It is coming to that time of the year again Bonfire season. However, it is no longer just one night because fireworks can continue until New Year. Fireworks are getting louder and causing extreme stress for some dogs and their owners. Although it is an incredibly stressful time for Some dogs and owners it is important that you try to stay calm around your dog, otherwise, they can pick up on your anxious energy. Owners need to try to set their dogs up for success during the fireworks season, so you need to start your foundation training before Bonfire night, not just waiting until the week before bonfire night, desensitising your dog needs to start early in the year. Some owners start stressing and panicking, because they have not done any crate training or relaxation training, (settle) or if needed put their dog on any calming supplements a month before Bonfire night.
What can owners do before Bonfire night arrives?
So, what can we do to start making our dog’s life easier before the Bonfire night? We can start desensitizing them with CDs sounds earlier in the year, we can start crate training so our dog has a safe place to relax and chill, we can start them on a natural calming supplement a month before bonfire night and continue with calming supplements till the New Year. It won’t be beneficial to start the calming supplements a week before bonfire night, your dog needs to get the calming supplement into their system a month before the fireworks, try our JP’s Natural Calming Pet Supplements. A calming supplement can help alongside training protocols, but they are not a miracle supplement. Therefore, do not think you can just give a calming supplement and that is it, owners need to be also putting the foundation training in place, such as crate training, settling exercises, and training your dog how to switch off. What do I mean by teaching them to switch off? For example, go for a walk with your dog when you return home, put your dog in a crate to relax, sleep, and destress. If your dog is not crate trained, choose a safe place in the house such as the laundry room, or kitchen. This is also training your dog to have that time away from you, when you are present in your home they are also getting that much-needed undisturbed sleep, and chill time. Your dog does not get proper sleep if they are following you around the house, or pacing constantly, this can make your dog anxious and can in some cases lead to separation anxiety in the future.
How can I start with the CDs desensitization?
You know you can buy CDs with firework sounds. To begin the exercise to desensitize your dog, start playing these sounds daily, you must start with an extremely low volume. If your dog reacts then ignore your dog’s reaction until they have settled, when your dog is settled then you can give a shower of treats on the floor, so the nose is engaged on the ground. Repeat again with a slightly higher volume of stimulus, when your dog is calm, shower again with tasty treats on the ground. It is useful to have a long training line on your dog when you are practicing this exercise, to ensure their focus is on you, and they are not running around the house. It is important that YOU DONT RUSH these exercises and overdo the training. After every low-volume sound give your dog high-value treats (or a shower of treats) when they have remained calm, remember to keep the volume low. When you have finished the session play with your dog or have some pleasurable activity enrichments. Your dog is learning after the firework sounds, to enjoy the play exercises and have that good feeling of happy hormones releasing endorphins.
When you start the next session, please remember this very much depends on the individual dog. It can be as brief as an hour, or as long as the next day before you start the desensitize training again. Remember to keep the training short and positive, your dog must be calm before you start the training again.
Your new session
The new session is started with the same level of noise LOW, but is soon increased slightly, only when your dog is ready, if your dog reacts to a slightly increased level, then you need to go back several steps to start low again. If you find you are not making any progress and your dog seems to be having more problems, please stop the exercises you will only make the anxiety behaviour worse. For extreme cases, you may want to consult your veterinary surgeon for some advice. Sometimes sound sensitivity may be associated with medical and general psychological issues.
Bonfire seasons, keeping calm
During the day you want to keep your dog as calm as possible. If they are highly aroused around the time leading up to the Bonfire event, this may add to their stress on the night. Why must we keep them calm? Cortisol (stress hormone) is released when the body is put under stress, for example, if they are chasing a ball for a long time none stop, for some dogs this can create stress if they already have high energy levels, dogs that are reactive towards other dogs put in the same situation over and over again, without any decompression time this creates stress. Stress hormones can accumulate and take some time to dissipate, it can take 72 hours for cortisol levels to return to normal. For dogs who regularly experience overwhelming or over arousing events, cortisol levels stay elevated long term. Just like with people, this means a more touchy and edgy dog in general who is quicker to overreact to situations.
Invest in some calming enrichments, and calming activities, such as food stuffed kongs, snuffle scent mats, lick mats, and calming games to keep your dog’s arousal level low during this time. This means that when the time comes, they are less likely to go over the threshold and react to loud noises and lights. Exercise your dog in the daytime, do not make the walk high energy, and concentrate more on scent work engaging your dog’s nose to the ground because this is very calming for your dog. Please remember to keep your dogs on the lead when walking because it is common to have fireworks going off in the daytime.
