Dog

Bonfire Night with Classic FM’s Pet Sounds

Sindi Barrios

National treasure, Bill Turnbull, understands just how much fireworks can frighten some pets – which is why he’s running two special shows on Classic FM this year. Shows are dedicated to helping nervous dogs, cats and owners make it through Bonfire Night. And Pet Drugs Online are sponsoring them!

Pet Sounds – calming pet the nation’s firework fears

National treasure, Bill Turnbull, understands just how much fireworks can frighten some pets – which is why he’s running two special shows on Classic FM this year. Shows are dedicated to helping nervous dogs, cats and owners make it through Bonfire Night. And Pet Drugs Online are sponsoring them!

We were keen to get involved this year as the fireworks are likely to be a bit different. With COVID measures limiting public shows, there will likely be far more garden displays than usual, bringing the problem closer to home. The dates also complicate matters as there will be people who ‘celebrate’ on Thursday 5th, while others will wait until Saturday 7th. No doubt some thoughtless folk will do both!

Turn on, tune in and chill out

Bill will play calming music throughout the peak firework hours – Thursday 5th November from 7pm – 10pm and Saturday 7th November from 7pm -9pm – to fill the air with Bach that masks the bangs and Rossini to drown out the rockets. There will be a phone in too, so you can hear how other folks are coping or you can share your pet’s fireworks experience with the nation.

Listen Classic FM on your digital radio, online, on their mobile app, Apple Music or your smart speaker. Be sure to crank the volume up a bit as it not only sounds a bit better but on these nights the neighbours will understand. More importantly, having sounds coming from within the house will help smooth out the shrill notes and sudden bangs that cause pet distress.

How to calm your pet during fireworks

There are other steps you can take to help your pet through firework’s night(s). Pet Drugs Online offers a wide range of pet calmers, which may help take the edge off any anxiety, including fireworks. We’ve got plug in diffusers, collars, tablets, gels and chews, but these are best started well in advance. If there’s still time, nip to the site, have a good browse to work out which will suit your pet.

More immediately, there are some other steps you can take on the night(s) to give your pet a sense of security which may help them make it through without getting too stressed by the bangs.

Labrador owning beekeeper Bill Turnbull presented on the BBC for 15 years, most notably Breakfast and Strictly Come Dancing. He moved to Classic FM to work at a more civilised hour and knows music can help calm dogs. "Our dogs get chilled when they’re lying down listening to Classic FM"!
Bill Turnbull Classic FM Pet Sounds

Get business done early

Get all the “usual business” done before it gets dark. Walk the dog nice and early and do your very best to make sure that they have “done the necessary”. Then get home and shut the front door and don’t even venture into the garden until much later, when everything has calmed down. Owners of outdoor cats should consider blocking the cat flap for the night – but you will have to dust off the litter tray and endure some angry stares. Any dog or cat that does go out may bolt if startled by a bang. Make sure any lead is secure and that all ID’s (chip data and collar tags) are up to date in case they panic and manage to get themselves lost.

Lockdown (for one night only)

Put on some background noise… hey did you know Classic FM are running two special shows… and use the sound (from everyday sources) to blank out the disturbing sounds from outside.

Top up the water bowl. A frightened pet will pant, which makes them thirsty. So, top up the bowl early and keep it topped up throughout the night.

Close the curtains. Now it may be tempting to leave the curtains open a crack and watch but the light show could easily upset your pet.

If in doubt, hide!

Build a den or hidey-hole for them. Have a think to see if there’s a place your pet runs to when they are scared. If so, make sure the path to it is clear and maybe pop a familiar blanket or bed in there. Then if they bolt for it, let them go in and leave them well alone. Don’t fret over them while they are hiding. They’ve picked somewhere safe and may not appreciate hands being waved in their face.

Be on YOUR best behaviour!

Try not (and this is VERY TOUGH) to overreact to changes in their behaviour. Your pet will be looking to the leader of the pack/pride for behaviour cues, so keep calm and carry on.  If they want to pace, let them. If they whine, let them.

Occasionally praise calm behaviour but don’t overdo it. While chasing them around fussing and fretting can set up a negative feedback loop – where your pet thinks they’re helping you by being scared and become even more distressed in response.

And never, never, never shout at or chastise your pet for being scared. They can’t snap out it. They are frightened and need your support, not correction.

Think of this and all is mended…

Perhaps most importantly, remember fireworks are an occasional problem and your pet will get through it, no matter how traumatic the evening itself may feel. Prepare as best you can. Then pop some quality classical music on the radio. A little bit of Tchaikovsky makes most things better.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!