BONFIRE Night, is a uniquely British event that brings with it an almost child-like excitement for most of us; looking forward to a cold, crisp evening wrapped up warm, alongside friends and family to watch the bright lights. However the same sadly cannot be said for many of our animals as for the majority of our canine friends and their owners, 5 November can be marred by stress and anxiety.
With bonfire night seeming to stretch from October to the end of November these days, unexpected noises and bangs aren’t just restricted to Guy Fawkes’ night itself – but good planning can help reduce the amount of panic both owners and animals endure.
To help dogs avoid the stress of Fireworks: try to exercise them during the day; keep your dog indoors on the evening of bonfire night – closing the curtains and playing music to drown out the noise can be helpful. While it is tempting to cajole and fuss our four-legged friends, some experts believe this is rewarding them for being scared, so it may be best to leave them to take refuge on their own in a safe corner (preparing a ‘den’ area with their own blanket could make them feel more secure).
Professional firework displays are relatively unlikely to injure our canines; the real danger is if they are out in the garden or on a walk leading the dog to panic and flee from the noise and escaping, or running into a dangerous situation blindly.
Remember it is natural for dogs to be afraid of loud noises. The sounds trigger their nervous systems, and they can become anxious or afraid. Running away from the noise is a survival instinct.
To your dog, the experience of fireworks is different than other natural loud noises, like thunder. Fireworks are closer to the ground, more vibrant, and are accompanied by sudden booms, flashes and burning smells. Dogs experience the world through their senses – nose, eyes, ears.
If you have any animal welfare concerns during the bonfire period, telephone the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or visit: rspca.org .uk or for enquiries directly relating to your own pet why not contact your local veterinarian for more tips and advice.
Preparation: Arrange to have your dog in a place where there won’t be loud fireworks displays – a friend’s or relative’s home or a doggie day care that is familiar. If you cannot take your dog to a place away from fireworks, then create a ‘den’ home for him/her to feel safe in. If you’re not going to be home, have a friend or sitter there.
Acclimatisation: The best way to prepare your dog for fireworks is to make sure they’re comfortable with the sound in advance. Playing the recorded sound of fireworks for your dog at an increasingly louder volume before he eats, before a walk, and before affection and play can condition him by association to hear the sound and interpret it as something good.
Communication: If you are going to be with your dog during the fireworks, sending the calming message that they are nothing to worry about will also help him to relax. Remember, though, while humans communicate with words, dogs communicate with energy, and will look to their pack leader for clues on how they should behave. If you’re not making a big deal about the fireworks, then your dog will learn to be less concerned as well.
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by Canine Expert Peter Fishpool of Scientific Nutritional Products