Preparing dogs for fireworks night

Bonfire Night can be a terrifying experience for your dog, but, with some planning, there are things you can do to help.

When it comes to scary times of the year, your family might suggest Halloween. Ask your dog and they will probably tell you it’s Bonfire Night.

For dogs, the deafening bangs, pops and fizzes of fireworks can be terrifying. It isn’t just one night either, but can carry on over the course of a week. Sometimes longer.

According to a 2018 PDSA survey, 40% of pets are scared of fireworks, so this can be a tough time of year for them. The fear factor for dogs can range from being slightly anxious to being full-blown phobic.

Getting your dog ready for Fireworks Night requires preparation. You can do things to help your dog to minimise their stress as much as possible.

Prepare your house

Find a hiding spot for your dog

Build your dog a den in a quiet part of your house. Choose somewhere like the cupboard under the stairs or a place away from windows. Make it cosy, comfortable and dark. Prepare your dog’s den space before Fireworks Night to begin getting them used to it. Perhaps it’s a good place to put their bed, and place their favourite treats and toys in the area.

Music for relaxation

By playing some loud music or your tv, you can mask some of the explosion noises. Obviously, respect your dog’s sensitive hearing. Don’t turn the house into a nightclub! Some animal professionals believe classical music can help dogs relax. It could be a good choice for Bonfire Night.

Consider downloading a desensitisation soundtrack. These recordings play loud bangs, fireworks, thunder sounds and other noises that dogs find scary. Start by playing these to your pet at a really low volume and for short periods. Over time increase the length of time you play them and slowly turn up the volume. Eventually, you may be able to get your dog used to these loud sounds and bring down their sensitivity levels.

If you have a puppy, you can play this to them at an early age. If they associate the explosive noises with a time when they felt safe and secure, you may be avoiding any problems in the future. 

Pheromones and alternative remedies

Pheromones come in sprays and plug-in diffusers. They release a calming pheromone scent into the air in your house. You won’t be able to smell it, but your dog will. Start using pheromones a few weeks before the fireworks begin.

If your dog has a genuine phobia about fireworks, you may need to consider medication to help them. Speak to your vet for advice.

Give up your social life

Be prepared to stay at home around Bonfire Night. Your dog will draw comfort from your presence so make sure you are nearby. If they want to cuddle up to you for reassurance, let them.

If your dog would rather hide, allow them to do this. Make sure you are nearby and don’t leave your dog at home alone.

For some dogs, Bonfire Night stress may be too much for you to handle without professional input. Speak to your vet if you are worried. They will be able to refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist.

With a Kennel Club Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.