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Preparing for Bonfire Night

There’s a phrase we vets use a lot in our profession: prevention is better than cure...

...we use it a lot for good reason, because it’s true. With most aspects of your pet’s health and welfare, the actions necessary to prevent incidents are far less costly (in terms of time and effort as well as money) than having to cure or treat them once they’ve occurred.

Prevention is great, and can even be used for dogs’ fear of fireworks and the awful noises they make.

This is a perfectly rational fear, of course. Remember that dogs don’t understand what Bonfire Night is, what fireworks are or that they just have to hold on a few hours/days longer and it’ll all be over. To them, the noises are just loud, random and unexplained.

But if you follow this simple guide, you can desensitise your dog to firework noises so that they aren’t troubled by them:

Please note: This method works better for younger dogs, or dogs who don’t have a pre-established fear of fireworks or loud noises. If your dog’s firework phobia is pre-established, we recommend seeking the help of a veterinary behaviourist.

How does the process work?

Sound therapy works using a process known as ‘habituation’. This is where the dog gradually comes to think of loud noises as a normal aspect of their environment – and nothing to be scared of. It can take a while to achieve, so it’s best to start as soon as you can.

Simply play firework noises at home, on a volume loud enough for your dog to hear them but not so loud as to startle them.

If your dog displays unconscious awareness of the sounds – so if their ears twitch, their eyes go wider of their head props up – but they pretty quickly return to what they were doing before, this is a good sign: a sign that you can increase the volume the following day.

Repeat this process every day or so, going a tiny bit louder and for a tiny bit longer each time, until the noises are loud enough to replicate actual fireworks. The idea is that the change will have happened so gradually, your dog won’t notice. They’ll think of it as a natural part of their environment and won’t be frightened of it.

A word of warning…

Don’t let your dog suffer! If they’re frightened by the noises at any point, make sure you stop them for that night and begin again the following night on a lower volume. If the volume is already low, try playing the sounds from another room.

If this doesn’t work, it’s possible that your dog’s fear of noise or fireworks is very serious. In these cases, or in any case where a dog’s firework phobia is pre-established, the technique mentioned above won’t work and you’ll need the help of a veterinary behaviourist.

To find out more about getting your dog ready for Bonfire Night, give us a call!