Across the UK, Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated with bonfires, fireworks and festivals that are fun for all the family. Well, all human members of the family that is… Unfortunately, Guy Fawkes is an event that leaves many of our animal friends feeling spooked!
Firework displays bring a large amount of stress and anxiety for dogs. According to the RSPCA, 45% of UK dogs show signs of fear when they hear fireworks being set off. And with Guy Fawkes festivities often lasting longer than one night, considering your pet’s wellbeing over this firework season couldn’t be more important!
Why are dogs scared of fireworks?
You probably already know that dogs have far better hearing than humans and as such, they are much more sensitive to sounds. To put the difference into perspective, humans can hear frequencies up to 20,000kHz, whereas dogs can hear up to 45,000kHz.
Fireworks bring loud crackles, bangs and booms that can be alarming for pups. When dogs hear unfamiliar, scary sounds, their natural instinct is to find safety. However, the unpredictable nature of firework displays means that dogs can’t tell when the next boom or bang will come, making it difficult for them to overcome this anxiety.
How can I tell if my dog is feeling stressed?
All dogs have their own ways of expressing stress, so it’s important to look out for the signs of discomfort that your dog typically displays.
In general, dogs that are scared of fireworks may start to drool, pant heavily, whine or bark. You might also find that they tremble or shake, and in extreme circumstances, soil unexpectedly.
You should also bear in mind that some dogs become snappy, and appear aggressive when they are scared. So, make sure to give them some space if this happens, and ask any children to do the same.
What can I do to help?
It’s never nice to see your pup in discomfort, which is why this time of the year can bring a certain level of anxiety for both pets and owners. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make sure that negative impacts are limited.
So, if this is your first Guy Fakwes Night with your pup, don’t fear! We’ve outlined 5 ways you can keep your dog’s stress at bay.
1. Stay indoors with your pup
With Guy Fawkes just a few nights away, now is a good time to check whether or not your neighbours have any fireworks planned, or if a bonfire event is being held in your area. This way, you’ll have a better idea of when you can expect noise disturbance, and make sure you’re prepared ahead of time.
Staying indoors will help to keep sounds minimised. Even if your dog doesn’t display obvious signs of anxiety, it’s important not to bring them along with you to bonfire night events, as taking them to the source of the noise will have a heightened effect.
Equally, you should try not to leave your dog alone during Guy Fawkes Night, and make sure that someone is at home to keep it company. More often than not, dogs find comfort in their owner’s presence. In the same way that you probably wouldn’t want to be left alone when feeling anxious, your dog will feel better with you by its side!
2. Early walkies & feeds
Try to make sure your pup gets as much exercise as possible on the day of Guy Fawkes. By getting your pup to expend lots of energy, it will be more tired come evening which will hopefully help it to rest through the noise.
If you usually take your dog out for walks in the evening, it’s a good idea to make sure their last walk happens before it gets dark outside. Fireworks only start after nightfall, so by walking your dog earlier you can avoid being outside when the startling sounds begin.
Dogs often have a reduced appetite when feeling stressed, so depending on when your dog usually eats dinner, you might also want to consider an earlier feed to ensure it can eat in peace.
3. Create a comfortable space
It’s important to make sure your pup feels as comfortable and shielded as possible through the night. As well as making loud noises, fireworks also create bright flashes that can startle dogs. To mitigate this, consider closing all blinds and curtains to mask bright lights from suddenly appearing through windows.
Lots of people recommend setting up a safe space within your home on Guy Fawkes Night, somewhere for your pup to relax during the firework displays. Ideally, this should be the same area where you will also be spending your evening, such as a family or living room.
Dogs like to hide when scared, so consider creating a cosy den for your dog! To make a cosy safe area, create a comfy bed of pillows and blankets for your pup to burrow under. As soon as you can, start to make it a super positive place to go, with play time, chew time and cuddle time.
Once the fireworks begin, you can also try to drown out some of the noise by turning up the TV or radio, and research has found that playing single instrument tunes, or calming classical music can help.
4. Keep your dog distracted with toys
Another way to help reduce your dog’s anxiety is to keep it distracted with playtime toys! Dog toys help to release calming endorphins which can in turn keep pups feeling calm and happy.
Make sure your dog stays busy with a chew and tug toy, or treat it to a squeaky ball to keep the focus on sounds it’s familiar with. By directing your dog’s energy to play, you’ll help the night go by faster with minimal disturbance.
5. Provide reassurance
A number of studies have found that dogs are attune to human emotions. If your dog is showing signs of stress, it’s important to stay calm and reassure it as you usually would.
Make sure that you keep your composure with a gentle tone of voice. It goes without saying that you should never get angry with your dog when it's scared, but it’s also not a good idea to overly comfort it either, as this can cause more unsettling feelings.
In short, try to keep your behaviour as normal as possible and avoid acting in ways that could add extra distress.
A final note
When dogs are scared, they can bolt - so make sure your home is safer than Fort Knox! Be sure to check your dog is wearing a collar with an ID tag that states your name, postcode and phone number.
It’s also helpful to ensure your dog is microchipped and its details are up to date, so that in the event your dog does make a run for it, you’ll increase the chances of quickly and safely being reunited.
Remember, remember, the fifth of November, and remember to take care of your furry family member!