Top tips to keep your dog calm during fireworks season

The arrival of autumn sees the trees adorned with brightly coloured leaves and also welcomes bonfire night and fireworks season.

Does your pooch fine Bonfire Night stressful?
Does your pooch fine Bonfire Night stressful?

These beautiful sky displays bring fun to many but can sometimes be distressing for our furry four-legged friends. It is very common for loud or unusual noises to cause anxiety and potential behavioural problems in dogs – but there are many ways to ease this.

As part of the “Happy Dogs, Happy Days” campaign, by Lintbells, manufacturers of natural calming supplement YuCALM, the company is raising awareness amongst dog owners of the possible ways that dogs may feel anxious – and how to help them.

Lintbells is also working with Dr. Emily Blackwell PhD, CCAB, Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Welfare and Behaviour at University of Bristol, to offer tips and advice on how to overcome this anxiety.

Here Dr Blackwell shares her tips. She said:

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    “A fear of loud noises is hugely common in dogs, and there can be a wide range of triggers. These include very loud noises such as fireworks, gunshots and thunder to the less intense sounds around the house such as doors banging or the noise of a dishwasher tablet being dropped.

    Things to look out for

    “There a number of key signs to look out for that will give you an indication that your dog may be experiencing anxiety, these include hiding, bolting, cowering, shaking or whining. As well as some less obvious signs like lip licking, pupil dilation, reluctance to go outside or simply remaining very still.

    “Remember, dogs are very instinctive like many animals, and they will learn to predict when something bad is about to happen, so be aware that your dog may start to show signs of anxiety when it gets dark, windy or begins to rain in anticipation for the loud noise.

    Prevention tips

    “If you have a younger or a new dog in the house there a number of ways you can help to prevent your furry friend from becoming scared. Avoid getting too close to the source of the unpredictable noises, instead familiarise your puppy with low level sounds increasing the volume very gradually, when they appear comfortable.

    “You can also try to make positive associations with scary noises, by playing games or offering treats when the sound occurs. For example if the washing machine is on why not play a fun game with your dog during the wash cycle.

    What to do if your dog is already fearful?

    “On the other hand if your dog is already fearful towards loud noises don’t worry; there are still numerous things you can do to help. Try to avoid exposure to the noises as much as possible, as fears can worsen with repeated encounters. However, if the noise is unavoidable try to muffle it with an alternative sounds, such as the television or playing music. In less severe cases it may be possible to distract the dog during noises with a longer-lasting treat or a game.

    “Remember, never tell them off if they react to a loud noise by barking etc, as this will simply increase their fear. Provide a small well insulated “den” somewhere the dog tends to take themselves off to, and fill it with familiar blankets and toys. Teach them to relax when there are no noises by leaving treats for them to discover and praise them when they choose to go and relax there.

    “You could also discuss the possibility of using medication or natural calming supplements to treat their anxiety with your vet, or seek a referral to a clinical animal behaviourist (CCAB) for behaviour therapy to help change your dog’s perception of loud noises.”