5 top tips to make Fright Nights less scary for your dog

Yes, this time of the year can become quite depressing with the days becoming shorter and colder, but it can also be most fun and entertaining for us humans.  Unfortunately it is not so for the canine members of our families.  So, what can we do to make the frightful nights of Autums less so for our dogs?  Well, I have in mind some top ways to manage stress in your dog which I would like to suggest.

 

Dogs can embrace Halloween quite contentedly
Dogs can embrace Halloween quite contentedly

 

Make your dog love you most: make it less scary

It was lovely to see little ‘uns starting parading in the streets yesterday afternoon ‘trick or treating’ wearing masks and customers in an effort to cause fear to potential victims, and to get the odd sweets.  As Halloween and Bonfire Nights fast approach, this is probably the best period of the year, next to Christmas, where we actually find the concept of fear entertaining.  But it is certainly not so for dogs!

I am lucky, my Indy is not fazed off by fireworks.  But if there is one thing that sets him off in the house is when the doorbell goes off.  You can easily imagine therefore, how Halloween might not necessarily be his favourite night of the year.

Both Halloween with the scary costumes, and Bonfire Night with the lovely but noisy firework displays, are designed to produce fright and excitement in us humans.  Your dog, however, does not know that on 31st October the door bell might be ringing every 5 minutes and when you open the door, scary unknown faces may be talking to you in fake scary voices asking for sweets.  Your dog, who normally loves children, in the excitement of the night, may not necessarily realise that behind those scary masks are the kids he loves so much to be fussed by.

Most dogs are scared of fireworks
Most dogs are scared of fireworks

Many dogs then are even more so literally terrified by Bonfire night, when, in an effort to re-enact the legend of Guy Fawkes, traditionally firework displays take place not only in the local woods, but as close as in next door neighbour’s back garden.  And you can easily guess why.  It is part of the unexpected.  Imagine when we hear a bang noise without expecting it – we jump off our chain naturally!  Dogs’s shock of the unexpected noise can be much more stressful than in humans.

So, how can we help our canine best friend maintain calmness and avoid them stressful times in the next few days?

 

It doesn’t take much

It doesn’t really take much to make your dog’s life less scary over the next week.  All you have to adopt is some simple measures, which will help your dog handle the most frightening circumstances in a less stressful manner, without having to necessarily spoil your kids’ fun.

1. Play relaxing music

In the few days ahead of Halloween and Bonfire night, try to play relaxing music that will put your dog in a more relaxed frame of mind. Some behaviourists suggest also playing music in the house which will reproduce the noise of kids knocking at your door or the one of fireworks – personally I don’t agree with this ‘exposure’ technique, as I see it like forcing a frightening experience upon your dog.

2. Walk your dog earlier than usual

On the nights in question, try and walk your dog well before it gets dark.  Likewise, it is wise that you feed your dog well in advance of when the ‘fun’ starts.  Startles or a fright can cause your dog to develop indigestion or heartburn, exactly like in us humans.

3. Keep windows and doors shut

On Bonfire Night particularly, close all doors and windows – this is actually a measure suggested by fire services for the protection of humans too.  Fireworks are dangerous matter, and should only operated by professional expert.  I very much distrust, and stay as away as I possibly can, from the displays played in people’s back yards, as I feel they are not health and safety closely monitored.  It is also wise, therefore, if you ask your neighbours whether they are intending to do a family firework display, so that if you know your dog gets particularly scared, you can make arrangements not to be in the house at the same time.

4. Be with your dog

Do not leave your dog on his own.  If you need to take your children ‘trick or treating’, you may want to make arrangements for your partner, a family member or friends to babysit your dog for a little while.  Ideally, the whole family should be in the house with your dog and act as normally as possible.  If your regular evening activity is to sit together on the sofa watching your favourite soap, try not to change that habit.  An every day activity that your dog may be used to will help reassure your dog that, in spite of the more frequent knocks at the door or of the loud noises outside, he is safely surrounded by his family and, well, it is sort of business as usual.

5. Build a den

When scared, hide away!!
When scared, hide away!!

And finally, try to build a den for your dog, in case he is really frightened and needs to seek shelter.  I can actually quite relay to this idea.  As my Indy is getting an older gentleman, when we have visitors, after a little while he gets fed up of all the fuss and attention and chatting, and seeks retreat in his bed upstairs.  Likewise, I expect the bed with their favourite duvet or bedspread can be quite a solace and a safe retreat for your dog if he gets scared, but you may want to create another den for him to use if he feels like hiding, but wants to be where his family is.

