The nights are drawing in and autumn is definitely in the air. For many dogs, this is a fun time of year. Outdoor walks are filled with scent. Leaves start to accumulate in piles just waiting to be rolled in and when you come home, your person might even allow long lazy snoozes on the sofa in front of a cosy fire.
For some dogs though, autumn heralds a scary time too. Festivities and events around Halloween and bonfire night can lead to some dogs being worried – strange people coming to the door at night, costumes being worn and loud, unexpected noises and flashes of light thanks to fireworks.
If your dog does get worried about these events, there are some simple things you can do to help them. It is also important to keep your dog and anyone they might come into contact with, safe too. The earlier you start preparing, the more likely it is that your dog will be better able to cope with scary situations.
Here are our top tips to help your dog when the world becomes a bit worrisome!
Create A Safe Space
A simple but very effective measure is to create a safe and secure space that your dog can go to if they are worried. This is a space that might take the form of a covered den – a crate covered with a blanket, or even a pillow ‘fort’ on or behind the sofa will work for some dogs!
The safe space becomes THEIR space, although some dogs will prefer it if their person is around too. By creating a safe space, with cosy, comfortable bedding and covered over with a throw or blanket, your dog can hide from sights and sounds that might be scary. If you also provide some tasty treats or chew toys, you can also help your dog focus on something else instead of what is worrying them.
Do make sure their safe space is in a quieter part of the house and away from open doorways and windows if visitors or noises from fireworks are concerning for your dog. Even a simple measure like drawing the curtains can help muffle unusual noises. Turning the radio or TV on too can help to disguise sudden and unexpected sounds. Some radio stations even do special programmes at this time of year for ‘stressed pets’ and there are devoted TV or internet channels for our canine friends – these might be a great option to explore and have as background noise. For other dogs, the use of ‘white noise’ or even ‘brown noise’ might be helpful – you can find recordings of these on the internet too.
Fancy Dress Fears
For some dogs, seeing people in fancy dress or Halloween costumes is deeply worrying. The altered outlines of people, different smells, movements and the wearing of masks, hats and other costume pieces can radically alter how dogs view someone. Be aware of this and if your dog does react fearfully, reassure them well and give them space. Do not force them to interact if they are concerned. You might even want to desensitise your dog to your costume (and that of others) over time in the run up to Halloween, especially if your costume is especially complex.
Keep Kids Safe
It is also important to note that children at Halloween can be at specific risk from dogs. Trick or treating can mean that children encounter dogs that they don’t know. Equally, not all dogs are familiar with children. Those dogs might be worried by the unusual events and then unsure of costumes too. This can create a potentially dangerous situation for both the dog and the children.
If you do have visitors at Halloween, consider popping your dog in another room and preventing access to the door. You might even just want to leave some treats outside and allow the trick or treaters to help themselves, rather than coming to the door and knocking on it, which can be a trigger for many dogs. Even a sign on your gate or at the door asking people not to knock might help you manage your worried companion.
For many dogs, the sound of fireworks on Bonfire night is particularly triggering. Even for dogs otherwise used to loud or sudden noises such as gundogs, fireworks can cause concern. This is because the noises are sudden, loud, unusual, and often fully unexpected and in a very different context. Add in lights, smells and all of the other things that go along with fireworks and we can see why they might worry some dogs. Sometimes fireworks even make us jump and that can be enough to scare our dogs too!
If you can, muffle outside sounds of fireworks by closing doors, curtains and encouraging your dog to move to a safe space. Even a trip out in the car away from timed displays can help and you can return home when things are calmer and quieter.
You can also prepare in advance by playing firework and other scary noises from the internet quietly and rewarding your dog for not reacting, then increasing the volume gradually over time. This is highly effective in desensitising some dogs but does take time to train and work through, so do not try to rush the process.
Additional Support For Worried Dogs
If your dog is exceptionally worried or fearful at this time of year, do have a chat to your vet who might be able to assist with supportive advice and suitable treatment too. Training and behavioural advice and guidance is also a great idea and can help you to help your dog cope with stressful situations in a calm, fair and positive way. Look for a trainer who works through positive reinforcement and supports your dog when worried – never punish a fearful dog as you might just make things even worse.
Even simple measures such as splitting your dog’s food into multiple small meals, scatter feeding, using food activity toys, indulging in play, or training sessions with food rewards can help distract you and your dog if the outside world is scary for them.
You could even consider using supportive supplements in the run-up to potentially scary events. ProKalm is a popular option for use to support worried or anxious dogs. It can be used either on a short- or long-term basis. Easily added to your dog’s meals, or even offered as a tasty, lick-able treat, you can feed it in the run up to specific events, or on a continual basis. For dogs with sensitive digestive systems that might be challenged during worrisome times, you might also consider using a supplement such as Healthy Tummy.
Keep Calm And Carry On
With a bit of thought and planning, we can help our dogs make sense of our world and cope with some of the challenges we throw at them. Even the most calm and relaxed dog can find some events scary, so be prepared – walk your dog before dark if possible, make sure your garden fencing is secure and encourage them outside for toileting before the main events take place.
Whatever you and your dog will do for Halloween and on bonfire night, have a safe and fun time from all at Science Supplements.
Science Supplements offer a range of high specification, canine supplements that can help to support your dog’s health and wellbeing all year round. We offer options to support your dog’s joint, skin, and digestive health as well as supporting them during periods of anxiety or worry.