Barking Blondes: Animals don’t understand the concept of Bonfire night

Joanne Good and Anna Webb

barking blondes 225x300 Barking Blondes: Animals don’t understand the concept of Bonfire nightWhilst we may have spent the past week hollowing out pumpkins and preparing displays for Guy Fawkes night, many of our pets have been quaking with fear.

Animals don’t understand the concept of Bonfire night.

For dogs and cats it’s an onslaught to their senses with alien sounds whizzing and exploding overhead. Not understanding what’s going on, our pets turn to their fight or flight instinct in an attempt to rationalise the situation. Unlike a Thunderstorm (which can also distress pets) fireworks happen very suddenly whereas a storm may be brewing in the atmosphere for some time. Its thought, some animals may sense a storm whereas firework bangs are totally random.

According to the RSPCA over 45% of dogs display fearful behaviours during the ‘firework’ season. That means about 5 x million dogs display anxious behaviours like chewing their paws, hiding under the bed, drooling, shaking or not eating. Some dogs on the other hand, display a more macho reaction by barking and confronting the invading sounds.

None of these extreme reactions is desirable or fair on your dog. What responsible owners should always do when they bring their puppy home is work to de-sensitise the dog to a variety of common modern sounds, including fireworks.

There’s some great CDs like Clix Sounds for Company of Animals or Sounds Scary that pack modern, everyday sounds including babies crying, washing machines on a spin cycle, and car alarms. There’s thunderstorms, heavy rain as well as fireworks.

Play the CD and feed your dog at the same time so he associates the sounds with a positive experience – eating. Gradually increase the sound level from a low volume start.

Practise training or play a game with your dog with the CD in the background, checking you can get the dog’s attention despite these ‘weird’ sounds in the background. That way you’re getting your dog’s attention and proving that these odd sounds are nothing to worry about.

There are loads of practical tips for the night itself. Stay at home with your dog and definitely don’t take it to a fireworks display. Dog’s hearing is four times more acute than ours – so all the sounds will quadrupled for your mutt.

Caring owners often unwittingly exacerbate their dog’s fearful reaction by being anxious about the evening themselves. Dogs pick up on emotion and will sense that something isn’t right, adding to a stressful situation.

We often assume that by behaving like we might to a scared child, reassuring them, pandering to them will help. But ‘molly-coddling’ can unintentionally reward the dog’s fear, making the dog think there really is danger overhead.

The key is to act as normally as possible and lead by example, the aim to ‘direct’ your dog to a safe and calm Guy Fawkes. Simple planning can make all the difference.

Create a special den area for your dog to hang out in. This fulfills his natural instinct to hide and go to ground to escape the danger. Put in plenty of bedding along with a Kong toy stuffed with an exceptional tasty treat as a lovely surprise.

Mask the sounds outside – turn up the volume, and watch a movie. Or play the radio a little louder than normal. Prepare a meal and distract your dog with tantalizing cooking aromas wafting through the home.

Always be aware of your dog’s behaviour and stay calm. He will eventually follow your lead once the initial panic as passed.  As calmness prevails, then praise and reward calmly.

Barking Blondes by Jo Good & Anna Webb, published by Hamlyn, £12.99

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  • theUKnaturalvet

    Good advice – especially the avoidance of molly-coddling (or matilda-coddling for that matter) even though it goes against the grain not to rush and comfort a dog who seems in distress. There are also some excellent natural anxiety relieving medicines such as herbal skullcap and valerian, the Bach flower combination ‘Rescue Remedy’ and a really effective calming supplement which contains two amino acids (L theanine and L tryyptophan) called Kalmaid.
    To my mind prevention is better than cure and for the safety of both people and pets I think the sale oif fireworks should be banned to individuals, and fireworks should only be allowed to be set off at public displays.

  • 5brian5

    Hi Ladies; Its hard to disagree with anything you’ve said. It makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense, is that last year, the state of Michigan, after having a ban on anything that explodes or is propelled into the air, legalized everything fireworks related. The forth of July and other holidays now sound like a nuclear war! My animals have always been the centre of my universe when I’ve been lucky enough to have them. My cat Tula, can become spooked easily, but from day one of adopting her, we have always interacted with each other. As time has passed, the two of us have become inseparable when I’m home. I have allowed her to to have her “safe space” on the top of the refrigerator. The cupboards overhang it, and she can hide behind the crock-pot or whatever. When the coast is clear, (sound wise), she’ll pop back down. I do verbally comfort her, and hold her if necessary. I am partially hearing impaired, so loud sounds don’t seem to bother her usually, loud fireworks however can be an exception. I try to be home when I know bombs are going to go off. Its hard for me to understand the laws here. After 911 & 7/7, they have outlawed many household chemicals which can be used for illegal purposes, yet they make legal, incendiary explosives that can blow your house up or your hands and legs off which idiots do every year. Go figure! Its all about money and profits! My cat and my sons dog Logan, are my family, and I do whatever it takes to protect them, keep them healthy, loved and safe in a secure home. That way, they can have their very well deserved happy and care free life. The happiness the both of them bring to my son and I, can’t be expressed in words. Great Blog Girls! Love-It! Brian (Detroit Area)xxxx

  • madgooner1

    Saw you dressed like that on Titchmarsh. Best outfit so far.

  • jimmyjitt

    vallium works very well.

  • hectorsmum

    Very good advice Ladies. After having a nervous rescue dog in my teens I vowed I would never have a dog who was so frightened ever again and having become better informed I learned that it was mostly our fault for trying to comfort her. I have never reacted to fireworks or for that matter loud noises around my dogs since. It worked because even my most nervous never reacted to them either. So much so that when I had to take them out on firework night, or in fact when we lived in Edinburgh, end of festival night, Hogmanay. I could with nothing more than a little nosiness over the bright lights in the sky. The present canine inhabitant of our house has absolutely no reaction other than can I fight it, so no worries.For those who have nervous dogs/cats I can get quite upset, I was out at the garage on Friday night and saw what happens. Someone put of fireworks, it was early, and I watched a cat run for it’s life. I would love to see them banned but it will never happen but people should be able to know when this is going to happen, and therefore these should be restricted to certain nights of the year, otherwise it is the animals who pay the penalty for someone else having “fun”.

  • What?

    Many kinds of wildlife don’t understand it, either, including roosting birds: explosions and bright lights during the night isn’t going to leave any creature in a relaxed state, is it?

  • BenedictWyerRoberts

    Yet, apparently, they fully understand the concept of homosexuality!


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