Always seek the advice of a professional dog behaviourist if, in spite of the above simple guidelines, you believe your dog may become overly distressed by Fright Night or Bonfire Night!!!

 

How about the rest of the family?

Especially if you have a younger family, there may still be the need for you to arrange celebrations for your children to enjoy Halloween.  As I mentioned earlier, you can still manage and reconcile both needs to party and to create calmness around your dog.  A simple way is to keep the celebrations away from the times of external causes of distress.  Every dog likes when the family have a party – but what you can do is try to have children or guests coming around a few days before Halloween.  And yes, if you have a family or friends gathering and you really must put together a firework display in your backyard, then I would strongly recommend that a member of the family stays with your dog in a room upstairs away from the excitements – that is the very least, as the loud noises so close by can become really scary for your dog.

 

Best products as stress relief for your dog

As with my recommendations in general, I find that Amazon has so much to offer to relax your dog in times of anxiety, such as change of environment when going on holiday, or in my Indy’s case travelling in the car.

When it comes to potential stress being caused within the domestic environment, I suggest Adaptil Diffuser.

The diffuser works by diffusing in the environment a synthetic reproduction of the natural canine appeasing pheromone.  Do not let the ‘synthetic’ word scare you, as Adaptil does not use dangerous concoctions, but only ingredients that are beneficial to dogs.  The infuse spread in the air will therefore produce a soothing and calming effect in your dog.

The diffuser seems to last for quite a few weeks, when used regularly as advised by the manufacturers, and before you need to change the refill.

If however you are not keen on keeping a diffuser plugged in, as you do not want to increase your electricity costs, another solution is Nature Calm Care Pet Calming tablets, again readily available from Amazon.

There are many tables for dogs on the market, and many products designed to relieve stress levels in your hound.  But I like these particular tablets as they use natural ingredients and seem to be particularly catered for more distressing triggers such as the occasions of fireworks.

My understanding is that these particular tablets contain natural ingridients, the main one of which is valerian roots extract. This leads me to believe that the percentage of valerian is reduced, but enough to enhance your dog’s serotonin levels, whilst retaining muscle tone through other elements such as magnesium and calcium.

 


Happy Halloween from Indy and me
Happy Halloween from Indy and me

With all the above in mind, Indy and I wish you all and your family and not too scary, but fun Halloween Night.  I am sure you will be most sensible for the sake of your family, including your dog.

If you have any suggestions, questions, or recommendations of your own accord, by all means do drop us a comment and I shall endeavour to respond as quickly as possible.

 

Be considerate
Be considerate

 

 

21 Comments


  1. // Reply

    Excellent tips to help calm our canine family members during what can be a very stressful time.
    Thanks for sharing, I’ll certainly try some of your tips out. I want him to be as calm and comfortable as possible.


    1. // Reply

      Thanks PJ, and of course if you are intending to try my suggestions out on your hound, let us know how you get on.
      Giulia


  2. // Reply

    Great ideas! A friend of mine actually makes a little snack table a ‘tent’ for her dog, complete with pre-made bed and toy for comfort……not too close to door when passing out snacks, but close enough for comfort of owner’s presence….she then announces arrivals as if expecting company, so that the dog is less alarmed.


    1. // Reply

      Actually that is another good ideas, announcing the arrival of strangers and making a safe tent with reassuring favourite toys. That’s something I should bear in mind.
      Thanks for the suggestion Rosie 🙂


  3. // Reply

    Right, dogs may not and probably don’t understand the festivities and the racket may overwhelm them. Taking precautions like the ones suggested in your article will kept your beloved dog/s happy!


    1. // Reply

      Well, as I say, my Indy is quite lay back as far as fireworks goes. But we do try with him as much as possible on Halloween in order for him not to get too overwhelmed by that doorbell going more often than he’s used to.
      One can only try his/her best 🙂


  4. // Reply

    Thank you for your advice .My dog Xena warrior princess or Cotton Wool depending on certain circumstances will definitely benefit from the tips you provide. Thank you so much.
    Kerryanne


    1. // Reply

      You are most welcome my lovely. And let us know Xena copes in the next days leading to Bonfire, and fireworks, night 🙂


  5. // Reply

    Hi Giulia,

    Great idea about building a den. I have memories of Halloween in Scotland and our dog was unsettled the whole night. If I had only thought about your idea. Certainly the costumes and doorbell going all night doesn’t help, never mind the fireworks. We lived in a village so everybody went around the doors all night. Great advice for dog owners here. Thanks for sharing. How do these calming tablets work, I’d be scared to use these? What’s in them?


