Preparing your pets for Bonfire Night

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preparing your pets for Bonfire Night fireworks

Bonfire night is bound to be a stressful time for our pets, but what many don’t realise is that by taking some time to prepare a few weeks in advance you could minimise the stress caused by the fireworks. Bella & Duke’s Natural Canine Behaviourist, Caroline Spencer, shares her top ten tried and tested tips to help your pets keep calm during those noisy nights.

With over half of UK households now owning pets, it’s more important than ever to ensure that we keep our furry friends safe and stress-free during firework season. It was found that 41% of dog owners stated their dog is afraid of fireworks and similarly 30% of cat owners said their pet suffers from firework phobia. Fireworks are bound to affect millions of pets across the country and these figures only account for visible signs shown to us when fireworks are going off, making the real percentage potentially much higher.

It’s not solely the loud noises from fireworks that can invoke fear in your pet. It can also be the tremors in the atmosphere that reverberate through their body as well as the smell of fireworks and burning bonfires that make them feel uneasy.

Below are some reasons why pets get considerably stressed from fireworks:

  • Our reaction and the reaction of other animals in your care
  • Sounds of deep booms and bangs to high pitched screamers
  • The unfamiliar smell of gunpowder
  • Tremors throughout the atmosphere and ground
  • Bright flashing lights
  • The smell of burning fires

How your pet reacts to fireworks will depend on how much they trust those around them to offer appropriate support.

The loud bangs and flashes are often extremely frightening and can cause stress, anxiety, and unpredictability, potentially putting their safety at risk.

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  1. Prepare your pet far in advance – The best thing you can do throughout the year is to work on your pet’s other fears and reactions to daily life and noise triggers. Use the next nine suggestions below throughout the year, not just on a day when there will be fireworks. Expose your pets to noises at a distance, walk them away and play a game after the noise, you can also try sprinkling treats on the ground to engage their nose in a sniffy game.
  2. Walk before dark – If your dog has an anxious temperament, aim to take your dog for a walk well before dark. The age-old practice of getting dogs to face their fears should be well and truly over.
  3. Provide a safe haven – Ensure your pet has a safe space they can retreat to when it all gets too much. A covered bed or crate with the door open is a great option for this. Sit by this space and be a calm presence. If they want closeness to you at this time, they will approach you in their own time.
  4. Shut your curtains – This helps in two ways, as mentioned before, when it comes to fireworks and pets it isn’t just the loud noises that cause stress. The bright flashes of the fireworks can stress out your pet too. Keeping the curtains closed can help to dampen the sound of the fireworks and dim the bright flashes a little.
  5. Play calming music – Play calm music for your pets during a fireworks display, I love the music by Lisa Spector, Through A Dogs Ear. More on how music can help your pets can be found here.fireworks
  6. Be a calm presence – If your dog wishes to be close to you, massage your dog or hold them close. When your dog leans into you. Lean back into them. Be the support as opposed to the supported. Offer empathy as opposed to sympathy.
  7. Calming dog clothing -Consider a comfort shirt, jumper, T touch wrap, or sleeve. Some pets feel more secure with this additional comforting device.
  8. Use herbal calming products – Alongside behaviour modification, calming sprays (to put on or near your pet’s bed) will help to keep your pet relaxed during stressful times. Bella & Duke have a great option in their “Calm & Balmy herbal calming spray for dogs.”
  9. Feed a natural diet – Feed nutritious, healthy raw dog food. A healthy diet can help to reduce stress pathways in the brain, helping to calm your dog down in the long run.
  10. Use calming chew treats – Give your dog a tasty treat to help take its mind off the noises outside. Many dogs help relieve stress by chewing. Natural Yak Snack chewsantlers or pizzles are an excellent option.

bonfire night

If you are looking for a long-term solution for pets and fireworks stress, then you must become your pet’s trusted friend throughout the year. One they can rely on to support them in their day to day lives, by doing this you will dramatically limit the amount of visible stress your pet is going through.

The goal is to be a pillar of support for your pet by remaining calm and unbothered. It’s so important to reiterate how you react and feel during these times has a huge bearing on how your pet reacts. If you are expecting a negative reaction, you will get one and vice versa.

This is a guest essay by Caroline Spencer. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk.

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