As Halloween and Bonfire Night approach, it’s time to think about how traumatic this time of year can be for dogs and other pets. Many animals find fireworks terrifying and approximately 45% of dogs in the UK show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. Now is the time to start preparing to help your pet deal with fireworks.
The work you put in now, will help your dog cope with the noise.
- Walk your dog in daylight now, to avoid being caught in the dark when fire fireworks are likely to be set off
- Close windows, blinds and curtains to muffle the sound of fireworks
- Put on some music or tv to cover up the firework bangs, pops and whizzes
- Make sure your dog is happy and secure in a quiet space
- Create some hiding places
- Start to give your dog natural Calm Down! herbs now to help
Remember, remember. Keep your dog safe in November
In the lead up to Halloween and 5th November, two of the noisiest times of year, the Kennel Club is urging dog owners across the country to consider their dogs. Halloween costumes and the loud bangs and flashes created by fireworks are exciting for humans but frightening for dogs. It makes sense to plan ahead to keep your dog safe and avoid negative incidents, such as a dog running away or acting aggressively out of fear.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary advises, “In the run up to Bonfire Night, try playing a sound CD with firework noises or firework sound videos on Youtube at a low level to let your dog get used to the sound in the background. On Bonfire Night itself, it’s best to close the curtains and turn the television or radio up and try to behave as normally as possible to encourage your dog to do the same.
“It’s also important to remember that Halloween can be a very frightening time for dogs too. We would advise dog owners to walk their dog before trick or treaters start their rounds and keep a firm grip on the lead as many dogs are frightened by people in costumes and could potentially react aggressively through fear.
“Speaking to a dog behaviourist in your area about any potential behavioural issues that may arise around this time of year is recommended, as they are experts in the field and can offer invaluable advice which will help to safeguard the health and happiness of your dog. People can visit the Kennel Club website to find one of these in their area and can contact them ahead of time to make sure their dog’s experience of Halloween and Bonfire Night is as positive as possible.”
The Kennel Club has put together some advice to minimise a dog’s levels of stress:
- Acclimatise your dog to noises prior to the big night. There are many noise CDs on the market which give you the opportunity to introduce your dog to a variety of potentially disturbing noises in a controlled manner.
- Seek help from an experienced animal behaviourist. If your pet is severely noise phobic, sound CDs may make the situation worse. Kennel Club Accredited Instructors are experienced in different aspects of dog training and behaviour.
- Make a safe den for your dog to retreat to if he or she feels scared. Alternatively, let your dog take refuge under furniture and include an old, unwashed piece of clothing like a woolly jumper so that your dog can smell your scent and feel comfortable.
- Distract your dog from the noise by having the TV or the radio switched on.
- Try to act and behave as normal, as your dog will pick up on any odd behaviour. Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog. Reward calm behaviour with dog treats or playing with toys of interest.
- Check where and when firework displays are being held in your local area. Also ask your neighbours to let you know if they are planning anything.
- Consult your vet if your dog has any health problems or is taking any medication before giving remedies to help him cope with fireworks night, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Feed your dog a while before you expect any disturbances, as once the fireworks start your dog may be too anxious to eat.
- Walk your dog before dusk. It may be some time before it’s safe to venture outside again for your dog to relieve himself.
- Make sure you shut all doors and windows in your home and don’t forget to draw the curtains. This will block out any scary flashes of light and reduce the noise level of fireworks. Don’t forget to block off cat flaps to stop dogs (and cats) escaping.
- Shut your dog safely inside a room before opening the front door.
- Your dog might choose to hide under the bed; if he or she comes to you for comfort, make sure that you give it to him/her. Ignoring your dog would only make things worse as he or she wouldn’t understand your withdrawal from them.
- Keep a collar and ID tag on your dog, just in case they do accidentally escape. Make sure your dog is microchipped too, as if he or she does escape without a collar on this will ensure you are reunited as quickly as possible and is a legal requirement.
- Take your dog to a firework display, even if your dog does not bark or whimper, don’t assume he or she is happy. Excessive yawning and panting can indicate that your dog is stressed.
- Tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off.
- Assume your garden is escape proof. If your dog needs to go out keep him on a lead just in case.
- Leave your dog on his own or in a separate room from you.
- Try to force your dog to face his fears – he’ll just become more frightened.
- Forget to top up the water bowl. Anxious dogs pant more and get thirsty.
- Change routines more than necessary, as this can be stressful for some dogs.
- Try and tempt him out if he does retreat, as this may cause more stress.
- Tell your dog off. This will only make your pet more distressed. It is important to remember that it is natural for a dog to be scared of loud noises and unfamiliar sights and sounds.
‘Calm Down!’ has been developed specifically for dogs that have aggressive or nervous tendencies, suffer with car sickness, have an aversion to noise, or perhaps have anxiety complexes. The natural herbs are a mix of: Camomile, Lemon Balm, Vervain, Lime Flowers and Skullcap.
Camomile – valuable in helping support the nervous system. Commonly known as the most popular herbal tea for a “relaxing sleep”, Chamomile is often used as a ‘calming and digestive aid’. It can also help maintain healthy skin.
Lemon Balm – known for its ‘calming’ action. It was thought historically that Lemon Balm relieved melancholy or in our modern terms “stress”.
Vervain – main property is to help support the nervous system but is also a ‘calmer’ and can help give the dog a general ‘boost’.
Skullcap – can be beneficial for dogs showing signs of excitability and general restlessness.
Calm Down! comes in a 200gm resealable foil pouch
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Where the law stands on fireworks
Fireworks: the law
You can’t buy ‘adult’ fireworks if you’re under 18, and it’s against the law for anyone to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except on certain occasions.
Adult fireworks are category 2 and 3 fireworks – they don’t include things like party poppers.
Category 4 fireworks can only be used by professionals.
The law says you must not set off or throw fireworks (including sparklers) in the street or other public places.
You must not set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except for:
Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight
New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am
Check with your council to find out about any local rules for setting off fireworks.
Get information about firework safety from: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the Health and Safety Executive.
You can only buy fireworks (including sparklers) from registered sellers for private use on these dates:
15 October to 10 November
26 to 31 December
3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year
At other times you can only buy fireworks from licensed shops.
You can be fined up to £5,000 and imprisoned for up to 6 months for selling or using fireworks illegally. You could also get an on-the-spot fine of £90.