    1. // Reply

      My understanding is that they contain natural ingridients, the main one of which is valerian roots extract. This leads me to believe that the percentage of valerian is reduced, but enough to enhance your dog’s serotonin levels, whilst retaining muscle tone through other elements such as magnesium and calcium.
      You are right, I should have probably given a more detailed explanation of the benefits of these tablets. I might revise my post to reflect that.
      Thanks for your input Craig:)


  6. // Reply

    Well little hyper terrier types generally go nuts at most things… ’tis how we’ve breed them to be. but very good tips for calming one’s canine friend down during our noisiest hols!


    1. // Reply

      Well, I hope it works with most hound out there, and you are right, especially the most inquisitive of them such as the bold and grave terriers! 🙂


  7. // Reply

    I always thought that dogs are brave, until I saw them hiding their tails during fireworks. It’s a hilarious sight but I do pity the dogs really. I think the stress calming tablets is a good way to keep their stress level down. Any recommended dosage for the humans best friends?


    1. // Reply

      The dosage depends on the size of your dog, as it is often the case with many remedies for pets. The tablets come in pots of 50, and for small and medium dogs one tablet in their mail is enough to sooth their anxiety. Naturally you only want to feed the tablets to your dog for the 2-4 days leading to the event that may cause them stress, depending on how more or less badly your dog will react to the.
      So, if your dog is going to find 5th November really distressing, start him / her on the tablets now for best results. The tablets are made of natural ingredients which should not have an adverse reaction on your dog. 🙂


  8. // Reply

    Hello there, I used to have a terrible time with my Dilly Dog. He was a Collie and hated fireworks. He became affected so much by them in his older years he was terrified by anything he considered even slightly to be a bang or a firework. If he was out for a walk he would turn and be on his way home to hide. I made a den for him behind the settee and my poor boy would be there for hours sometimes. I used to go in there with him to try and reassure him. So sad when they just don’t understand. He has bee gone some years now. I wish I had known about the Adaptil pheromone plugin.


    1. // Reply

      Oh Andi, I’m ever so sorry to hear about your Collie and how scared he was by the fireworks. Luckily,unbeknown to us, since we moved last year, we have also moved away from fireworks, which we can only hear in the far distance. This has helped Indy, but at times is till use the diffuser to keep him relaxed when we have visitors in the house, i.e. Christmas time etc. With age he has got grumpier!
      Giulia


  9. // Reply

    Hi, I do not own a dog personally but I have relatives who actually own it. I would share these good tips with them. Some of my relative’s dogs always bark so loudly when I visit them. Could it be they are scared? I do not think they are welcoming me since I only visit them once in a year.
    Jacov


    1. // Reply

      Maybe you should visit more often, so the dogs get used to you and no longer see you as a threat? Or maybe your relatives should reassure them? It’s difficult to say Jacob, but some dogs are more sensitive than others.

      But yes, please do spread my advice around with dog owners amongst your family and friends. Both Halloween and Bonfire nights are over and done now in UK, but not fireworks, which I’m told are displayed on Thanksgiving Day in the States or on New Years Eve all over the world. And it should be celebration days for our dogs too, so why spoil their fun?

      Thanks for reading, Jacob :


  10. // Reply

    This is some great advice. We don’t have bonfire night here, but the doorbell ringing was enough of a concern for us that we just left our light off and didn’t even participate. Our main concern is that our dogs constantly try to run out the front door and down the street. There are so many dangers: getting hit by a car, scaring kids who aren’t used to dogs, reaction of parents of scared kids who aren’t used to dogs. We just bought a gate that would prevent them from getting to the door, but am definitely going to try your other suggestions to keep them calm.


    1. // Reply

      Yes, at our previous home we used to have the same problem Andy: cars and passer-by. Our Indy, like your dogs by the sound of it, is very inquisitive and will like to shoot out of the door, even now with no traffic but with plenty of dogs walking towards the nearby woods!!!
      So yes, you could consider applying any of my suggested methods in any circumstances where you feel your dog’s are getting a bit overexcited through nervousness or fear.
      Another imminent event where my suggestions may come in handy is Thanksgiving in the States – big happening as it takes place in a big country. And I’m told that fireworks are used then as well. Spread the word Andy, if you have any family and friends the other side of the Ocean.
      Thank you. Giulia 🙂

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