Countdown to Bonfire Night: how to start preparing your dog for fireworks

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Prepare pets for bonfire night

There is less than one month left before Bonfire Night starts off fireworks season, and pet owners are urged to start preparing their pets for it in order to avoid stress and injuries.

As Covid restrictions are likely to cause the cancellation of official displays, vets worry that this may cause more people to let off fireworks in their backyards at random times from Bonefire Night until New Year – causing sudden, unexpected bangs throughout the day that are more difficult to prepare pets for.

RSPCA figures show that around 62 per cent of UK dogs, as well as 55 per cent of horses and 54 per cent of cats, show signs of anxiety when they hear fireworks.

RSPCA animal welfare expert Dr Mark Kennedy said, “Firework phobia is treatable and we recommend seeking advice from your vet or from a clinical animal behaviourist if your pet finds Bonfire Night frightening. 

“While it may take months or even years for treatment plans to take effect for some pets with more severe phobias; for others, there are simple steps you can take at home in the weeks leading up to Bonfire Night to help them.”

To prepare your dog for fireworks season, the RSPCA advises:

  • Provide your dog or cat with a safe haven – Create a doggy den in a quiet area of the house and make it a special safe place by placing tasty treats and favourite toys inside. Make sure your cats always have access to plenty of places around the house to hide. 
  • Pheromone diffusers – Speak to your vet about using a calming collar or diffuser which disperses calming pheromones which may help your dog or cat feel more secure.
  • Introduce changes to your pet’s routine slowly – It’s sensible to keep your horse in a familiar environment, following their normal routine with their usual companions. If you’re planning to bring your horse or livestock into a stable or barn overnight during fireworks, start to introduce the change of routine now to get them used to being in. We recommend walking dogs during daylight during fireworks season so if this is different to your normal routine, begin to alter the time of your pet’s walk to get them gradually used to it. 

  • Provide extra bedding – Rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals who live outside should have extra bedding to burrow into or you can cover their housing with a blanket for extra sound-proofing. Begin to introduce this now.
  • Bringing pets inside –  If you’re planning to bring them indoors to better protect them then start to make this change ahead of fireworks night to get them used to the new sights, smells and sounds inside. 
  • Speak to neighbours – If you want to plan for dates of local displays then check local press and websites and speak to your neighbours and local councils/schools etc to find out dates ahead of time so you can plan now to help your pet. Ask organisers to site fireworks well away from your horse and aimed in the opposite direction.
  • Soundproof your house – Simple steps like closing windows and curtains can help your house seem safer to your pet so begin doing this now if it’s different to normal to get your pet used to it.
  • Start desensitising them to sounds – Teach your pet to deal with the sounds by using training CDs. We recommend Sounds Scary which comes with guidance on how to use it. You can also muffle the sound of fireworks dogs and other pets by using calming music like classical playlists – start to introduce this now. This is a long-term approach so may be worth starting now ahead of next year. 
  • Get help – If your pet has a severe fireworks fear then speak to your vet or clinical animal behaviourist now to come up with a plan or to discuss whether there are any treatment options to help them. 

You can sign the FAB Firework Abatement UK petition here.

Images by RSPCA

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