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 Autum 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.
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.
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
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.
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.