The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!”
These are the opening lines to The Fifth of November, a famous English folk verse written to commemorate Guy Fawkes Night. Also known as Bonfire Night and Firework Night, the tradition celebrates the failed plot of Guy Fawkes and his cronies to blow up the British Parliament in 1605.
Today, the tradition has trickled into Kiwi culture, with celebrations ranging from spectacular fireworks shows over Auckland Harbour to DIY backyard sparklers. Unfortunately, the occasion isn’t quite as fun for dogs. In fact, without the right strategies, your four-legged friends could be in danger. Firework explosions can hit up to 150 decibels, which is the equivalent of a jet taking off. Dogs have much more sensitive hearing than humans which can cause major stress. They’re also unable to comprehend that the fireworks are being set off for celebrations, which is understandably confusing and scary.
The good news is, with a little preparation you can do everything in your power to ensure your pooch stays safe and stress-free this Guy Fawkes night. Beyond bringing your pet indoors, here’s a comprehensive guide to preparing your pooch for Guy Fawkes Night.
Build a safe den
Starting several weeks before Guy Fawkes night you should set up a den that will act as your dog’s safe zone. It can be anything from a simple cardboard box to a specially designed dog crate. Fill the space with blankets, pillows and toys and be sure to sprinkle treats in the den several times a day. Basically, do everything you can to let your dog know the den is safe, secure and comfortable. Be sure to spend plenty of time introducing your dog to its new den and making it feel as relaxing as possible.
When November 5 rolls around, use pheromone products to put your dog at ease. Undetectable by humans, dog-appeasing pheromones are a naturally occurring chemical substance released by nursing mother dogs to let her puppies know they’re safe and secure. Visit your local pet store to pick up products that mimic the scent and help your pet feel more relaxed. You can also try diffusing lavender essential oil or rubbing a little peppermint oil into its paws.
Create background noise
Background noise can be a great way to drown out the fireworks bangs and let your dog know that life is continuing as normal. Turning on the TV or radio can help to create a calming atmosphere that your dog is used to. Just don’t go too loud as this can create even more stress. Some experts assert that classical music has a calming effect on dogs, so why not play a little Mozart or Bach?
Close the curtains
Flashes of light can be just as stressful as loud bangs so be sure to close the windows as well as curtains and blinds before the fireworks begin. It’s best not to close all the doors or confine your pooch to one room as this can make it feel trapped and anxious.
Load up on carbohydrates
While most dogs follow a strict diet, Guy Fawkes Night is the perfect excuse to indulge. A high carbohydrate meal in the late afternoon can help calm down your dog and make it feel more lethargic than usual. Plain white rice or pasta are both great options, jazzed up with sweet potato, chicken, turkey or fish.
If you know your dog has a history of reacting badly to fireworks why not talk to your vet about sedatives? Other strategies can include sound therapy sessions designed to increase your dog’s tolerance to fireworks and other loud noises.
It’s important to remember that accidents happen, especially when loud bangs and bright flashes are involved. If your pup does have an accident in the house be sure to stay calm and avoid raising your voice or banishing the dog outdoors. This will only reinforce the idea that fireworks are something to fear and will only worsen the situation.
The number of lost dogs skyrockets on the morning after November 5 so don’t forget to make sure your dog is microchipped. This way, if your dog does escape you can rest assured that a vet will be able to track you down ASAP.
Get in touch with the neighbours
Be as prepared as possible by asking your neighbours if they’re planning any garden firework celebrations. If you don’t know your neighbours well simply drop off a note with your name, number and a polite message explaining that you have a nervous dog and want to be as prepared as possible.
Do you have any tried and tested tips on how to help anxious pets through Guy Fawkes Night? We’d love to hear from you so go ahead and share in the comments below.