Bonfire Night With Your Dog
Bonfire night can present many challenges to your pooch. It is the time of year that many pet parents come to dread, but there are steps we can take to mitigate the effect of fireworks on our dogs.
The first thing to be aware of is that training your dog to be ok with firework noises can take several months, and thus its always best to start early! Don’t worry if you fear you’ve left it too late this year, it’s still worth doing some work on it and then continuing so that next year we’re ready!
Training your dog to be comfortable around loud noises such as fireworks is something we call systematic desensitisation. This simply involves playing a recording/ soundtrack on the lowest possible volume where your dog is not phased by it, and then gradually increasing the volume over an extended period of time.
For a dog that is already scared of fireworks, we will want to adjust this training slightly to make it ‘counter-conditioning’, which simply means that we will always give the dog something they love whilst playing this noise to them. Here I would usually use a kong, lickmat, or long-lasting chew to occupy the dog whilst the sound is playing at a low volume.
If you haven’t had time to prepare for firework night and our worried your dog is going to be fearful, there are some things we can do on the night to help.
First and foremost, always make sure your dog is wearing a tag on firework night and never let them into the garden unattended. This is the most common night where people loose their dogs due to them spooking and escaping a garden, or bolting from their owners. Ere on the side of caution.
In addition to this we want to provide our dogs with a safe space (I use a crate here) that they can escape should they become afraid. Try covering a crate or area your dog likes to go in blankets to make it dark and den like. You can also dilute some lavender essential oil and rub it on the bedding in this area as this is thought to have a calming effect on the dog.
If your dog really struggles with fireworks (excessive panting, increased heart rate, dilated pupils, salivating etc) then I would consult your vet prior to the
Ultimately the steps you take depend on the level of fear your dog is exhibiting. Remember, if in doubt it is always a good idea to consult your vet or a behaviourist who might be able to further help.