Anxiety hotline for dogs launches for Bonfire Night

If you’re a dog owner, you’ll know that fireworks can be seriously stressful – and bonfire night is probably an annual source of anxiety. But if the big bangs leave your pooch trembling under the sofa, this year you can use a special anxiety hotline – just for dogs. Due to the lack of opposable thumbs, it will likely be down to the humans to do the actual calling. Dog owners will be able to live-chat with a team of specialists who can offer free advice on how to keep your pet calm.

Healthy dog food company Edgard & Cooper, are launching the service in a bid to help nervous dogs and limit the effects of anxiety. Co-founder Louis Chalabi says, ‘Fireworks travel up to 150mph at up to 120 decibels, it’s no wonder our dogs suffer on Bonfire Night. The service will go-live at 6pm on 5 November, and will run till 11.30pm that evening.’ Fireworks are particularly terrifying for dogs because they can hear four times the distance of a human and can hear higher pitched sounds, at a frequency range of 67-45,000 Hz.

So while we might be able to enjoy the spectacle and excitement of a fireworks display, for your dog it could feel like an unbearable bombardment of the senses. And when they don’t know where the sounds are coming from, it’s not surprising they feel on edge. And there are other ways to tell if your dog is feeling anxious. If they’re not hiding, they might bark more than normal, tremble, drool, or even have an accident on the carpet. So if you’re dog is acting strangely, consider it might be down to stress before scolding them. How to keep your dog calm on bonfire night Make them a den: Dogs can learn to develop the habit of feeling safe in a particular space with positive associations. In the weeks before, make a den and cover it with heavy, sound-muffling blankets. Go in there with him/her on a regular basis, cuddle them and play music (dogs prefer the sounds of reggae or soft rock). Use this time to prepare by playing pre-recorded firework noises in the background. Think nutrition: Processed food packed full of additives has the same impact on dogs as it does on us – driving low moods, irritability and anxiety. The likes of blueberries, kale, beef, oily fish and turkey have all been proven to help alleviate anxiety.Get your dog into a good, healthy routine in advance, to maximise the mood-benefits. On the night, couple this with something to gnaw on, for example a bone. This can help distract them from their feelings of anxiousness. Teach positive associations: Help your dog learn to perceive the sounds in a more positive way. You can use classical conditioning to create new associations with their ‘triggers’. Food is a powerful reinforcement, but you can also take advantage of behaviours which are incompatible with fear – playing, chasing, exploring, etc. Using the playlists mentioned, get into a routine of doing something they love that distracts them whilst the noise is going on, and you’ll begin to change their association with the thing they fear. Tire them out: Take your dog out for at least one long walk during the day, and make it a good one. Once you do get home, reward them with a calming, nutritious meal, shut the window and close the curtains, and prepare to settle in for the night. Wrap them up: If you’re planning on taking your dog out with you on Bonfire night, make sure you have a lead and plenty of treats. You can even dress them in a an ‘anxiety wrap’, also known as a Thundershirt, which is ‘coat’ style wrap that has been proven to soothe anxiety as it creates gentle pressure on the body, just like a hug. Stay with them: Just like us, dogs derive comfort from contact with those they love. Studies have also shown that they’re hugely influenced by the behaviours of their owners. You can act as a buffer against stress – so be a calming presence. Try massaging them if this is something they like. Talk in a soothing voice and stay with them for the duration. After all, as any dog-lover knows, they’re well worth sacrificing a night out at the Bonfire for. Dr. Monteny, Dog Whisperer at Edgard & Cooper


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