How to help dogs with fireworks
While a certain degree of fear is normal, it becomes distressing for both you and your dog if this fear is or becomes severe
How do I know if my dog is worried about fireworks?
Sound sensitivities, including fireworks, are very common in dogs and reactions range from mild to extreme. While a certain degree of fear is normal, it becomes distressing for both you and your dog if this fear is or becomes severe. Signs to look out for include:
- Ears back
- Excessive panting
- Hiding away
- Barking excessively
- Messing in the house
Ideally, dogs with sound sensitivities need a long-term behaviour modification plan, which includes desensitisation and counterconditioning. For more information, always speak to your vet for advice. This type of training needs to be started once firework season is over (ideally February/March).
In the short-term however, there are some steps you can take to help your dog cope with fireworks this season.
What you can do ahead of time to help your pet stay safe and calm around fireworks
- Create a safe den - dogs won't understand that fireworks cannot harm them and generally will feel safer when they have a hiding space. You can help by making your dog a ‘safe haven’ or a ‘dog den’. If your dog already has a hiding place then this space can be further improved by making it as snug and secure for your dog as possible, for example by adding blankets or their favourite toys. If you are making your ‘dog den’ from scratch, try to do this a few weeks in advance before firework season begins, so that your dog has time to understand that it is a safe place to go to when fireworks start.
- Provide pets with pheromone support - pheromones are natural chemical ‘signals’ which are secreted by animals to communicate different types of messages to themselves or others. There is a ‘dog appeasing pheromone’ that can calm dogs in challenging situations such as when they hear fireworks. You can purchase pheromone products for your pet to provide them with this reassuring feeling to keep them calm on Bonfire Night. These products take time to work, so ensure you start administering them (depending on what product type you buy) at least 1 month before any stressful event. You can speak to your vet about what product will be the most effective for your pet. It’s a good idea to use a calming product close to your ‘dog den’ or hiding place.
- Ensure they’re microchippped - this is a legal requirement for dogs from 8 weeks old and will increase the chances of your dog being returned to you in case they get spooked and run off. Also ensure your dog has a collar and tag on, with contact details clearly displayed.
- Walk them during daylight hours - it’s a good idea to walk your dog early in the evening or during daylight hours when it is still light outside.
What you can do on the night to help your pet stay calm around fireworks
- Stay calm and don’t react to the fireworks yourself
- When firework night rolls around, ensure all windows and doors are shut, and close the curtains
- Turn on the TV or play music to muffle the sound of the fireworks and relax your pet
- Consider distracting your dog from the fireworks by giving them a chew, toy or playing a game with them, and spend lots of time giving them attention to keep them as calm as possible
- NEVER punish your dog for displaying unwanted behaviour as a result of fireworks going off - this will only make them more distressed. Fireworks can make pets anxious and on-edge, so it’s important not to punish them for their behaviour - simply try to keep them as calm as you possibly can and give them reassurance
If you have any questions about keeping your pet calm during firework season, speak to your local vet today.
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