Keep your dog (and cats) indoors and ensure that they have identification such as a registered microchip and an address disc on their collar, just in case they escape through fear. Check all your fencing in your garden is safe and that gates are closed, so your dog cannot escape. If you are taking your dog out to the toilet in the garden have them on a lead for safety.
If your dog is not crate trained, (not all dogs take to crates) Provide a safe place in the house for your dog. If your dog has their own coping mechanism during stressful times, such as going in a crate or finding a place to hide, make sure they are comfortable and leave them to chill. Whatever they are doing at that moment is helping their stress levels, try not to take them out of their safe place. We all know sometimes some owners want to put human emotions on their dogs because hugging also makes humans feel better, but nine times out of ten this will not be helpful to your dog at this moment, especially if you have removed them out of their safe place to give them a reassuring hug. However, if you find your dog wants to be next to you in this situation then let them be close to you for reassurance, or some dogs may benefit from a calming massage. We have to remember every dog is an individual, so it depends on the dog.
Getting the house ready
Act calmly and normally around your dog, because providing too much fuss can reinforce the idea that there is something to be afraid of. Draw the curtains or blinds, and if necessary, drape over additional fabric to muffle noise and flashing lights. Have your TV or radio on loud to drown out the sound of fireworks outside. Put your dog in the crate if they are pacing up and down, (only if crate trained) Do not go out and leave your dog alone if they are fearful of fireworks because this will increase your dog’s anxiety levels. If you do need to go out for any reason invest in a dog camera. Do not think that taking your nervous dog out during fireworks to face their fears will help them! Please I repeat do not do this, your dog should not be taken for a walk during firework night, if they are extremely anxious. Do not decide on the night to lock your dog in a crate, when they have had no crate training, and are not used to crates. This is extremely dangerous because your dog could hurt themselves trying to get out and put them off crates for life. Crates are about being positive and your dog’s feeling safe.
What can owners do to help?
Remember every dog is different so this may not help all dogs and training is key, so you’re not just relying on supplements & products.
Products and enrichment that may be useful includes.
Thunder shirts, or anxiety raps, which for some dogs intend to reduce anxiety via applying pressure on some points of the dog’s body.
Organic k9 lavender spray
CD classical music.
Stuffed food kongs
Snuffle scent mats
Dog snood for the dog’s head.
JP’s natural calming supplements (a month before the event)
Melatonin for dogs to reduce cortisol.
Adaptil Calm Diffuser
If your dog is in a crate, give them food enrichments, or a juicy bone (when the fireworks have finished, let your dog out of the crate and give them their dinner more positivity about fireworks finishing)
Pet Acoustic ultra calmer music collar for dogs. (my blind dog has this collar it works for him)
Food tips, natural pet supplements.
What can you put inside your dog’s Kong or lick mats for anxiety and stress?
Blueberries, a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, protect from stress. Sweet potatoes. Packed with antioxidants and vitamin E. Raw beef grass fed, the B vitamins it contains can regulate stress levels.
Try our omega-3 fatty acids to help suppress the production of adrenaline that leads to people’s and dog’s flight or fight. Too much adrenaline can cause anxiety. JP’s Natural Pet Supplements omega-3 is also not contaminated with heavy metals, or from farmed fish such as salmon. We use cold water fish Anchovies one of the top marine based sources of omega-3 EPA & DHA.
JP’s Natural pet calming supplement contains L Tryptophan for serotonin, valerian root, which can sooth anxiety, calcium and Magnesium that supports the nervous system and B vitamins that regulate mood function.
In an ideal world, we would only have one night of fireworks, and displays only, with silent fireworks to music. Fireworks finishing at 9.30 pm. It’s not just about our pets it’s about wildlife, horses, rescue dogs in kennels, and elderly people. But unfortunately, I don’t see it changing because fireworks make money. So, we have to try and do our best in these situations. None of my dog’s have ever feared fireworks because of training, but life can change. Charlie, since he went blind at 11 years old, he’s more sensitive to sound, he’s also developing dementia, So your circumstances can change no matter what training you have put into your dogs.
All we can do is try and help our dogs the best we can, this means if you get a puppy start your training early.
Remember to keep your pets safe 🙏