Dogs

How to keep your dog calm on Bonfire Night

Allie Simpson

Bonfire Night is an exciting celebration for many, but this isn’t necessarily the case for many dog owners. The whooshes, fizzes, and bangs can cause a lot of stress to our canines. Being a responsible pawrent, you’ll want to protect your pup as much as possible on this night to avoid injuries or a panicked escape.

Expert dog behaviourist Philippa Short has given you some essential tips on how to keep your dog calm on Bonfire Night.

 

A picture of a Labrador walking through the woods in autumn, carrying a branch

Walking dogs on Bonfire Night

Exercising your dog on a daily basis is a key part of their health and wellbeing, and something they often look forward to (so much so we have to spell it out as W-A-L-K-I-E-S). So, how do you give them their outdoor time while also keeping them safe around Bonfire Night? Do things slightly dif-fur-rently.

It’s not advisable for your dog to be outside during fireworks displays, so try mixing up your pup’s walking routine. If you take your dog for a walk earlier on in the day, make it a longer one. This may help tire out your canine and allow you to shorten their evening walk. Bear in mind that some fireworks displays for children start earlier, so take an earlier evening walk and aim to be back home between 4 – 4.15 pm at the latest.

> Things to avoid on Bonfire Night for dogs

Philippa recommends avoiding a few different things when it comes to canine care on Bonfire Night:

✔ Walking your dog at night, as there are new smells and sounds, and bigger crowds of people than normal.

✔ Leaving dogs unattended in the garden. When toileting or exercising at night, make sure your dog is on a lead.

✔ Forcing hugs, unless your dog makes it known that they need comforting. Hugging them if they’re calm could make them think there’s something to worry about, and hugging them when stressed could make them feel constricted in their movement and breathing.

✔ Flooding, a technique that forces your dog to face their fear. This may cause your dog a great deal of suffering and could actually make their fear worse.

 

A picture of two Spaniels looking out of a window

How to keep your dog calm on Bonfire Night

Creating a safe space for your dog on Bonfire Night may work wonders for helping them feel less stressed. The goal is for your dog to not even notice that anything is happening outside, so there are things you can do inside to help with that:

  • Closing all windows, doors, and curtains to try and create a barrier between any noise or visual triggers and your dog.
  • Making sure the house is secure could also help prevent your dog from escaping if they feel scared, so remember to close any gates.
  • Dens are a simple way of keeping your dog calm on Bonfire Night. You could place a blanket over two chairs or their crate to create a safe space for them.
  • Leave the crate door open so they can leave and move around as they wish.

> What products can help to keep your dog calm?

There are a few options out there that could also help to keep your dog calm. These include:

  • Apps designed specifically for calming and soothing dogs using non-triggering sounds.
  • Pheromone sprays and essential oils could help your dog to feel calm on bonfire night. Just be certain that any sprays or oils used are marked as safe to use with dogs and approved by vets.
  • Thunder shirts and body wraps, which are also known as portable hugs and may give your dogs comfort. It’s important that you introduce this to your canine slowly over a number of days or weeks before use on Bonfire Night.
  • Calming nutraceuticals (succulents), non-prescription calmers that could help your dog on Bonfire Night. As always, check that they’re safe for use with dogs and consult with your vet first.
  • Mufflers or snoods, usually for dogs with long ears but can be used on any dogs. They may help your dog cope with any triggers on Bonfire Night. As with the thunder shirts, introduce this to your dog before Bonfire Night and allow them to get used to the equipment.

A picture of a Goldendoodle playing tug of war with a blanket

Exercises to keep your dog calm on Bonfire Night

General exercise that your canine goes barking mad for may help to burn off excess energy before the fireworks begin. We’re talking long walks, playing hide and seek around the house, doing agility training, or a classic game of tug of war.

You could also give your dog a special massage known as Tellington Touch. There are particular ways to censor your dog’s nervous system to calm them down and settle their body into a relaxed state. Doing this may mean they are so at ease that fireworks do not bother them.

If your dog is calm enough, you can massage them during fireworks, but it’s best not to touch them if they’re too stressed.

> Activities to keep your dog calm

✔ Talk to them as normal.

✔ Have the TV on and turn the volume up higher than normal.

✔ Play games with them to distract from any noises. Puzzle toys which use treats as incentives are a great distraction.

✔ Chew toys which state that they are long-lasting, just monitor your dog carefully and discard the toy when it shows signs of damage.

✔ If your dog isn’t too stressed, try positive reinforcement. Have a bowl of high-value food such as chicken or cheese pieces and when a firework goes off, say ‘yay’ and give them apiece.

✔ You could try and desensitise your dog to fireworks before Bonfire Night using CDs or video clips online. Play these very quietly to start and slowly increase volume over time, but never above more than they’re visibly comfortable with.

 

A picture of a Border Collie lying down on a bed, resting on its paws

What to do if your dog is distressed on Bonfire Night

If your dog is distressed on Bonfire Night, remain calm. Being over-sensitive to your dog can make them sense your stress. It’s important to keep your dog away from the fireworks, so if you’re wanting to have a display in your garden, see if it can be done elsewhere. If not, send your dog to a friend’s house where they feel safe, familiar, and they’re away from any triggers.

It’s essential that your dog’s microchip information is up to date on the database, so that should the worst happen and they do escape, they can be reunited with you as soon as possible.

 

Raise a paw if you want your dog to be happy and healthy! We do too, which is why we offer flexible lifetime dog insurance.