If your dog shows signs of anxiety on Bonfire night, you’re not alone. Did you know that a stunning 45% of pets suffer from anxiety during fireworks? It’s not surprising – sudden bangs, screeches and flashes in the sky must seem completely inexplicable to our dogs. But don’t worry, help is at hand! We’ve rounded up all the best dog care know-how to help keep your dog calm and happy this fireworks season.
Preparing your dog for Bonfire Night
1. Walk your dog during the day
Most dogs need more than one half-hour walk a day. If you usually walk your dog in the evening, try and adjust your schedule during the week leading up to Bonfire Night, or when you know your local fireworks display is going to take place. It’s a good idea to give your dog a good run around, as this will burn off excess energy and will help reduce your dog’s excitement and anxious behaviours later in the day. If you have a high energy dog, making sure they’ve had plenty of exercise during the day, before fireworks begin, will be especially important.
2. Prepare your home & create a doggy dens
Many experts recommend creating a “doggy den”. The idea behind this is to create an area, zone or room in your house where your dog knows they are safe and can retreat to if they’re scared. Of course, this may take a bit of preparation, both in terms of creating a den, but also teaching your dog that this is their special safe place. Many experts recommend taking this one step further and making sure your whole home is made to feel safe. Block out the sudden flashes of the fireworks by closing the blinds and drawing the curtains. You might want to consider playing some low level calming music to block out the majority of the loud noises. If you create a den for your dog, remember to include some comforting items, such as their favourite toys, a blanket. And have plenty of treats ready to reward good behaviour!
3. Food and diet
Feed your pooch before fireworks begin, so make sure you know when your local display is scheduled to start. If your dog’s anxious then they’re less likely to eat a proper meal. Dogs are known to express their hunger through excessive whining. At least this way you can be sure that if he’s had food, he won’t go hungry and any whining noises are kept to a minimum.
Be aware of a number of carbohydrates you’re feeding your pup. Sugar has a similar effect on dogs as it does on us humans. Carbohydrates cause hyperactivity and can increase anxiety levels in some dogs. Professional Dog Trainer Casey Lomonaco has seen many successful anxiety cases due to dog owners switching their dog’s diet from high-carbohydrate and low-protein to high-protein and low carbohydrate.
4. Normalise fireworks as much as possible
One of the challenges of this season is that fireworks aren’t limited to just one evening; some large fireworks displays will land on different days and some people may have private displays at any time of the year, let alone throughout the months of October, November and even on New Year’s Eve. So, it’s best to find ways to normalise your dog to fireworks as much as possible.
The best way you can do this for your dog is to behave as normally as possible yourself. Dogs often take their lead from our behaviour, so if you act like everything’s okay and perfectly normal, your dog will most likely follow suit.
If you tend to spend evenings at home with the TV or radio on, make sure you kick back and relax. If your dog won’t settle, try playing with them, giving them a toy such as a treat-stuffed Kong to keep their minds occupied.
Remember, never punish your dog for showing signs of anxiety-driven behaviour, as you’ll only make them more anxious and you will have developed a negative association with fireworks, which is what we want to avoid.
Products to help your dog stay calm during fireworks
As well as some good-to-know behavioural advice, there are anxiety-relieving doggy products that many other dog owners and experts have tried and tested. Here are some of the best ideas out there, including some calming dog treat recipes you can try at home.
Thundershirts are a tight fitting doggy garments that apply a gentle but consistent pressure to a dog’s body, and some dog owners who’ve used a Thundershirt swear by it. The tight pressure and snug fit replicates the feeling of being secure, safe and content.
2. Calming dietary supplements
If your dog struggles to stay calm in stressful situations, you may want to consider including calming ingredients in your dog’s diet. The best ingredients for your dog’s anxiety levels to look out for Chamomile or Lavender. Many popular and readily available dog food brands now supply treats or supplements that include these natural ingredients, why not give a treat tube from our friends at Pooch & Mutt a try?
You can also try making your own treats at home. The naturally occurring L-tryptophan amino acid can help boost serotonin, which can boost feelings of happiness and relaxation. Foods containing the highest amount of L-tryptophan include turkey, pumpkin seeds, oats and sunflower seeds. Check out this dog treat recipe of pumpkin seeds and oats.
3. Consider booking dog care
Are you and your family planning to enjoy a fireworks display together? Don’t let worrying about your dog make you miss out on the fun. Bonfire Night is one of those memory making moments with fun for all the family. Why not consider booking alternative dog care so you can enjoy the show with peace of mind that your dog is getting pampered with a reliable dog sitter? Even better, if you know your dog suffers from anxiety, why not find them somewhere to stay a bit further away from your neighbourhood firework display?
Do you have any other tips, or tried any of the advice, treats or products above? We’d love to hear your success stories, share yours in the comments below.