Bonfire Night is always a real cause for concern for animal owners because some pets can be really afraid of the loud noises and the reverberations that fireworks give off. Animals can be left extremely traumatised by the events and for those who are extremely terrified, there is always a concern that they might hurt themselves. With Bonfire night itself, the shear number of firework displays across the island means there is simply no where to go to avoid it.
With dogs in particular, their hearing is much more sophisticated than ours and they can hear sounds coming as far as a kilometre away. If we aren’t expecting a loud bang such as a firework, gun shot or pang of thunder, we would jump so imagine what it is like for an animal who has even better and more sensitive hearing than us. The difference is with humans we know its Bonfire Night and to expect it while they have no idea what is happening. We also have the ability to rationalise which is something they can’t do.
As our dogs get older, they can become less tolerant to loud noises, so while a dog might have coped okay with Bonfire Night last year, it does not mean that they will be fine this year.
The best thing you can do if you are an animal owner is to stay in with your pets and make sure they are safe and secure inside and comforted. If you know your animal is extremely terrified by fireworks and their is a fear that they might hurt themselves then it is best to speak to your vet to see if there are any medications that they can prescribe to help.
Please don’t take your dog to a firework display. They need to be inside, in the comfort of their own home with you by their side.
I will be staying in with my three dogs and snuggling up in front of the television. My dogs have previously been okay with Bonfire Night but as they get older, I can’t say for sure how they will cope in the future so I would never leave them at home by themselves.
Some people do ask if there is anywhere they can go to avoid the displays. Unfortunately I don’t think there is anywhere in Guernsey where you could take your pets on Bonfire Night and them not hear anything. Even if you park up in a cliff car park, your pets would still be able to hear fireworks from all around. Like I have said above, the safest place for them to be is at home. This way we know they are safe and secure.
Other top tips to help your dogs on Bonfire Night include:
-Shut the windows and curtains
-Turn the TV up really loud
-Try to act as normal as possible
-Make them a den
-Use calming products
-If in doubt, play with them or get them sniffing
-If they need to go out to the toilet take them out on lead
Some dogs may appreciate it if you create them a den, perhaps using the dining room table and draping some blankets over it so that they have somewhere to hide if they want to go there. We mustn’t force them to go there, it has to be their choice but some dogs do like somewhere to hide and feel safe.
Owners could also use some over-the-counter calming products if they are worried. These include Adaptil, which sends out a pheromone mimicking the mother dog’s scent, or Pet Remedy. You can also buy ‘Thunder Jackets’, which are like a wrap around your dog’s body and can be calming as they act a bit like a hug.
If your dog is showing signs of anxiety, please comfort them if they want to be comforted. You can also try and play with your dog to try and take their mind off what is going on outside. Light scentwork games are also a good idea, such as scatter-feeding treats around the house, as this is an incredibly calming activity for them to do.
If you need to take your dog out to the toilet on Bonfire Night or when there are firework displays going off, please pop them on a lead, no matter how secure you think your garden is, because we would hate for them to get so scared that they would try to run off. It’s better that you have them on the lead so you can get out and back in as quickly as possible.
If anybody’s dog is terrified of loud noises or fireworks, there is a programme of behaviour therapy work that we can do to help. However, this must be done months and months in advance as it takes a long time so it is best to seek assistance with this as soon as possible.
My advice for islanders in general would be that if you can attend a public organised event instead of holding your own display then this would really help. It would mean there would be less displays and less random bangs going off left, right and centre. However, I understand some people will want to hold their own and if that is the case then, no matter how small, please register your private display with the authorities so that animal owners can check what displays are happening in their area so they can be prepared.