Date updated: 31 10 2018
Not everyone's a big fan of Bonfire Night. The RSPCA estimates that 45 percent of dogs in the UK show signs of distress when fireworks go off. So as we enter the season of flashes and bangs, here are our tips for keeping your buddy happy and safe.
A dog's-eye view of Bonfire Night
When a rocket goes off, dogs aren't programmed to stand and admire it. To them, a sudden bang and a loud flash means danger. Their natural instincts kick in, which usually means trying to get as far away as possible.
An anxious dog can also behave unpredictably. So no matter how laid back they are most of the time, there's the added risk of accidentally hurting themselves - or even turning on those around them.
When it comes to bonfire parties in your own home, always think about what's happening from your dog's point of view! The house is suddenly full of strangers, someone's turned up the volume, and there are some very worrying fire-related things happening outside. It's no wonder our buddies get anxious!
Thankfully though, with a little planning, it's possible to get through the celebrations, while making sure our dogs stay in their comfort zone. Here's how it's done…
Time your walks carefully
Remember that these events rarely kick off until after nightfall. If you know that your buddy is likely to get spooked by fireworks, try and time your walk for daylight hours - so it might be a case of going out before rather than after dinner.
Exercise can also have a calming effect. So if your dog has had a thorough work-out, chances are they'll be relaxed, content and in a better frame of mind to cope with the celebrations later in the evening.
Muffle the sound
You know from experience that you're in for a noisy night ahead. So one way of dealing with it involves trying to block out the sound as far as you can. Make sure the windows are closed, and draw the curtains to block out the flashes.
You could also turn up the volume on the TV so it's a little louder than usual, or try putting on some music. But don't overdo it though; you don't want these 'masking' measures to be more annoying for your buddy than the fireworks themselves!
Create a safe space
Does your dog use a crate - or have a 'special place' where they like to hide away if they're feeling stressed? If so, encourage them to use it. In advance of the celebrations, try putting some extra blankets in there so it's even more inviting than usual.
When the celebrations begin, try enticing your buddy into their den using their favourite toys. If they're busy with something they enjoy, it's more likely that their mind will be taken off what's happening outside.
Planning a bonfire party? Keeping your buddy in mind...
If your pooch is at home, it's still possible to have a gathering for bonfire night, just so long as you make sure they are taken care of beforehand.
For some dogs, it's not just the fireworks that spook them out, but also the fact that the home is suddenly so busy! If it's normally just you and your dog mooching around the house together, some pre-party socialisation might help them get used to having people around. Invite a couple of people to come round ahead of the party, so they're familiar with having other people on 'their' patch.
Some dogs love being the centre of attention - and they'll want to be the heart and soul of the party. But just be careful that your buddy doesn't overdo it, by eating things they shouldn't or getting under the feet of guests where there's a risk of getting stepped on!
With bonfire parties, there's usually a lot of coming and going between the house and the garden. If you're busy hosting, it can be hard to keep track of where your bestie has wandered off to!
Consider setting your buddy up with their own 'party zone'. With a fold-up dog gate, you can cordon off an area of the home just for them. Make sure they've got everything they need in there (toys, blankets, food and water) and remember to check on them regularly. If you know they'd enjoy it, let guests go in to say hello - so they still feel like they're still part of the party.
And when the fireworks kick off, make sure the patio door and windows are closed to block out the sound. If someone volunteers to stay inside and keep your buddy occupied while it's all going off, they'd definitely appreciate the company.
For any dog, used sparklers, sticks, packaging and other debris might look tasty. If swallowed though, this is the type of stuff that can easily cause internal injury. So just be aware of this; clear the garden of debris after the party, and be extra vigilant on your post-Bonfire Night walks to ensure they don't chew on anything they shouldn't.