calming products specifically for dogs.
When choosing a calming product you think is going to be right for your dog, always read the label and research the ingredients. You will soon find many contain nasty chemicals or work suppressing your dogs brain function. As we described above, this only masks your dog’s fear and might even make it worse.
This is one of the reasons we’ve created Relax+Restore. This is a brand new natural calming product for dogs with no nasties – perfect for promoting relaxation in nervous, fearful or restless dogs. And it works incredibly well on bonfire night.
Relax+Restore is loaded with 7 of the most naturally calming super nutrients available to provide your dog with a relaxed energy. Plus an extra burst of vitamins designed to protect dogs against the negative effects of stress.
This makes it perfect for bonfire night as it gives your dog the extra helping hand they often look to you for around this time.
We recommend you use Relax+ Restore before an on bonfire night for the best effects. See the recommended serving amounts below.
Learn more about Relax+Restore and it’s breakthrough formula by clicking here.