Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Bonfire Night Blues: How to help your dog cope

Updated October 2012

Look at that poor guy! He's not happy about the fireworks. He's worked up and doesn't understand what is going on! In a blog post from 2008, we cited a 2007 survey of 3774 people who said that 80% of dogs are frightened by fireworks and 45% of owners say their dogs are terrified to the point of sedation; a follow-up survey of 1,550 people in 2012 has found that the number of dogs scared is still very high at 72% - and worryingly, 1 in 10 of those has been so severely scared that they needed veterinary attention.

You can check out our previous post and see below for some great tips on how to beat the Bonfire Night blues as well as two very important videos below. These cover what to do BEFORE and DURING the firework season in the two videos below:

Before the fireworks begin:

  • Walk your dog before dark – make sure your dog is well exercised and has had a toilet break before the fireworks begin. 
  • Feed your dog before the fireworks begin as he may become unsettled and not want to eat during the fireworks. 
  • Make sure your house and garden are secure during the fireworks as fear may make the dog act out of character and he may try to escape. 
  • Try to settle your dog before the fireworks start – if your dog is in familiar safe surroundings it will help him cope with the noise. 
  • Provide a safe hiding place – at noisy times around Bonfire Night, make sure your dog has somewhere safe in his or her favourite room, perhaps under the table. Close the curtains and turn up the volume on your TV or radio to drown out the firework noises. 
  • If your dog responds well to certain music, make a compilation and play it at a reasonable level to drown out the sound of the fireworks. Alternatively, put your radio on.   

During the fireworks: 

  • Don’t punish a dog for cowering or reacting to the fireworks as this will intensify his or her fear. Owners should aim to remain relaxed and therefore provide a good role model to the animal when it is afraid. 
  • Don’t leave your dog alone in the house during the fireworks period – he or she may panic and this could result in an injury. 
  • Keep your dog busy – play games or enjoy some reward-based training to keep their mind off the noises. 
  • Be careful not to reward your dog for reacting to noise – if he or she is upset giving them lots of attention may inadvertently reward him for being afraid. It is better to act as if there’s nothing to worry about. However, if your dog comes to you for comfort is best not to ignore him - very gently stroke him along his flanks and his ears - this may help to calm him. 
  • Never force a dog outside when fireworks are being let off, and even if your dog enjoys Bonfire Night, never let them off their lead outdoors when fireworks are being let off. 

After the fireworks:

If your dog does react badly to fireworks seek advice from your vet regarding desensitisation programmes to help him or her cope more easily next time.  As these programmes generally take several weeks or more to complete, they are not something that can be started in the final run-up to firework season and must be carefully planned.  You should also ask  about Adaptil collars which contain a Dog Appeasing Pheromone -a scent that can comfort your dog and help him or her cope with their fears

It is also important that in the long term your dog becomes less scared of loud noises. It is most effective to prevent noise phobia developing by ensuring that puppies are desensitised to loud noise.

We have more reading on our website as well.

We hope you all have a safe, happy and peaceful Bonfire Night.

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