It may only be September, but experts say we need to start getting our dogs used to the loud bangs of Bonfire Night.
Gemma Vale is from Dog First Aid Manchester.
She advises: "The reason for this is that we want to try to set our dogs up for success during the firework season, so we need to start putting the work in now to try to desensitise them to the sounds and prepare our house as a safe place for our four legged family members.
“Did you know you can buy a CD with Firework sounds? You can also get firework sounds from places like Spotify or YouTube. To try to desensitise your dog to fireworks noises, start playing these sounds daily. Start with a very low volume, and once your dog is comfortable at that sound level, turn the volume up slightly. Again, wait till your dog is comfortable with the fireworks at that level and then once they are, you can increase the volume again slightly. This can take a period of days rather than minutes.”
Gemma says it’s best to check out when and where firework displays in your area are taking place so that you know when to expect them. Also check with the neighbours in your street if they are planning any bonfires and when.
On evenings when fireworks can be expected, you should feed your dog nice and early. Dogs who are stressed and scared are less likely to eat, and this can make a bad situation worse for them as they are then not only scared but they are hungry too. Ensure there is plenty of water available as an anxious dog who is panting a lot is likely to be thirsty.
Gemma adds: "Get out nice and early on your walks so your dog can relieve themselves in the safety of the day. It would be ideal to try to tire your dog out if you are expecting fireworks in the evening. The basis for this; a tired dog might be more inclined to sleep through the noise than a dog full of energy who may be more likely to focus solely on the noises that they find scary. Also shut windows, doors, and curtains. Make your home a place of security for your dog by reducing the noises and flashes of light from outside.
“Don’t shut your dog out or in a room on their own. Remember they will look to you for reassurance, and you want to be close at hand with plenty of treats and their favourite toys to comfort them and praise them, making sure they feel at ease and to show them there is nothing to be afraid of. Never ignore them when they are scared, and if your dog comes to you for comfort then please do offer it to them. If your dog chooses to hide under the bed or behind the couch, don’t try to force them out to ‘face their fears’ as you may cause the dog more unnecessary stress.”
Dog owners can also invest in a Thunder Shirt. These devices apply gentle reassuring pressure to their chest to regulate their breathing and calm their anxiety. They may also want to speak to their vet if they think their dog may benefit from medication during the noisy seasons.