Spooks, Fireworks and… Happy Dogs?

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2020 has been terrifying enough but for our furry friends, it’s about to get a little worse! Halloween and Bonfire Night can be very unsettling for dogs – but there are things you can do to keep them safe and comfortable. John Ambler, My Family Vets vet and Clinical Director at Oakfield Vets, tells us more…

Make sure costumes are comfortable, and visible


Opinions vary among owners on whether dogs should be dressed up. If your dog is a highly sociable creature (and let’s face it, most of them are!), you may want to take them out trick-or-treating or to celebrate the spooky season. 


There’s nothing wrong with dressing up your dog, so long as their costume is comfortable. I.e. it doesn’t restrict their vision, movement or their breathing. Avoid costumes with small bits and pieces too – anything your dog could potentially swallow. 


If you are choosing a costume, consider getting one that’s warm and that keeps your dog visible. Halloween is a busy time… it will help if passers-by, drivers and cyclists can see your dog. 


Keep your sweets to yourself


Chocolate is highly poisonous to dogs and so is xylitol – an ingredient found commonly in sugar-free treats, chewing gum and even baked goods. 


When you return home from a trick-or-treating spree, make sure all of the goodies you’ve collected stay well out of your dog’s reach. Store them somewhere secure and high up – and be careful that nothing drops onto the floor. 


Make sure your dog’s microchip details are up to date


Dogs must be microchipped by law. If you’ve recently moved house or changed your contact information, make sure you update your dog’s microchip database to reflect this. 


Halloween and Bonfire Night are scary for dogs, and despite an owner’s best measures, some dogs do run away. By having your dog microchipped and keeping the registration details up to date, you’ll massively increase your chances of reuniting with your dog if they do run away. 


Go for walks while it’s light outside


This is especially important around firework season. You may also want to keep them on the lead… particularly if lots of people in your street have been hosting Bonfire Night parties and letting off fireworks. 


If walking your dog during daylight isn’t an option (it’ll soon be dark by 5pm!), there’s no need to panic. Try to get some reflective gear – for yourself as well as your dog – and as best you can, walk around areas that are nicely lit. If you’re passing somewhere dark or potentially dangerous and you can’t avoid it, just stick your dog on the lead. 


Make a hideout for your dog


Strange humans knocking on the door, asking for sweets. LOUD explosions going off outside… this season is no picnic for dogs. 


To help them feel safe, provide your dog with somewhere they can retreat to when it all gets a bit too much. It could be a room, a crate, a cardboard box lined with blankets, or even a throw draped over the back of an armchair.


It’s also a good idea to ‘block out’ the firework noises as best you can. Do this by playing loud music, TV or radio. Keep all windows, doors and curtains closed too. 


Provide plenty of enrichment


Most dog walks aren’t as long when it’s dark outside, especially during firework season when it’s safer to keep your dog inside. 


To make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise – both physical and mental – try playing their favourite game. Tug of war, fetch, or something a little more creative! 


Interactive toys and puzzle feeders are a great method of not only keeping your dog entertained, but of distracting them from the noises outside too. 


Stay with your dog… but not too close


Last but not least, stay home with your dog as often as possible during this period. They’ll really value your company and you’ll act as a calming presence for them. 


Be there for your dog, but take care not to smother them. Let them come and see you as they please and cuddle them if they seek it, but it’s also important to let them be alone in their hideout too, if that’s what they’d prefer.


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